Monday, 17 October 2011

Falkland Island pilotage notes

Falklands Islands Pilotage Notes

These notes were made during Iron Bark's visit to the Falkland Islands between September and December 2010 and supplement the information in Falkland Islands Shores  and its Supplement.

The Falkland Islands are covered by a modern, expensive, set of Admiralty Charts. Ewen Southby-Tailyour’s Falkland Islands Shores together with Pete and Annie Hill’s Supplement provide an excellent guide to the Falklands. They were written in 1977-1982 and 1993-1994 respectively so the general sections about populations, regulations, shopping etc are out of date but the pilotage sections are as good as ever and no yacht cruising the Falkland Islands should be without these two volumes. The Supplement is as important as its parent volume. In 2010, Falklands Islands Shores was available from the Pink Shop in Stanley, but not the Supplement. They are available as a bundled pair from the RCC Pilotage Foundation.

Falklands Islands Shores and Supplement are comprehensive and anyone hoping to add significantly to pilotage notes for an area should avoid following in the path of Ewen Southby-Tailyour or Pete Hill. Their work is meticulous and leaves little to be added, which means these notes are brief. They are intended to be read in conjunction with Falkland Islands Shores  and Supplement and are referenced to the chapters or page numbers in those two volumes.



About 2700 excluding military garrison and ancillaries at Mount Pleasant, who amount to another 2000 or so but have little to do with the general population of the Falklands. Of the 2700, rather more than 2000 live in Stanley and only about 80 in West Falkland.

The Falklands Conflict

Add: Argentine visitors are welcome.


Falkland Island notes are on par with Stirling but cannot be used outside the Falkland Islands. Stirling and to a lesser extent US dollars and Euros can be used in stores around Stanley.  The Standard Chartered Bank offers cash advances on credit cards, for a considerable fee, but rejects some credit cards on an apparently random basis. The staff of the bank have little understanding of the system and generally cannot solve a problem if it arises. The bank will change US and Euro notes only hey have to be in mint condition. If at all worn or with the slightest mark on them, the notes will be rejected. Major credit cards are widely accepted in Stanley, even when rejected by Standard Chartered Bank.


Miscellaneous Notes


In 2010 Argentina applied a series of new restrictions as part of its campaign for sovereignty over the Falklands. Yachts visiting the Falklands from Argentina are expected to sign a declaration acknowledging Argentine sovereignty before being given a clearance for “Puerto Argentino, Islas Malvinas” (Port Stanley, Falkland Islands) and the Argentine authorities have pressured most other South American countries to impose a similar condition before they will give clearance. This leads to the bizarre situation of a yacht clearing from Puerto Williams, Chile, for the Falklands needing to get a permit from the Argentine authorities first. Apart from the obvious ethical and legal objections to this there are the delays and costs of having to deal with the Argentine bureaucracy in Buenos Aires. Chile will give a clearance for South Africa with no questions asked allowing a yacht to sail from Chile to the Falklands. However if a yacht subsequently enters an Argentine port for any reason including an emergency the penalties for having visited the Falklands without having signed the declaration are draconian. 


A yacht coming from a foreign port must proceed directly to Stanley for clearance. Any deviation from this be reported immediately and will bring down the wrath of the authorities. A yacht must report its arrival by VHF 16/10 when it crosses a line between Volunteer Point and Cape Pembroke and enters Port William.

Call “STANLEY PORT CONTROL” and give the following information:
1.                                                      Vessel name
2.                                                      Radio call sign
3.                                                      Type of vessel (yacht, trawler etc)
4.                                                      Number of crew
5.                                                      Date and time of crossing the reporting line
6.                                                      Intentions (berth at Public Jetty for Customs clearance etc)

Call Customs on VHF 16/12 and request instructions for clearance.

If there is no cruise ship in the harbour or expected, a yacht will be told to go alongside the Public Jetty for clearance –see below for details. If there is a cruise ship whose RIBs are using the Public Jetty to land passengers, alternative arrangement will be necessary.

Customs will come down to the yacht to give customs, immigration and quarantine clearance. The clearance procedure is generally quick and efficient. Small amounts of alcohol and tobacco can be kept for consumption aboard. The officer will provide a yellow plastic bag for organic waste whose origin is outside the Falkland Islands and will come down and collect it on request. A courtesy flag is expected, either the Falklands flag or a red ensign.

A visa, maximum 30 days, will be issued on arrival and can be extended up to 90 days by visiting the immigration office in town. The crew are required to have sufficient funds to support themselves for the expected length of stay and to have medical insurance for each person aboard to a minimum of GBP200,000 plus medical evacuation cover.


When ready to leave either go to the customs/immigration office in town to get clearance or call customs on VHF 12 and ask them to come down to the vessel (if it is alongside). Clearance will be given after payment of GBP62 harbour dues plus an additional charge of GBP6 if they came to the yacht. Permission may be given to depart from a port other than Stanley on payment of an addition fee of GBP120.

On crossing the reporting line between Volunteer Point and Cape Pembroke, contact “Stanley Port Control” on VHF16/10 and give the following information
1                                        Vessel name
2                                        Radio Callsign
3                                        Type of vessel (yacht)
4                                        Number of crew
5                                        Date and time of exit
6                                        Next port
7                                        Departure port (Port Stanley)

Fuel is available from Stanley Services, which is on the outskirts of town. It is too far to carry jerry cans but taxis are reasonably priced and do not mind putting fuel cans in the back. Larger quantities are available by tanker from Stanley Services. This probably means going alongside at FIPASS or East Jetty. In September 2010 the tanker would not go down the rough road to the Canache.

Stanley Services also sells kerosene and bottled gas. Prices are reasonable.


The two main supermarkets in are West Store in the middle Stanley and The Chandlery out towards FIPASS. Most British non-perishables are available from one or the other at 30-50% above British prices. Both accept most credit cards.

The fresh food situation in late 2010 was dire. There were almost no locally grown produce except meat for sale and the supply of imported vegetables was spasmodic. Political problems with Argentina had spilled over to Chile and the supply vessel that normally trades with Punta Arenas was barred from Chilean waters. Some vegetables were coming in from Brazil, but they were neither abundant nor particularly fresh. For extended periods there were no vegetables including potatoes and onions available from any source. Frozen vegetables were available, but are not much use unless the yacht has a freezer. Meat is readily available and reasonably priced. Local farm eggs are available at times but you have to look for them.



Mail to Stanley is unreliable and often very slow. Airmail is sent weekly and should take less than 2 weeks from the United Kingdom but seldom does. I had mail forwarded the Falklands in the mistaken belief that it would be quicker and more reliable than the Chilean mail service. Two letters still had not arrived after 3 months when I left the Falklands and two parcels arrived 6 weeks apart although they were posted on successive days and one parcel had not arrived 4 months after being posted by airmail. Every Falkland Islander tells a similar story.  Rumour has it the problem lies in the handling of mail at the RAF base in Brize Norton but as the post office denies there is a problem, nothing is done about it. Anything of importance should be sent via DHL courier service. It comes by the same route as the Royal Mail but unlike the Royal Mail is reliable and traceable.

Air travel to and from the Falklands is via RAF flights and is expensive. Alternatively it was possible to fly LAN to Punta Arenas and thence connect with the rest of the world. This was a considerably cheaper option than the RAF flights but Argentine pressure may bring it to an end.

Cable and Wireless provides telephone and Internet access. Settlements in camp are linked to Stanley by a microwave phone system.

Lighthouse Mission to Seamen

The Lighthouse Mission to Seamen welcomes yachtsmen. The Lighthouse is at the foot of the bridge to FIPASS, about 1-1/2miles east of town. There is a comfortable lounge, email facilities, an excellent book swap, reasonably priced laundry facilities and showers open every day except Mondays. Coffee is always available and the café open 3 days a week.



Berths in Stanley

The Public Jetty is the most convenient alongside berth in Stanley and is the preferred berth for clearing Customs. The Public Jetty is about 200m east of the cathedral whose tower is prominent from seaward and has a large sign saying “FALKLAND ISLANDS” on the information office at its foot. There are two aluminium pontoons. Use the westernmost one which is attached to the solid section of the Public Jetty. The cleats on the pontoon are inadequate to hold a yacht other than very temporarily. Run mooring lines across the pontoon to the solid section of the public jetty. The end of the jetty is derelict and mooring to it is prohibited.

A yacht is permitted to remain alongside the Public Jetty without charge until a cruise ship is expected when the jetty must be vacated before 0700 on the day of the ship’s arrival. The jetty is well protected from westerly winds but is open to the northeast. It is uncomfortable in a moderate northeast wind and dangerous in a strong one. Fortunately a northeast wind is uncommon and usually well forecast so a yacht should have time to move out to anchor before the wind becomes strong enough to pin her to the pontoon. There is a water tap at the foot of the Public Jetty.

Other possibilities for an alongside berth are in the Canache, at FIPASS and on the East Jetty. The Canache is a small inlet at the east end of Stanley Harbour and has several privately owned pontoons in it. There is seldom a spare berth here but ask around town.

FIPASS (Falklands Interim Port and Storage System) has been interim since 1982. There are two possible places for a yacht, one on the east side and the other on the landward side. These berths are both noisy, dirty and a long way from town. Contact the Port Manager at FIPASS to arrange a berth for which there will be a charge. East Jetty is convenient to town but is very rough and rather exposed. Contact FIC (Falklands Island Company) for details. There is a charge for using these berths.

The yacht moorings in Stanley Harbour mentioned in the guides and in the 2010 Ports and Harbours information booklet were all missing or considered unreliable in September 2010.

The best option for a yacht in Stanley is probably to use the Public Jetty when it is available and anchor when it is not. In good weather when a cruise ship is using the Public Jetty, anchor 50m off and, having got permission from the security officer, land the dinghy at the floating pontoons. In poor weather the best berth is at the west end of Stanley Harbour near Moody Brook as described in the Supplement. The Butchery mentioned in the Supplement is a now derelict concrete building and the scrap metal dump is overgrown. The head of the harbour shoals gradually and all dangers are marked by kelp. Simply go as far west as your draft permits and anchor. Tide range at springs is about 1.5m and the holding is good with no kelp. If the weather is good enough for dinghy work at Moody Brook, it is probably good enough to anchor off the Public Jetty and dinghy ashore to the middle of town saving a 2-mile walk each way.

Other anchorage possibilities are in the lee of FIPASS and in Fairy Cove on the north shore of Stanley Harbour. The lee of FIPASS is fairly protected but noisy and no closer to town than Moody Brook. Fairy Cove is well protected from the north and west but exposed when the wind backs southwest after the passage of a cold front and has no effective access to town. Moody Brook is generally a more convenient anchorage in both cases. In all cases if a strong easterly is forecast shift to Whalebone Cove in the lee of the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth at the east end of Stanley Harbour.

Sparrow Cove

Sparrow Cove provides anchorage safe from all winds, but because of the size of the bay it may be necessary to shift berths if a northeast wind is expected. The best berth in most weather is in 7m outside the edge of the kelp on the west side of the cove. Holding is good. Do not land on the eastern shore as it is mined.




Fitzroy Creek

The anchorage in Fitzroy Creek is well protected from any sea but a north or northwest wind is accelerated as it funnels down the creek. Holding is good in 2.5-3m mud with little kelp. The cove immediately west of the creek has better protection from the north and northwest but is open to the southwest which could be a problem if anchored there when a cold front passes through. The lagoon north of the narrows is too shallow and encumbered by shoals for most yachts.

The bridge leading to the jetty mentioned in Falkland Islands Shores is derelict. The bridge was made from pitch pine hold battens from the Great Eastern. There are there the remnants of a ladder on the northeast end of the bridge where a dinghy can be secured.

There is a small, friendly community at Fitzroy Creek, most of who commute to work in Stanley.


Pyramid Cove

All information correct and current, October 2010. Water available from a stream at the head of Pyramid Creek.

Seal Cove

A drying shoal not shown on the chart in Falkland Island Shores extends from the south shore of Seal Cove. The shoal is partially marked by kelp and has a detached kelp-marked rock off its outer end.

The anchorage is beyond this shoal between scattered patches of kelp in 3m, mud, good holding. Despite several promising looking gullies, there appears to be no watering stream in the vicinity.


Urchin Bay
All information in the Supplement current in October 2010. The surrounding land is low and featureless like much of Lafonia, made bleaker by being overgrazed. Bird life is good along the shore.

Fanny Cove Creek

All information in the Supplement current in October 2010. The anchorage where the creek branches into two is excellent and safe in all winds. Anchor under the bluff on the north shore between scattered patches of kelp, 2.5m, mud, excellent holding. Despite the fetch to the west, a strong west wind kicks up surprisingly little sea.

Bull Point to Porpoise Point

A strong west of southwest wind against the tide kicks up a nasty race off Bull Point and Porpoise Point, enough to make progress in a small vessel slow, difficult and perhaps dangerous.


Fox Bay Inner Harbour

The best berth for a yacht is undoubtedly in the pool at entrance to Doctors Creek, southwest of Dip Point. There is a helipad and fuel tanks on Dip Point. Anchor in 5-7m, soft mud, good holding with only scattered patches of kelp. There is at least one sunk mooring in this pool so it may be wise to buoy the anchor. Swinging room is limited and it advisable to moor. A number of yachts have dragged ashore here, but Iron Bark held in sustained hurricane force winds with some dubious help from the engine. The reef and kelp between Government Island and Dip Point damp down most of the sea kicked up by a northwest wind despite there fetch of over a mile across Fox Bay.

The settlements of East and West Fox Bay are the largest in West Falkland and had a total population of 27 including a number of children in October 2010. There is a well-stocked Co-op store at Stanley prices, open Monday and Thursday evenings, shearing and other farm activities permitting, and a club open Saturday and Sunday evenings. Richard Cockwell no longer lives in Fox Bay but visits his son Ben and daughter in law Clare who do, regularly. The community at Fox Bay is a friendly, dynamic one.

The jetty has been rebuilt and is substantial. A yacht could lie alongside it, with permission from the settlement manager, but it is exposed to the west and northwest and would not be a comfortable berth. It is regularly used by the coastal supply vessel Concordia Bay.


Chaffers Gullet
Kelp marks all dangers in the approach. Inside the gullet there is drying sandspit not shown on the chart on p132. It is about 1-1/4 miles from the entrance and extends from the west shore more than half way across the gullet. It is not marked by kelp but visible in most light. There is a gentoo rookery on the ridge between Lucas Hill and Lucas Rincon.

The anchorage off the the small beach 2 miles from the entrance, recommended in Falkland Islands Shores p133 is safe in all winds but uncomfortable in a strong north or northeast wind. The berth in the “nook ESE of Little Mollyhawk” recommended in the Supplement would probably require pitons to secure the lines ashore as there seemed to be few suitable rocks to tie to.



Port Stevens

Kits Creek and Sweeneys Creek.
The approach past Cross Island can be rough with a southwest wind against tide and waves reflected back from Cross Island producing short, steep standing waves. The anchorage in Sweeneys Creek described in the Supplement and recommended by the Carrs is excellent. It is well protected, holding is good in 7 m with ample swinging room and only scattered patches of kelp. There is abundant firewood in the form of driftwood along the shore. A broad sand flat extends out from the east shore of the pool which, although it does not dry completely, is an excellent place to beach a vessel for repairs.

Port Stevens

Good holding but the owners of Port Stevens farm, Peter and Anne Robertson, report in a south or southeast wind a big, probably dangerous sea build up here. It is well protected from all other winds.

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