In 2016 Adina was privileged to visit the Chagos Archipelago, also known as British Indian Ocean Territory. We stopped there for nearly four weeks taking refuge on route from the Maldives to the Seychelles during the transition season when winds in the northern and southern hemisphere change.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office states “The British Indian Ocean Territory is not a tourist destination. Access is restricted and a permit is required in advance of travel. There are no commercial flights and permits are only issued to allow safe passage for yachts through the Indian Ocean. You may apply for a permit to moor in the Outer Islands of BIOT only where it [is] essential for your safe passage across the Indian Ocean, which we must be convinced of before granting you a permit.”
Our application for a yacht permit appeared to be the first to be reviewed in January 2016 and was declined on a new technicality that had unfortunately not been explained to sailing yachts at that time; permits would now only be granted for “transit” purposes, any application stating “tourism” or similar, would be declined. We spent time putting together a case to explain why sailing yachts have historically used BIOT as a safe stop during the transition season and why we would be much safer being granted permission to stop. Luckily for us as a result of this work our permit was approved. We’d hoped this would help other yachts in the same predicament but many others went through a lot of difficulties in securing their permits, suffering for the same reason.
Sailing to and on from BIOT presents challenges. Sailors must carefully consider when they plan to stop there, where they will go next and when they intend to depart, in addition to fully provisioning for a stop where there are no supplies. Added to that, the areas where you are allowed to stay are full of challenges, mainly in that they have scattered reefs that one has to be careful not to hit. At Boddam Island where most yachts stop you can secure to moorings laid by previous yachts that in time age and you need to check these before tying up and then on a regular basis. From our side we were saddened to find that some yachts had irresponsibly left behind rubbish in what is a pristine and fragile environment.
With all this in mind, we decided to write a ‘Guide to the Chagos Archipelago/BIOT’ which has been published by the Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation. Our thanks to Jane Russell at the RCCPF and Ros Hogbin who pulled it all together.
The guide is available as a free download at http://rccpf.org.uk/pilots/151/Chagos-Archipelago