Pendana Arrives in Samoa


Pendana Arrives In Samoa

We arrived in Samoa after ninety four hours at sea and I am happy to report all is well on the good ship Pendana.

The Commander and I were into the swing of things with our five hour watch cycle which worked really well until it didn’t and we discovered that four hour watches worked even better. The girls also chipped in, with each doing a mini one hour daylight watch which was good practice for them.

One thing that is becoming increasingly obvious is that running a boat 24/7 over long distances is tiring and it is all work. During the passage Claire and I are a little like ships in the night passing a few mumbled comments each way before we retire to our respective duties. The girls on the other hand talk, play music, perform a couple of mini watches and email and text their friends back in Australia via the IridiumGo network. The animals, as is becoming the norm now, all bunker down for the passage very quickly with each picking the best spot early. Some animals seem to fare better than others dependent upon their constituation.

While in Fiji we re-filled Pendana’s fuel tanks for the first time since leaving Australia in preparation for our trip to Samoa. Below are the stats on our trip so far which makes for interesting reading, I think.

Pendana has travelled a total of 2,219nms so far, going from Sydney, Australia, to Port Vila, Vanuatu, then onto Port Denarau in Fiji. During this 273 hours at sea (11.375 days) she has consumed a total of 6,450ltrs / 1,706 USg of fuel, averaging 8.12kts drinking 23.6 ltrs / 6.25 USg per hour. Now without doubt, that makes Pendana one hell of an economical boat! 6.25USg per hour delivering 8.12kts is very good indeed.

I reported via Facebook that we experienced what we believed to be an attempted boarding while off the coast of Samoa at around 11pm on Tuesday 19th May, 2015. A sinister event or sky larking, I guess one will never know.

See map below, incident occurred between X and Y which is marked on map.

piracy attack Samoa

At night, while the Commander and Chief of all things Claire, was on watch, she noticed a radar target ahead which was directly in our path and not moving as we approached Samoa. As such, she altered course twenty degrees to starboard avoid the target. The target then, at speed, moved directly in the path of Pendana once more and then came to a stop. Again, Claire altered course and again the target moved. This occurred four times in total, back and forth, back and forth. It was at this point that Claire woke me and explained the situation. With a spring in my step (I don’t like being woken) I went to the pilothouse and witnessed for myself what she had described as it happened again and again. Very odd! Very odd indeed!

I decided to re-tune both radars quickly and re-engage the target via our commercial Furuno radar system (which I love) to obtain fresh target data. Again the target had a direction and speed which varied between 2kts and 30kts and yet again the target had put itself directly in front of us. At this point I said to Claire. “To hell with it, we will increase speed and head directly towards it as I am not planning to alter course anymore” to which she agreed.

With spotlight on, and when I say spot light I mean SPOT LIGHT. Pendana is fitted with a HUGE spotlight which is fantastic to have as it would light most stadium’s given half a chance. With spotlight on, I was surprised that I couldn’t see the target. It was fast! Again, I decided to continue with our speed and heading. At this time, I asked Claire to go downstairs and lock all the doors while I continued to use both the spotlight and FLIR night vision system to try a locate and identify target – to no avail. I must say that it was pitch dark, the sea state sloppy, wind 25kts and raining heavily.

Within about four hundred metres of the target (1300ft) the target suddenly started to move at some speed down our port side and towards the stern of Pendana at a distance of about 200mters/750ft. It was then that the vessel got closer to the stern and I must confess to feeling that it was time to alert Head of Security Caesar the Magnificent – who is a 50kg Bernese Mountain dog whom, given half the chance would certainly have something to say to anyone trying to board his boat! Again, I shone the spotlight towards the stern of our vessel and tried to identify the target with our FLIR system but again, without luck – I simply couldn’t see the target as it zipped all over the place. After a few minutes of zipping past Pendana’s stern constantly trying to avoid the spotlight the target then took off, at speed, down the starboard side and ahead of Pendana. They were so close, our radar thought we had hit it and its target merged with ours, flashing. It then took off away to port and to stern. We watched it until it was about 3nms to our stern.

Did it feel like we were under attack? Sure did. Was it scary? Just a little! Did I feel like I could be dusting off some of my old ice hockey skills? Yep. Was Caesar at the ready? He sure was. Were the girls scared? No, because they were asleep and blissfully unaware. Was Claire scared? Initially no, then yes.

Why couldn’t I or Claire actually see the target? At 200 meters / 750ft everything is clearly visible on the FLIR system and even a half decent set of human eyes or binoculars would do the trick with FLIR! I believe that it was actively avoiding detection if possible. There certainly was a target that was acting aggressively over a sustained period of time. What was their intention? I guess we will never know.

The Samoan authorities believe that it most likely was a local fisherman, who are well known to run at night with no lights. While plausible both my wife and I are not so sure that it could lay out a net synchronized exactly with six course changes and then angle directly for Pendana? Hmmmmmmmm. As such, we felt it necessary to alert other travellers to our experience. I thought long and hard about writing anything on this matter, however, we both felt that not only did we have the right to share our direct experience but the readers of this blog had the right to know. We are all safe and survived whatever it was. The lesson learned here is that 9.5kts is about 20kts less than would have been very helpful on the night!

Now onto more news as that is more than enough downer stuff for one blog! I am pleased to report that one of Pendanablog followers who just so happens to be an accomplished watercolour artist decided that it was high time Pendana was transformed into watercolour. I am sure he glad he did as below is a copy of the watercolour that Hamilton Wade has done which I think looks pretty amazing. Mr Wade is an Australian artist with more of his art being visible for those interested here:

Hamilton Wade

Above watercolour produced by Hamilton Wade – Artist (

Now for some of my very clever and altogether more experienced mariner friends out there who were very quick to discover and point out the odd manoeuvres from Pendana before entering the port here in Apia. In fact what happened was that Pendana decided to perform her own rendition of Swan Lake before entering the Port of Apia. See image below which highlights the star-studded performance perfectly for those who missed it!

Pendana Nordhavn

Ok, ok so it wasn’t Swan Lake but rather a few big circles/shapes as we waited for daylight to break.

Why Swan Lake? Well, when looking at the chart for entering the port I was very confident it would a non-issue and a night arrival would be fine. That being said, however, after actually being confronted with the reality, which was vastly different to what was expected, we felt the safest thing to do would be to wait for first light. Below is the chart for Apia in the latest electronic version of our ECS which I might add is not dissimilar to the paper chart.

Nobeltec Chart Pendana Nordhavn

… the only problem is that there was no port market (RED) and the Starboard marker (GREEN) was not at sea but on land – emmm so in the dark one can quickly imagine how confusing this would appear. One couldn’t really get close enough to see until one would have reef on either side of the vessel. So with the moto of ‘Safety First’ we decided to enter at first light which is precisely what we did.

Lesson Learned – do not believe that the navigation lights and symbols will actually be there. After being caught out twice, once in Fiji with no lead light and now in Samoa with no port light and a starboard light that was entirely in the wrong position makes me think that daylight arrivals are now the order of the day from this point forward.

If only I had opened up my Garmin App on my IPad, which I might note is 100% correct, maybe we wouldn’t have had to wait. Real shame Garmin have their maps up to date and Nobeltec do not!

garmin map pendanan nordhavn

Garmin chart above is correct and as you can see very different from the latest chart I have via Nobletec.

The run from Fiji to Samoa in the main was pretty good and while the rain forecasted didn’t eventuate until very late on the final night we had a good run and yet again our weather man Bob delivered for us. We did experience some uncomfortable head seas on the third day which made the Commander feel not very well. I guess being sleep deprived and having a dislike for sharp head seas it’s kind of understandable.

Below is what we received as the latest forecast before we departed Fiji for those into weather. 

UTC- HH:MM|—-Lat:/ Long— -:| hPa | lull~avg~gust |Brg-Kt |TWA|Drift@Brg?T|Sig~ocnl
































27-May-00:30|13:49S/171:47W|1013|ESE16~20~30|ETA local 1:30pm

Route distance 775nm a little longer than your 759 nm route time 4d 03h 30m


Weather map above also provided with overview.

So, time to confess, while it would be easy to say that voyaging is wonderful and perfect and great and bliss and ……. the reality is that these long passages are incredibly hard work on both Claire and I. Four hours on, four hours off is a never ending cycle where time has no meaning and life is measured in engine room checks. Counting down the hours one after another, after another is a pastime one wants to and yet remains transfixed by, whilst underway.

I am sure for some the idea of voyaging is wonderful and for us it has also at times been wonderful i.e. our trip from Vanuatu to Fiji but the novelty has now, I must confess, worn off and the reality of many days at sea and what that actually means has taken hold and delivered the stark unrelenting reality that often there is nothing to see, going to sea.

Our next leg to Kiritimati, (Christmas Island, Kirabati) is about 1200nms away (plus or minus 10%). Working on an 8kt average we are looking at a trip lasting 150 hours or in other words six days and six hours or 9,000 minutes. This news is not being received well by anyone aboard Pendana as while the first and last days of a passage are great the days in between can be filled with nothing but….. more ocean, more sky and more wonderful sunsets. Look let’s be brutally honest here, there are only so many wonderful sunsets one can see before the word ‘wonderful’ vanishes from the sentence.

flag pendana nordhavn

Yep, another sunset! Note: new flag pole finally!

Please do not get me wrong, we are all loving life but where I initially thought the journey was as important as the destination my view has changed. It’s not! I was wrong! The journey can be a little boring if the truth be told and what’s more I still don’t understand why I never see anything along the way. A ship, a plane, a dolphin, something, anything but alas nada, zip, zilch. I remember being told, “James, just ship your boat over to the USA and enjoy the journey from there. Don’t put yourself through crossing the Pacific as you will find it terribly boring”. Well, Ken W you were 100% correct – my only wish is that you could have been a bit more forceful and slapped the reality a little harder in my face! Look it’s not that bad and it can be fun but long passages i.e. more than three days are hard work. I guess it does however, make the destinations that much more satisfying!

The Commander and Chief on the other hand has, always maintained, voyaging is all about the destinations. She feels that as a prize she should be flown any class to the next destination and wait, our arrival. Nice try honey!

Abi, god bless her, is putting on a brave face but she hates the passages and dreads the idea of the Hawaii to San Fran leg so much (12-13days) she is trying to already work a plan that would see her visiting someone, anyone to get out of it.

Bianca, well she is a trooper and happy to go along with whatever is happening. She likes being up late at night in the pilothouse having a chat with whomever is on watch and so long as it’s reasonably good weather she loves being at sea. She equally loves being in port it must be said.

On the leg to Kirabati the girls have decided to maybe do one two hour daylight watch each. This will allow Claire and I some more rest (although one of us will be in the pilothouse with them during their watch). Our hope is that this will make a difference to how we feel. Ok maybe it won’t but when you are staring down the barrel of a six day leg one has to have something to hold onto. Some hope! Some glimmer of something!!

This leg will also see Pendana enter the northern hemisphere so the girls are currently researching what we should do to show respect to King Neptune as we cross the Equator. No doubt, weather permitting it will be a spectacle and something we are all looking forward to. What we are not looking forward to other than the 150 hours (did I happen to mention that?) is the lack of internet for a period of almost two weeks or until we are 400nms south of Hawaii when my KVH V7 will spring back on line and deliver us connectivity to the world once again. 150 hours, no internet for two weeks grrrrrrr so let’s hold onto the King Neptune thing for now!

Once we had arrived in Samoa and dropped anchor and what would happen to appear on the horizon but another Nordhavn making a bee line for the harbour! N8610 Zembra slowly and carefully manoeuvred past Pendana who was looking a little in need of a good wash compared to Zembra’s crew polished to perfection shiny hull and dropped anchor a few hundred metres away. Small world hey!

Zembra N86

 Zembra sneaking past Pendana in the Port of Apia,Samoa

I spoke to one of the crew aboard Zembra and apparently she had just arrived from Tonga bound for Fiji. One of the locals also mentioned there was another Nordhavn, N46 here a week ago belonging to the Haas family who are also now on their way to Fiji. Why is everyone going to wrong way? I know, I know.

Speaking of Pendana going around the wrong way, we have been called to account for this on more than one occasion and while it is true we are going the wrong way around so far it really has not proved to be much of a problem and my hope that it will inspire others the realise that the northern or southern latitudes is not the only way when transiting west to east, especially if in a powered vessel. I make no comment re sail as there is plenty of commentary re that form of travel on sailing sites of which I must admit to having little interest. …I know …. I know…. The weight of a biscuit, a screw or a bolt…. really, I have better things to do like think about how to reduce the 150 hours we have ahead of us.. .. ahhhh, if only we could do a sustained 10kts, or 12kts, wow imagine then how much time we could cut off the trip!

Samoa is a wonderful place and a very mature city full of what cities should have, except fast internet. Far more developed on every level than either Vanuatu or Fiji (bar the marina) this is a country that has a lot to be very proud of considering its population is under 200,000 people.

Now, sorry to report, but there is something I need to get off my chest. The fishing game is something that I just don’t get! I have a friend who is an expert, and I do mean expert fisherman, and on his advice and with list in hand I went to a great tackle shop and had them make me up a line, steal tracer, hooks with rubber things around it and went trawling from the stern of Pendana, yes, while underway! Since then , I have been dying to post a picture of me with my first ever fish caught – a monster 50kg/120lb Tuna or Great White Shark but alas it is simply not to be and after a year of waiting to post this picture the realisation that it’s not going to happen has now set in. 

Ellingford’s Catch

Here is the picture I had hoped to share.

I was clearly led to believe by everyone in the fishing game, that all I had to do was drop the lure (that’s the word I should have used instead of “hooks with rubber things around it “) out the back while underway and bingo we would hook a fish. Lies, all lies… I have trawled my lure (all four varieties) for some 3,500nms (includes some aussie trips) and not even a single bite, a nibble, a small fish, any fish, in fact, I reckon I have more chance of hooking a bird as they always seem very interested in the lure thingy being pulled through the water at speed.

There has been one lesson in all of this learned and that is why fisherman look so incredibly excited when they do catch a fish as it’s probably because they too have been trying to hook one for years preceding the happy moment. It also explains why fisherman in general, are so excited to talk shop. I must say that I totally understand the need to rehash the catch story 1000 million times as it may be years before the next catch and after my experience or serious lack of it, I truly respect them for their approach.

Not to be a spoil sport I decided to go fishing and after a quick look around our decks on arrival in Samoa I had finally yielded a result! Doesn’t matter how one catches the fish does it? Anyway a catch is a catch and I am pretty proud of this effort as no doubt you fishing experts will agree.

Pendanas fishing

A huge catch just so happened to be caught by hand as it flew on past Pendana while underway in 250ft seas in gale force 10 winds. This all achieved while I was practicing my wicket keeping manoeuvres from days gone by! Now that’s one hell of a big fish!

In all seriousness it is now with some sadness that I report I am officially done with fishing so here’s the deal, if no nice 20-50kg Tuna surrenders itself to my lure (rubber thingy) between now and Hawaii (pending legal check that I can off course fish legally) I will be donating my lures, lines and other thingies to the first person who asks for them on arrival in Honolulu.

Samoan Locals

Locals come out in force being not overly happy with my comments re fishing!

To all those who have gone before me and have bought into the over exaggerated stories about how easy it is to catch a fish I sympathise. To those who do catch a fish once per year I now understand why it is the stories are retold many, many, many times but, to my mate on the Gold Coast (Steve, you know who you are!) who had me all excited I say this, perhaps a job in marketing is more appropriate as Pendana and Ellingford remain without a single catch!

Zembra N86 Samoa

Photo above of Zembra N8610 refuelling before departure to Fiji. 

Samoan Church

Religion is a big thing here in Samoa – local Catholic Church.

Boat race Samoa

Traditional long boat race held to celebrate Independence Day. Forty men per boat, five boats did battle with the crew from another island stealing the show and winning by a country mile.

samoan boat race

The winning crew coming down the home straight with not a competitor in sight.

Later that day we went for a quick tender ride as I had noticed a few small boats heading to another marina and thought I would check it out. Sure enough there was another marina but obviously for the locals only. God help the YellowFin boat at the back of the photo below because believe it or not he has a total of ten boats tied up to him. No doubt he doesn’t get to go out much!

fishing boats samoa

boat sunk

One of the local fishing boats that didn’t make it sit in water just outside the entrance to the local’s only marina.

Speaking of strange looking boats the two below called Tuna Lane 1 and Tuna Lane 2 were in fact outside the harbour when we arrived in Samoa and decided to put on a performance of Swan Lake. Now tied to the jetty these two are perhaps the strangest looking boats I have seen in a very long time.

Tuna lane 1

tuna lane 2

No doubt these boats were built to work! Not a single luxury in sight.

Robert Lewis Stevenson

Robert Lewis Stevenson’s house and now museum in Apia, Samoa, above and well worth a visit to the house and lovely grounds. Author of such classics as Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to name but a few! He was certainly loved by the Samoans as much as he loved them.

pool cave samoa

Time for a quick dip in the local freshwater pool cave. Yes it was very, very cold

53rd Independence day samoa

Samoa, celebrating its 53rd independence day from New Zealand.

Bianca Ellingford

Bianca looking forward to her fairy floss.

Before I forget, I am pleased to report that Caesar the Magnificent (“CTM”) is now doing much better thanks to the care and attention he received in Fiji by the head of Bio-Security and vet all-rounder, Ms Sian Watson. Thank you, Sian!

Caesar The Magnificent Bernese Mountain Dog

Caesar up to his old tricks!

Alas, our time here in Samoa is up and we must keep moving. The good news is that we will be closer to the USA once this upcoming leg is completed. The bad news is, however, I have just done the route for the journey and it’s not 1200nms as originally thought but rather 1284nms which means another 10hours at sea – urghhhhhh. So time now to get fuel and await advice from our weather man in New Zealand before clearing out. Will update Facebook re departure for those interested as things firm up but at this stage we are looking at departing Wednesday afternoon or Thursday midday which all depends on re fuelling.. 

For those interested in following us along you can track our path LIVE via the Pendanablog webpage, or if you prefer just click HERE.

Also for those who didn’t already know both Abi and Bianca have their own blogs. These, if you are interested can be found here:

Bianca’s Blog:

Abi’s Blog:


Safe travels


PS: 9,600 minutes is actually only 576,000 seconds….did I happen to mention King Neptune?


5 thoughts on “Pendana Arrives in Samoa”

  1. SUBJECT: Re: Out of office

    We are currently overseas on a boat and will only have access to email every few days. We will be back in NZ on 5 June.

    If you are enquiring about a charter on Gladiator within the next five days please call Marcus on 021 329900

  2. Anthony Dodd (T2 International

    SUBJECT: Re: Pendana Arrives in Samoa

    I noticed you never once used the “P” word whilst describing your encounter. You guys are going well, looking forward to some nice rest. Zzzzzzzz
    Sent from my iPhone
    On 1 Jun 2015, at 09:04, http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM wrote:

  3. SUBJECT: Re: Pendana Arrives in Samoa

    Hi dear crew , Always looking fo your news , glad to know Pendana is sailing to plan and performing as expected. I read your news thanks for the extensive coverage of your experiences. Dear James your determination is paramount and your attention to detail is making possible this voyage a reality and a great succes, sure challenges and hard work are part of the enterprise in hand ,and we all know that you will just do it! Maybe fishing can be left for other time if is not relaxing no need to stress out, sure in all the destinations will be fresh fish availble to buy. To see the photos of you guys make me very emotional and think often how the girls are coping , sure is fun for them and have their friends writing to them. Dear Claire keep up with the great job, you are a trouper, try to have as much rest please learn to have cat naps and eat well! You have to be healthy and very positive. Please give Aby and Bianca lots of hughesWe are all well doing the same thing , work and drive to soccer it is bit hard to be out in training ovals in this very cold nights .
    Take care lots of love x xxxxSilvia Sent from my iPhone
    On 1 Jun 2015, at 4:48 pm, “WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM” wrote:

  4. SUBJECT: Re: Pendana Arrives in Samoa

    Great Stuff James! All the best Uk

    Sent via the coconut wireless
    On 1 Jun 2015, at 6:48 pm, “WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM” wrote:

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