Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu


Sydney to Port Villa, Vanuatu

Pendana departs

Pendana departing Sydney Harbour. Photo courtesy of Facebook friend Mr JP.

On Saturday evening, after eight days at sea Pendana finally slipped into Port Villa, dropped anchor and turned off her mighty Cummins N14 after some 200hrs of continuous duty.

For those who have been following along on Facebook you will already know that we altered course to Vanuatu instead of continuing direct to Fiji due to Pendana being squashed between two lows and having a very ordinary time of things. After about twelve hours of facing short period seas on her forward starboard beam in the 4-5mtr / 13-16ft and with the forecast set to deteriorate, I felt that another 48hours of these short period (6 second) sharp seas was not something I was prepared to put up with. Remember, this is pleasure boating and once the pleasure goes out of this it soon becomes un-pleasurable and akin to having root canal work done on your teeth for a very long time. After discussing with both Mark and Claire the idea of diverting to Vanuatu, the decision was quickly made and as we changed course to head direct to Vanuatu the ugly seas that were causing so much discomfort became gentle giants following Pendana as she made way. Ahhhhh now that’s better!

Big wave on boat Pendana

big seas

Big sea photos and yes they got bigger than this.

Overall our trip from Sydney to abeam Vanuatu was superb and while we knew the last two days were going to be challenging I guess we weren’t expecting sustained 36kts when the forecast called for 26kts, gusts 35kts and to be perfectly blunt we were not enjoying ourselves. While, no one felt sick I think that as the hours rolled on there is no doubt that sickness and tiredness would have started to play a part in this for everyone aboard. There is no doubt that there will be times when we have to soldier on but this was not one of those. The decision to alter plans, remain creative and be flexible in this situation shows a certain learning that only comes with time at sea.

Flir Pendana

Flir vision of the anchor being set after 201hours at sea.

So what was the trip really like? Well in a word, fantastic! Being in the middle of the ocean with nothing, and I do mean nothing around you is incredibly peaceful, awe-inspiring and somewhat scary. If something goes wrong out there you are on your own so being resourceful, capable and knowledgeable about all systems is imperative, (PS: I for one still have a way to go). We didn’t see a boat or a plane for the last five days at sea which is a long time, when one thinks about it, in fact, a really long time! I was desperate to see another boat so I could call them for a chat but nothing, nada, zero, zip, zilch and other than the odd flying fish making our foredeck their new home there was not much to see other than more and more blue water.

Sunset Pendana

Sunset from mid ocean. Simply superb! Photo taken by Abi.

Because we arrived on Saturday evening and weren’t able to clear customs until Monday we all spent the Sunday doing a list of odd jobs and cleaning the boat. Mark and I spent a long time focused on keeping water out of the boat. As it happens, when in the ocean, faced with towering waves throwing thousands of litres of water on your decks constantly one soon becomes very aware of the need to keep water out of the boat. While this may sound a little obvious I can tell you that we copped a fair bit of water in the lazarette which was a surprise. The reason for this was that while our lazarette drains worked perfectly our seals did not. So Mark and I went about replacing both bustle and lazarette seals and ensuring all was clean and tidy as seeing bilge light going off while a sea in some pretty serious conditions certainly focuses the mind.

Captain Mark James

Come on Mark, hurry up!

Monday morning came around and before we knew it the customs lads were here to clear us in. The overall process was very straight forward and simple and they were done and dusted with us in about 30 minutes. Quarantine even let us keep all our cheese and chicken so long as we promised not to take it ashore. That said, I think they were all pretty amazed with Caesar who provided a nice distraction and behaved beautifully. Seriously though, the process of arriving in Vanuatu could not have been simpler or more relaxed and while it is true I used the services of a clearing agent to help notify the authorities most of the basics I did myself. The clearing agents we used were Jess, Sam and Noella from Kaleva Yacht Service, (Email here in Vanuatu. Noella was incredibly helpful and it was fantastic to have a go to person for a few things like laundry. Laundry you ask? Well our washing machine has never worked properly in the last three and half years and while I keep throwing money at it I have now officially given up. So, will need to have a chat to the messiah Mr James Knight shortly to arrange a replacement machine to be installed when we get to Hawaii.

q flag down

Q Flag down

Vanuatu Courtesy Flag

Courtesy Flag up!

For the statisticians we covered some 1600nms at an average speed of 8kts from Sydney to Vanuatu (remember we were headed to Fiji so a wee bit longer than a normal passage by about 200nms) in 201 hours drinking on average 7 US Gallons per hour / 26.49ltrs per hour for a total of 1407 USg / 5325ltrs of fuel burnt. We normally run at about 6 USg per hour but bumped up the speed a little as it was a long passage.

Lesson learned from this voyage.

1./ One has to be resourceful and capable of fixing things if they go wrong. Honeslty I dont feel that I am there yet but continue to learn, listen and ask stupid questions so in time hopefully it will come.

2./ The ocean is HUGE and can go from welcoming to a living nightmare in a very short space of time.

3./ Bilge pumps really are important and water finds an uncanny way of working its way in. imperative to replace seals every two years to ensure water tight compartments remain that way.

4./ For those following us on the location tracker will have noticed we went a long way north before heading out to sea to avoid a low forming in the Tasman sea. While we all wanted to depart and clear customs in Sydney maybe with hindsight we should have gone to Brisbane of Coffs Harbour and cleared there. This would have reduced days at sea and potentially saved a few hours in less than ideal conditions.

5./ When faced with conditions that are deteriorating divert and change plans. As it turned out we did just that and to this day I am grateful of the decision we made.

All in all life at sea is going to suit us just fine and other than not being able to get decent internet connection we are all enjoying ourselves immensely. The girls talked and listened to music, the adults talked, slept and kept watch. The cats slept and slept and slept and Ceasar greated every watch keeper with enthusiasm and love without fail.


Enjoying Lunch Ashore with Pendana far off in the distance.

There is no doubt that the decision to see the world by private boat for us was a big one as it would be for most and I am pleased to report that so far so good. Our plan is to depart Port Vila on the weekend and head directly to Fiji. This will be with just the family as Mark is flying back home to the Gold Coast to continue his full time role as a superyacht captain so for Claire and I this will be a big test as we work out what works for us re watch keeping and what doesn’t and if we truly have what it takes to survive and thrive alone in a big blue world!

cyclone pam vanuatu pendana

Some signs of the recent Cyclone to hit the area ever present.

Finally, I am sorry to report but the next blog won’t go out until we reach Fiji. For those who enjoyed our daily updates via Facebook, as we made our way across to Port Vila, thank you for all the comments and while we couldn’t reply to many of them we did all read them and were grateful for each and every one.

I apologise that this blog is a little shorter than normal but I am somewhat challenged with the lack of bandwidth here in Vanuatu so please forgive me.

Safe travel


10 thoughts on “Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu”

  1. SUBJECT: Re: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

    Well done that family.
    Outcome A plan is only a plan.
    Just sayin.:)
    Warm regardsGary GauntG J Gaunt Consulting Servicesemail: ggaunt@b…: +61 (0) 417 958 312#A001528987
    Date: Monday, 4 May 2015 2:56 pm
    To: Gary Gaunt
    Subject: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

  2. Kerrie Jordan

    SUBJECT: Re: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

    Hello Sailors
    Great to see you’ve made landfall safely. Pity about the heavy seas, but good to visit Vanuatu after all. We don’t use Facebook, so did wonder why the change in tracks, thought it was weather related. Crap here – hasn’t stopped raining, seas very heavy, but hopeful it will in the next day or two. Bon voyageKerrie
    On 4 May 2015, at 4:56 pm, http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM wrote:

  3. Hi Crew, What a fabulous first adventure! It’s always good to be ‘learning’ in a safe environment and what could be safer than the dependable Pendana on the high seas?! Remember as the seas get higher the boat was designed to float lol. Enjoy your ‘detour’ in Vanuatu – safe travels to Fiji. Really disappointed I’m not able to do a photo shoot of you leaving Vanuatu! James.

  4. SUBJECT: Re: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

    Can you find time to call at Tanna and climb the Volcano – well worth it,

    While sailing with Hugh Treharne some years ago, one managed to land in the Galley, but was given a short shift!!

    Glad you are enjoying the trip and I am jealous – I came across your blog while browsing the Internet re Kuringai Chase NP.


    Barry Crispe . From: http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM Sent: Monday, May 04, 2015 4:56 PM To: wotyot@t… Subject: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

  5. SUBJECT: Re: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

    Sorry – Omitted Flying fish landed in Galley!!

    Barry Crispe From: http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM Sent: Monday, May 04, 2015 4:56 PM To: wotyot@t… Subject: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

  6. Tamara Lansky

    SUBJECT: Re: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

    Well done!!!! Lovely picture of the family! You all look so happy, and smiley! Love to you all. Tamara Lansky
    Tel 076 5379449
    From: http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM
    To: t.lansky@y…
    Sent: Monday, May 4, 2015 8:56 AM
    Subject: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

  7. Randy and Carmen

    Randy and Carmen are enjoying your adventure from Basalt Colorado.
    Think Positive and Be Happy! Good Vibrations from us to you all.
    Happy Sails!

  8. SUBJECT: RE: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

    Hi All,

    Well done and good luck on your next passage.

    I have 30 friends in England following your passage as I forward them your blog.

    Oh great photos and you have a great crew… cats and all!

    Good weather and calm winds for the next stage.


    From: http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM [mailto:blog-46517-comments@t…]
    Sent: 04 May 2015 07:56
    To: johnmerry40@l…
    Subject: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

  9. It was great following along on your journey, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next stages. Travel safe.

  10. Bradley Rosenberg

    SUBJECT: Re: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

    Giday James & Family:
    Congratulations on you’re major passage. Having sailed across both oceans, I agree it is an amazing experience. One of my favorite actives while crossing in reading. While I rarely read the same book twice, I read the Source in 1982 sailing across the atlantic and again in 1999 while crossing the pacific.
    I will be very interested to hear if the new seals work on your lazeratte. I know some others have resorted to taping them with a good duck tape. We have also found tightening the locks for crossing is helpful and then loosening them for regular cruising helps.
    I am curious what problems are you having with the washing machine? Is this related to a power problem?
    Good Luck.
    May the moon be full and the wind and seas on your stern.

    With Respect,
    Bradley Rosenberg

    M/V Shear Madness – (

    “Experience is a harsh teacher. She gives the test first and teaches the lesson afterward.” I. Howatt

    Reply-To: “blog-46517-comments@t…”
    Date: Monday, 4May, 2015 at 02:56
    To: Bradley Rosenberg
    Subject: Pendana – Sydney to Vanuatu

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