Pendana Sydney to Whitsundays


Pendana and her crew are finally on their way to the Whitsunday Islands. As I type this I have just finished my first watch and Pendana is humming along doing a steady 8.9kts in what are far more reasonable conditions than forecasted. Currently we are facing 14kts winds, 2 meter following sea and approx. an eleven second period. There is no sea on top of the swell whatsoever which is great. That being said, there is a large rain storm just off to our starboard side that we should miss. Picture below shows our smaller radar picking up the rain that’s around.

pendanablog find us

As some would know it is now whale migration season where the whales from the Southern Ocean migrate north to warmer waters. By complete chance a very large barnacled hump back whale surfaced within about eight feet from Pendana’s starboard side mid-ships. It was as if the whale was wishing us well on our journey north … or so we would hope!

The first leg of our trip will take us north from Sydney to Lady Musgrove Island which is a large coral cay with an alarmingly narrow entrance. At this speed we expect to going through the entrance in just under three days one hour and eight minutes. Total distance for this first leg is 649 nms. From Lady Musgrove we will head further north to the Percy group of Islands. After a short break to explore the Percy group we will head to Abel Point Marina. Once at Abel point we will bid farewell to Capt. Mark James and head out to explore the island group and Great Barrier Reef on our own.


Approach to Lady Musgrove has been carefully planned.

We always take on additional crew for longer trips. Anything over about 30hours in our book requires another crew member to be able to stand watch. Running a four hour on, eight hour off watch cycle works well for us and allows for all crew to remain well rested and alert when they are on watch. The idea of being tired on watch is simply not something I think is prudent for any crew to have to face, nor is it good management!

There is a great new book just out that Milt Baker mentioned to me, called, Bridge Resource Management for Small Ships by Daniel S Parrott. This book outlines many mistakes made by watch-keepers, some of which had horrendous consequences due to fatigue related issues. The book also covers over reliance on instruments, distraction, stress and complacency issues which I guess if the truth be told we can all fall victim to from time to time. I must confess that Pendana’s pilothouse is very much a place of work with a lack of entertainment devices present for the simple fact that while underway Pendana’s crew takes the job of watch-keeping very seriously. For us, being on watch means exactly that. There were some valuable insights and lessons learnt from Parrott’s book which we will heed on our trip north.


Great new book for all mariners.

The Watch Cycle for this trip will be as follows:


0600 – 1000 Claire & Abi

1000-1400 James & Bianca

1400-1800 Mark

1800-2200 Claire & Abi

2200-0200 James & Bianca

0200-0600 Mark

(Fuel Management – James)

I must confess that with this watch cycle I feel like I have short changed myself, as this time I will miss out on both the sunrise and sunset which as anyone who spends anytime time on the water will tell you are magical moments. 

On the trip North both Bianca and Abi will be standing watch with Claire and I. There are a couple of reasons for this with the most important being, that once we arrive they can truly feel as if they were a part of making sure Pendana arrived safely and in some way helped to contribute to our navigational success. I have always maintained that enjoyment in life comes in direct relationship with the sense of accomplishment. If we can help our children understand this then we will, as adults, have done part of our job! No doubt there will be moans and groans as they face another watch and no doubt Bianca and Abi will get tired but hopefully they will also learn to enjoy the responsibility and the sense of satisfaction that comes from a completed watch and the overall safe arrival of Pendana to her intended location. 

Our destination is Australia’s Whitsunday group of islands which currently claim the title as the third major super yacht destination after the Caribbean which holds the number one spot and the Mediterranean in number two. This tropical region is easily accessed, safe and uncrowded, but most importantly offers some of the most unique on-the-water experiences that cannot be found elsewhere.

The Whitsundays are comprised of 74 islands within a 40 nautical mile radius on Australia’s northeast coast, with Hamilton Island being the largest of the six islands that are inhabited. These tropical islands offer deserted, fine sand beaches, lush bushland, and remarkable flora, fauna and sea life.

The Great Barrier Reef is, in fact, one of the world’s seven natural wonders stretching over 2,300 kilometres and covering some 350,000 square kilometres (nearly the size of Germany). The Great Barrier Reef consists of a myriad of lagoons, atolls, sand cays and coral outcrops that simply must be experienced to be able to fully appreciate the region. 

The plan is for Pendana to visit a number of places over the next few months being….Lady Musgrove Island, Middle Percy Island, Thomas Island, Hazelwood Island, Hayman Island, Border Island, Hook Island, Hamilton Island, South Mole Island as well as venture a little further out to sea so to explore Hardy, Bait and Block reef which are, by all accounts, magnificent.

On Hook Island we plan to spend time at Nara Inlet, Macona Inlet, Stonehaven Bay, Butterfly Bay, Manta Ray Bay. On Whitsunday Island we will visit Cid Harbour, Whitehaven Beach said to have the whitest sand of any beach in the world, Tongue Bay and on Hazelwood Island we will visit Chalkies Beach and Windy Bay. Let’s hope the name is not indicative of the weather we can expect and finally Hayman Island will see us drop anchor in Blue Pearl Bay. There will be many more spots of interest along the way but as it stands right now, that’s the initial plan with a three day stop-over at Hamilton Island Marina in September.

Below is a map of the Whitsunday Islands.


Below is an aerial photograph of Lady Musgrove Island and the coral cay that surrounds her. I can only hope that the weather is good and that we successfully navigate her narrow channel as this will be our first test. The entrance to Lady Musgrove can be seen on the left side of image near the top and appears as a blue line.


In a word, WOW!

One thing that I need to wise up on while underway is the phenomenal tides that are ever present in this part of the world. The tide rule and affects everything you do when cruising the Whitsunday Islands .The approximate tidal range in some parts can be as much as 9 metres/30 feet with the Whitsundays being a little more respectable from 1.3m neap tide to 3.8m spring tide. Tides create currents and these currents ebb and flow with the tides in the Whitsundays flooding (incoming/rising) towards the south and ebbing (outgoing/falling) towards the north.

When anchoring, Pendana’s crew will need to consider how much extra chain to let out in order to maintain a minimum of a five to one scope as well as consider how much water we will have under the keel at low tide (see image below). Wind and its direction will also be an important consideration as to not swing into any coral outcrops which may be close. Emm, why are we going again? Pendana never has a scope of less than 5:1 and that is for calm conditions, as conditions worsen our scope increases to 7:1 and 10:1. Needless to say the issue always is do we have enough swing room when we have a 10:1 scope.

Recently, I bought a very sexy piece of kit called a Bosch GLM250 and while not cheap at $500.00 it has been worth its weight in gold. This device allows me to point an infra-red dot at any object up to 250m away to give me its exact measurement in metres. When measuring outside or over long distances, it is almost impossible to see the red laser dot so the Bosch GLM 250 VF features an integrated telescopic viewfinder, allowing the operator to accurately position the laser dot on to the object they wish to measure. No doubt this will come in handy up north!


Bosch GLM250 traditionally used in the building trade now makes its mark in the marine industry!

The advice received to date which will be followed is to move Pendana to new locations during slack tide as with the tide comes currents and in some places these can run at a staggering, heart stopping, 9kts. This means if Pendana were doing 9.5kts, her hull speed, and the current was going against her at 9kts we would have a SOG (speed over ground) of only .5kts making for a very long trip indeed. 

This concludes the first of many blogs as we venture off towards what is commonly referred to as a ‘boating paradise’ and ‘heaven on earth’. No doubt there will be much to experience and learn and we will return to our home port in December/January, hopefully more accomplished mariners! Well, that’s the plan!

One liners/comments from the crew:

Capt Mark James – Jutst happy to be at sea.

Abi – Are we there yet?

Claire – Looking forward to my first watch with Abi.

Bianca – Feeling the big rollers makes me sleepy. Not feeling sick at all!

The next blog will be sent once we make safe anchor at Lady Musgrove Island. I must confess that the photos I have seen of Lady Musgrove look simply incredible. I will leave you with an image just taken from the pilothouse showing the view as Pendana makes her way north on day one. For me it is now time to convince Bianca to come to bed so that we can rest before our next watch, in just a few short hours.

View from Pilothouse as I post this blog.

View from cockpit on Pendana


Don’t forget that for those interested in reading more about the trials and tribulations aboard Pendana the book ‘From Family to Crew’ is now available. For more information go to


Safe travels




2 thoughts on “Pendana Sydney to Whitsundays”

  1. Ahoy Pendana and Crew! Enjoy your journey. James, reads to me like maybe, this is too much serenity for one man? Thanks for blogging.

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