Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

The Andaman Islands

January and February 2010

References are to Andaman Sea Pilot 2007/8 edition (ASP). Dates, where given are the date on which we dropped anchor, or remained.
Where CD is shown after a depth it indicates that we have reduced it to chart datum. Otherwise it is as recorded on our echo sounder, which is calibrated to the actual depth of water. Sea Bunny's draft is 2.4 m in cruising trim.


Formalities and bureaucracy

Lots of it!


Make sure all your papers are up to date!

Others have written detailed guides to the rules, regulations and formalities. See Noonsite and the detailed report from SV Mata'irea linkeed from there. SV Crystal Blues hve a link to SV Tui Tai's notes. Forms can also be downloaded from Crystal Blue's website.


With such a wealth of information we will not attempt to give another version. We will just comment on what we found when it was different. There does not seem to be much to indicate that the bureaucracy is getting easier!


Visa application

We used Emotion Travel in Phuket

Do not put Andamans on your visa application. We just put Cochin

We did not need a separate itinerary

Cost was THB3700

Visa issued was multiple entry, valid six months


Preliminary letters

We emailed a preliminary letter, based on Crystal Blues' sample to the Chief Secretary (as advised in Noonsite), harbourmaster and customs. We had no evidence that these had had any effect


Preliminary HF radio contact

We attempted to make radio contact with Port Blair when about 36 hours out and again when 24 hours out. No response. We sent an email to the harbourmaster through Inmarsat C. Again there was no evidence that this had any effect. We certainly had to repeat all the information given to Port Control when approaching the harbour. We got no response from Port Control when we first reported by VHF two hours out but we were questioned by a warship 5 miles out.


Check-in - customs, immigration and coastguard

We arrived at 1730 and anchored where directed about 0.4 NM west of Chatham Island. Once anchored call port control with your lat & long


We contacted Port Control the next morning and customs and immigration arrived about 1030, to be collected from the jetty near Chatham Island. Another boat had also arrived a couple of hours after us and they collected 3 customs officers while we collected 2 immigration officers. We then swapped.


Immigration were most pleasant and after checking our papers (copy of visa required as well as usual boats papers and passport) stamped our passports and presented us with our "restricted area permit" which details where we may and may not go. To see a copy of ours click here .


Our inventory showed that we had a total of about 40 bottles of wine on board. The senior of the three customs officers insisted that we were allowed 2 litres each for the first week and the rest would be placed under customs seal. After the first week we could return to Port Blair, the seal would be opened, we would be allowed another 2 litres each and the rest re-sealed. However, after asking whether we had anything as gifts for officials (we said it was not something we normally do) and seeing where the wine was stored and what else was stored with it he relented (too difficult?) and gave us our clearance. Others were also asked for gifts in this oblique way by this officer.


The coastguard did not arrive until about 1500 (in their own boat). An officer and two others came aboard. They had exhaustive lists to complete covering the boat, it's mechanical, navigation and communications equipment. One of them (who we later learned was a navy electronics specialist) inspected the navigation and communications equipment. They seemed to be nervous about forward looking or sidescan sonar, which we do not have. They also wanted to see, and retain copies of, all our papers, including master's certificate of competence. They gave us a sheet of paper with emergency contact numbers and invited us to contact them if we had any problems.Coastguard were the only officials to spot that another boat's registration had expired which meant they did not get a clearance and had to remain in Port Blair until they could get it resolved.


With hindsight, it would be a good idea to produce one inventory for customs and a separate one, limited to yacht's equipment but more detailed, for coastguard.


By the time coastguard had finished it was too late to visit the harbourmaster to get the itinerary cleared, so we called port control and were told the harbour master would see us at 1000 the next day.


Check-in and itinerary agreement - harbour master

Whether this was a proper appointment or not we are not sure but on arrival we were ushered into the harbour master's office and had to wait a few minutes while he finished a meeting.


Over a copy of the chart we outlined our route. We had removed the Cinque Islands from our planned route as we did not want to be bothered with the forestry department. However, our discussions revealed that, without forestry permit, we could anchor at, but not land on, North Cinque, anchor at and land on, South Cinque and anchor at, but not land on the Button Islands (N, Middle & S). However, Twin Islands and the islands to the west of the MacPherson Strait and the western end of the Strait itself are off limits. We were told that we could not use the Kwantang Strait between John Lawrence and Henry Lawrence Islands but this may be to do with obstructions rather than prohibitions. We revised our list (we had taken a blank with only the Port Blair days at beginning and end filled in and he kepy a copy. We did not get a stamped or otherwise marked copy to indicate approval.


We had Passage Island (South of the Cinques) on our list. We think the HM may have confused this with North Passage, up near the Homfrey Strait.


This year (2010) yachts are apparently allowed to transit the Homfrey Strait. However, once through this strait the west coast is largely tribal land and must not be approached within 3 miles of the coast. The restricted area permit gives the positions of the extremities of this exclusion zone (Constance Bay, 11° 39' 52" N 092°34' 03" E to Luis Inlet Bay 12° 43' 02" N 092° 47' 02" E - note deg, min sec notation) just over 60 NM long.


The information on the restricted area permit and what the harbour master told us do not appear totally consistent. The restricted area permit requires things, such as being accompanied by a guide, which do not actually happen. There are also islands not listed in either the permitted, restricted or prohibited lists and the interpretation of whether you may visit may differ between different authorities. E.g. Outram Island is not mentioned on the RAP and Immigration interpret this as meaning you may not go there - many boatsincluding us did anchor there and we got no comment on agreeing our actual inventory at the harbour master's office.


Daily HF check-in


Once cruising the Andamans you are required to report your anchorage position and plans for the next 24 hours twice daily, at 0800 and 1700 local time, to Port Blair Port Radio on 8294.0 kHz or 6224.0kHz. The 0800 check-in in particular is dominated by merchant ships giving their 0800 positions. It is difficult to find a slot in the traffic and also, because the distances we are reporting from are so short for the frequencies used it is difficult to get through unless you have a clear path for the ground wave - in which case VHF would probably work. We had zero success reporting from the Cinques or Rutland Island, even though we could hear Port Blair and others reported they could hear us. We sent regular emails using Inmarsat C to the harbour master (hmpmb@and.nic.in), which he had told us was OK - we also printed out copies. It would have been worth checking if Port Blair Radio have an Inmarsat number. North of Port Blair we had no problems.


Port control


When entering or leaving controlled harbours Port Blair, Lacam Harbour and others as identified in ASP you must call the appropriate port control for permission. On entering call on approach. You will probably be advised of relevant shipping movements. Call again when anchored and give your lat and long. On leaving call before raising anchor for permission to do so.

Check-out


At the end of your cruise you have to go through another bureaucratic procedure. First go to the harbour masters office with a letter stating you are ready to leave and requesting clearance. There you will have to fill out forms with the place and dates of each anchorage (we limited ourselves to overnight ones). Each form has two columns into each of which goes identical information. This list will then be taken away and charges will be calculated. These will be checked (and in our case sent back because the calculation was wrong). You will then pay your dues and be issued with a "No objection certificate" and a receipt. Rates were INR 11.25 per ton GRT per day port dues and INR 32.14125 per day in other anchorages. No port dues for less than 10 tons GRP. From the amount we paid it appears that you do not pay port dues for the day of arrival or departure as we actually spent 8 nights in controlled ports ( 7 in Port Blair and and 1 in Lacam Harbour) but were only charged for 6. This check-out procedure took one and a half hours.


Next you take your no-objection certificate and a letter requesting clearance to customs. This letter needs to give boat details or you will have to fill out their form. We also took a revised IMO General Declaration and inventory. Customs will issue the port clearance. No charge. Took about half an hour (but officers can be elsewhere).


Next visit a photocopy shop and take a copy of your port clearance. Take this copy and another letter requesting clearance to immigration. They will keep the copy clearance and give you a time at which they will be at the jetty to clear you out.


At the appointed time, go to the jetty with passports etc and your original restricted area permit. The permit will be retained and your passports stamped. You must then return to the boat and not go ashore again.


Finally, when ready to leave call port control on VHF. When you give your foreign destination they will ask for your port clearance number and other details - registration, destination, number of POB and nationalities, speed etc. Once they have checked this they will authorise you to raise anchor and leave.

Passage: Ko Miang, Similans - Port Blair

Logged distance 352.6 nM, 350.7 by GPS. 15-17 Jan 2010


A very pleasant passage with predominently NE winds 15 -20 knots, giving a fast passage with an average speed of 6.2 knots. A short period of motorsailing on the first day.


We arrived at Port Blair at dusk, no problem finding the anchorage and anchoring.


Seas were confused in the area of 9° N, 97° E, to the north of the area shown as such on the chart.

Uncharted hazards

In the aftermath of the earthquake causing the 26 December 2004 tsunami the entire Andaman Islands tilted. Reports are that depths can be up to 2 m greater than charted on the east side and up to 2m less on the west (where charts are pretty inaccurate anyway).

According to the captain of the police boat White Water they have identified some 250 uncharted hazards since that time. There is certainly one off the NW corner of Henry Lawrence Island, close to the Charka Jura anchorage listed in ASP. Judging from the bamage this obstruction did to the rudder of the catamaran Truest Passion this is very solid, metal (it caused clean-cut impact damage) and in a location of charted depth 20 m.

Many of the fringing reefs are also much more extensive than charted. This is not surprising given that the chart data is based on surveys from 1887 to 2001, with later additions. The UKHO charts do not give a source data plan so it is not possible to see which bits of the chart are 123 years old!

Port Blair

ASP 129 B

Position: 11° 41'.4 N 92° 42'.7 E, 9-13 m, mud 17-20 Jan 2010

1 Feb 2010

15-16 Feb 2010


The yacht anchorage in Port Blair is about 0.5 nM west of Chatham Island. On arrival you will be instructed by Port Control where to go. Holding and shelter is good, although the dinghy ride to the jetty can be a bit wet. Shallower to the N of our position (3 m or so)


The jetty, from which you have to pick up customs and immigration is at the town side of the bridge linking Chatham Island to Port Blair. The dinghy boy and probably Ravi the taxi driver will probably make themselves known to you when you pick up immigration.


The asking rate for looking after your dinghy is Rp200. We paid this for a whole day - usually involving two trips. He was happy with Rp 100 for a single evening trip. The dinghy is taken away from the barnacle-encrusted jetty and moored off - being retrieved for you when you return. If there are lots of yachts the price is probably excessive. If only a few - he is still there, and the season is short.


If Ravi is busy he may delegate you to Ravi 2 (or 3) but if they have a problem they will phone Ravi. We paid Ravi whoever he had organised to actually drive.

North Cinque Island, South Bay

North Cinque Island, South Bay

ASP 137 A

Position: 11° 18'.2 N 92° 42'.0 E, 14 m, sand and broken coral, 21-22 & 25 Jan 2010


We anchored SW of the large mooring buoy in the centre of the bay. In NE'ly winds, mostly 10 knots or a bit more this was comfortable with a bit of rolling, presumably on the turn of the tide. In stronger winds others have rated this as a day anchorage because of the rolling.


Snorkelling is good with a fringing reef along the length of the beach. Reasonable coral and some largish fish (certainly compared with Thailand). Lots of large fish close to the rocks at the eastern end of the beach.


We did not have the forestry permit allowing us to go ashore, but the beach and island look excellent.


On leaving on a Saturday a small warship arrived and we watched the Indian navy establish a beachhead in the littoral combat zone (joint service speak for the beach) complete with tents and sun umbrellas for what looked like a beach picnic or BBQ. We were not invited, although they did wave - we couldn't have joined them anyway as we didn't have the permit!


North Cinque Island, South Bay

North Cinque Island East Bay

North Cinque Island East Bay

ASP 137 C

Position: 11° 18'.42 N 92° 42'.80 E, 5 m, sand, 26 Jan 2010, day only. Wind NE 10-12 knots


Superb anchorage to the east of the sand isthmus. Easy approach from the SE, clearly visible sand between reefs to N and S. Approach WP 11° 18'.24 N 92° 42'.92 E. Quite rolly so only a day anchorage unless exceptionally calm. Despite ASP statement that it is well protected it is actually pretty open to the NE.


Good snorkelling on reefs - north side had better visibility.


With a permit to land on N Cinque you could walk to the bay from either the south or west bays - saving a 5 NM trip round the north of the island


North Cinque Island East Bay

South Cinque island

South Cinque island

ASP p 137 E

Position: 11° 15'.74 N 92° 41'.67 E, 7 m, sand, 23 & 24 Jan 2010. Wind NE 10 knots


Anchor in clear water to the west of the gap in the dunes.


Excellent beach for a walk. Reputed to be deer and monitor lizards but we did not see any. There is a water-hole behind the gap in the dunes but not sure if water is salt or fresh.


Some local boats overnight


Some surf on beach making landing slightly wet. Some biting sandflies on beach and we got some aboard as well.


Did not try snorkelling - looked more like rock than coral.


Passage Island West

ASP 138 col 2 A


Did not anchor. 24 Jan 2010


We went looking for ASP's "clearly visible" sandy patch but did not find it!. Shoreline is totally rocky. Difficult to assess what the bottom is like but we were in 17 m as close as we would wish to anchor to the shore




The Sisters

The Sisters

ASP 138 col 1 A

Position: 11° 08'.48 N 92° 43'.69 E, 17 m, sand & broken coral 24 Jan 2010 , day only Wind NE 10 knots


When we arrived there were 3 local boats occupying the best spot tucked in behind the SE headland, obliging us to anchor further out. More local boats arrived during the afternoon but all left about 1545. We had no difficulty setting the anchor.


While we could have moved in the wind seemed to have veered a bit to ENE, sending a bit of swell into the bay, so we opted to leave.


Very attractive anchorage. The sand-bar between the two islands cover at high water.


We snorkelled in the bay, which was not terribly interesting. It might be better closer to the headlands.

Rutland Island South Bay

Rutland Island South Bay

Position: 11° 21'.28 N 92° 39'.29 E, 11 m, sand, 26-27 Jan 2010. Wind NE 10 knots


Excellent sandy beach backed by forest.


Good walking on beach, turtle nests and tracks as well as many other amimal and lizard tracks. Several turtle nests looked as if they had been robbed.


Large amounts of rubbish washed up.


Floor of the forest is clear - so it may well be unlogged. Several small hills. Unfortunately lots of loose rocks which Richard found and took a nasty fall - cutting short our visit by a couple of days and curtailing his snorkelling for a while.

Chiryatapu

Chiryatapu

Position: 11° 29'.27 N 92° 42'.43 E, 11 m, probably sand, 28-31 Jan 2010. Wind NE 10-15 knots


This is the next bay east of the anchorage listed in ASP p 136 col 2 C and appears significantly better.


Sheltered anchorage, very little swell. Fringing reef with beach behind. The reef comes up sharply from 10 m to 0 m and extends well out from the beach. Good light desirable.


Beach access best at high water. Sealed road to beach leads to village of Chiryatapu which has a rest house (closed) and a small zoo where they breed crocodiles, apparently for release. The road continues to Port Blair.


Beach seems popular with families at weekends. We coincided with a school annual picnic.


Good snorkelling around reef edge although a sign on the beach warns "Crocodile Infested Beach".

Havelock Island, Beach 7

Havelock Island, Beach 7

ASP p131 A

Position: 11° 58'.8 N 92° 42'.43 E, 11 m, sand, 2-3 Feb 2010. Wind NE 10-15 knots 12-13 Feb 2010 Wind NE 5-10 knots

Havelock #7 is a long white sand beach - anchor at convenience. There are a few coral patches, so good light is helpful.


Despite good shelter in the anchorage, leading to calm water, there are often dumping waves on the beach - enough to make landing and dinghy launching difficult and wet. At high water a sand bar off the lagoon to the south of the main village gives some protection and seems to be the best landing place. Some sandflies on the beach but not as bad as we had been led to expect from previous reports.


Ashore there are souvenir stalls and several low-key eating places and a resort with strange dome-shaped units. The Italian restaurant, praised by cruisers in previous years, has changed hands and is apparently not so good, serving a mix of local and western food (not Italian).


Elephants are brought to bathe in the lagoon.


There is a bus (Rps 6) to the main village on Havelock - also tuk-tuks and taxis.


Some snorkelling on the coral patches or the reef at the north-western end of the beach and on the reef at the south-eastern end of the anchorage. Better off the point at the west.


The Indian navy periodically carry out beach landing exercises here. These occur at the end of the beach where we were anchored. If your stay coincides with one of these exercises you may be told to move further east.

Outram Island

Outram Island

ASP p132 C

Position: 12° 12'.44 N 93° 05'.65 E, 12 m, sand, 4, 6-8 Feb 2010. Wind NE 5-15 knots


A very sheltered, smooth anchorage. Approximately 100-200 m further E from the position given above might be marginally better as there is a gap in the reef with a wide sand-bottomed channel leading towards the beach which would allow a shallower anchorage. This is opposite a tall tree with a straight, branchless trunk (extreme right in picture). Good light would be needed to go in close here.


When approaching this anchorage from the west through Charka Jura be very careful not to cut the corner on the NW of Henry Lawrence Island. The reef extends significantly further than charted as warned in ASP and there is an obstruction further out, again in 20 m. Friends hit this, causing serious damage to their boat. There is also extensive reef off the entire S coast of Outram Island, again coming up sharply.


Good shallow snorkelling close to the anchorage, especially on the eastern side of the sand inlet mentioned above. Might also be good further west but we would be deterred by the proximity of extensive mangroves and what might be living amongst them.

North Button Island

North Button Island

ASP p133 H

Position: 12° 18'.82 N 93° 04'.10 E, 12 m (boat dropped back in 18 m), sand, 5 Feb 2010. Wind NNE 10-15 knots


A beautiful and reasonably shelterd anchorage in the conditions but reports from others are that it can be very rolly.

No landing unless you have the appropriate permit from Forestry. If you have landing looks easy on the sand spit at the west of the island

We expected great things from the snorkelling but were somewhat disappointed. A lot of the coral was dead and there was not a lot of fish life. Perhaps we chose the wrong spot!

Middle Button Island

Middle Button Island

ASP p133 G

Position: 12° 16'.28 N 93° 01'.49 E, 17 m, sand, 8 Feb 2010 (day only). Wind NNE 5-10 knots


Moderately sheltered in the light conditions. Could go in closer but the sand areas between the coral patches are not large. We did not try to get closer as we only intended a daytime stop. May be better slightly further west, closer to the sand spit


Snorkelling was reasonable but not excellent.


There was no sign of the Forestry officials supposed to live here but again you need a permit to land.

Inglis Island

Inglis Island

ASP p132 E

Position: 12° 08'.13 N 93° 06'.49 E, 6 m, sand, 9 Feb 2010. Wind NNE 5-10 knots


Reasonably calm tucked in behind a sand spit and reef. There is a large sandy area between two areas of reef. Could go closer in.


Good walking on the beach north of the sand spit, where dinghy landing was good at about half tide.


Reposts of a crocodile sighting (admittedly in 2008) deterred us from snorkelling but others have and survived.

Henry Lawrence Island - South Point

Henry Lawrence Island - South Point

ASP p131D

Position: 12° 04'.99 N 93° 04'.23 E, 11 m, sand, 10 Feb 2010. Wind NNE 5-10 knots


Could probably go closer in towards the fringing reef. Smoth in the conditions but could be swelly in stronger or more easterly winds.


Good snorkelling on fringing reef. Very good coral but no large fish. Probably beach is good for a walk and the inlet to the NW could be an interesting high tide dinghy or kayak exploration. We had mid-day low tides so did not attempt

Havelock Island - Lacam Harbour

Havelock Island - Lacam Harbour

ASP p 131 C

Position: 12° 02'.61 N 92° 58'.85 E, 11 m, silty sand, 11 Feb 2010. Wind NNE-NNW 5-10 knots


Lacam Harbour is the main point of access for Havelock Island. There is regular ferry traffic to Port Blair and many local boats moving (noisily) day and night.


Approach from the west is marked with substantial lit P & S beacons. Approach from the east is not marked but is not difficult.


Call Havelock Control (VHF 16 - change when requested to VHF 10) on approach and be prepared for a fairly lengthy interrogation. Also call before leaving before raising anchor. We did not visit the port office but others who did reported very friendly and helpful. Harbour fees are paid on checking out at Port Blair.


The anchorage space is limited betrween the pier and a drying reef, which in a NE'ly will be some two boat's length behind you. Space needs to be left to allow the ferries to turn. Holding is good however. There appears to be ample space on the far side of the reef but less easy access to the beach.


The main hazard is the substantial barges towed on a long line by local boats with limited power and manoueverability. Photo shows one after the four guys on the bow have shortened the tow-line.

Havelock Island - Lacam Harbour



Reasonably easy beach access close to the pier where there is no fringing reef. "Boat coolie" Aladin will help with beaching and launching, dispose of rubbish, look after dinghy and generally help for a fee (Rps 200 for rubbish as he gets a tuk-tuk to take it to the tip & Rps 200 for the dinghy).


Numerous taxis and tuk-tuks available. Some shops and restaurants locally, more, including very modern small supermarket, in main village 10 minutes away be taxi. ATMs in main village. Numerous resorts and restaurants of varying quality along the east coast road.



Passage: Port Blair - Nai Harn, Phuket

Logged distance 412.1 nM, 415.1 by GPS. 16-19 Feb 2010


We originally intended to return via the Similans. However, a combination of unfriendly wind directions and boat problems required a change of plan.


The wind started off mainly NE-NNE, even a bit of N, at 10-15 knots. However on the evening of the second day it dropped and we got a rope round the prop! Wind remained light but still from mainly NE overnight but continued to drop during the next day.


Having removed the rope we started motorsailing , only to be confronted with a rig failure on the forestay - fortunately spotted by Susan before the mast came down. This reduced us to motorsailing with double reefed main to steady the boat. During the night the wind was very variable, but mainly ESE - just the direction we were heading.


Coupled with light, adverse winds there were numerous small areas of quite confused seas, frequently nearly stopping the boat. We concluded that these were in areas of meeting currents and associated with the edge of the continental drop-off.


It also seemed that we were battling adverse current most of the time, although this does not seem to be confirmed by the difference between the log and the GPS.

 


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