The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sat 28 Jan 2017 03:58


27 January 2017    Port Blair to Chiryatapu, Andaman Islands

We were up early because we’re in the same time zone as Delhi, which means that the sun rises at 05:30.  At seven o’clock, I called Port Control to request permission to leave the port.  They came back five minutes later and told us that the Coast Guard have refused permission because they have no proof that our satellite phone had been sealed by customs.


We waited an hour and I tried again.  Apparently the Coast Guard still have to speak to Customs - standby...  I tried half an hour later - standby…  At 09:30, Port Control called and asked me to take our Customs clearance to the radio tower.  I took all our paperwork and also the satellite phone in its sealed container.


The Port Control tower is inside the Chatham Sawmill complex and I found my way up the rickety stairs to the VHF room.  They looked at my documentation and the sealed sat phone and sent a fax to the Coast Guard saying that they’ve seen the Customs clearance and if they’d heard nothing back in one hour, Port Control would grant departure clearance.


One my way out of the complex, I noticed a sign for the Forestry Commission and, after asking around, I ended up in the Wildlife Office.  I found someone who could speak a bit of English and I was eventually taken into an office of a superintendent.  My main purpose was to see if they had any information about the location of saltwater crocodiles.  It was like a Monty Python sketch.


“Do you have information showing the locations of crocodiles?”

“You want to find Crocodiles?”

“No, I want to know where there are no Crocodiles”

(Much head wiggling).

“I want to know where it’s safe to swim”.

“Crocodiles are not in tourist places”

“Yes, but….”


After 30 minutes, it was clear that they had no idea about the locations of crocodiles.  The only advice I obtained was that crocodiles will “probably” be near mangroves and that crocodiles will “probably not” be on ocean facing beaches.


During the protracted conversation, they mentioned a few places where we have to get a special permit from them e.g. Cinque Islands.  These places are in National Parks and there is a hefty fee of 500 rupiah per person per day and 1000 rupiah per boat per day (for us that would be £20/day).


I asked if they had a map of the boundaries of the National Parks.  No chance.  So how do I know where I can or can’t go?  They referred to the Restricted Area Permit, which is issued by the Immigration office.  This states places that we can go and specific places that we can’t go - such as Twin Islands and any of the Andamanese Reservations.  So the basic rule is that I have to abide by the Restricted Area Permit.


However, this is not as clear cut as it seems, because the Restricted Area Permit specifically allows us to go to the Cinque islands (during the daytime), but there’s no mention that a special (expensive) permit is required.  The Harbour Master told me that we could go there.  There’s further confusion because other cruisers have reported that the fees are only applicable if you go ashore.  We’re going to go to the Cinque islands as a daytrip and not go ashore and we’ll see what happens.


I was back on board Alba by 10:30 and at 11:00 on the dot, I called Port Control.  After a delay of a few minutes, they got back to us and gave permission to leave.  Thirty seconds later, I was pulling up the anchor.


It was a tough bash to get out of the harbour, directly into a 15 knot wind, but we were soon past Ross Island and heading south on a reach.  We’ve heard reports of good fishing along the coast, so I put out two fishing lines, but no joy.  We arrived at Chiryatapu and dropped anchor in 15 metres at 11°29.28N  092°42.40E.  (There’s a large breaking rock at 11°28.68N  092°42.21E, which you can go either side of.)


The anchorage is pleasant enough, with a beach that is supposed to be popular with the locals at weekends.  There’s a fringing reef along the coast that we’ll go to explore tomorrow (providing that Glenys doesn’t spot any Crocodiles).