Navigation in the Whitsundays is relatively simple. In this post, we'll outline the basics of navigating, the navigation tools onboard a bareboat and spots to watch out for as you cruise the Whitsundays.

Basic Yacht Navigation: Tips for your bareboat charter


Navigation in the Whitsundays is relatively simple. In this post, we'll outline the basics of navigating, the navigation tools which come with a bareboat and spots to watch out for as you cruise the Whitsundays.

When you charter a yacht with Whitsunday Rent a Yacht, it helps if someone on your crew has basic navigation skills, however, it is not essential.

Navigation in the Whitsundays is all line of sight. This means you don’t need any sophisticated skills to navigate around the Islands, you will be able to see where you need to go.

Before every charter, guests are given a comprehensive briefing which we go into below.

navigating whitsundays

Basic yacht navigation training

Only basic coastal navigation skills are required to sail the Whitsundays. This is because the Islands are considered one of the safest sailing grounds in the world.

You are not required to have a boat licence or sailing qualifications when you charter a bareboat around the protected Whitsunday Islands.

Bareboat guests are given a 3 – 4 hour training session before they set sail. The briefer will ensure the crew is well acquainted with their vessel’s navigation equipment. They will show everyone how to read a compass, measure distance on the chart and accurately determine the time it will take to sail from one location to another.

By the end of your training, at least one crew member will need to be confident with navigation, knowing:

  • How to read a chart
  • How to work a compass
  • How to plot a course given longitude and latitude coordinates
  • How to calculate the time between your anchorages
  • Understand how tides and currents can impact your boat’s speed.

If you would like additional navigation training or lack confidence, we invite you to book a sail guide to join you for your first day, a night or even the whole time on your trip. Please talk to our reservations team about any skill concerns you may have during the booking process.

navigation whitsundays

The navigation equipment which comes on your yacht

A laminated marine chart of the Whitsundays and a copy of the guidebook 100 Magic Miles—the unofficial “Whitsundays’ Bible”—are provided for your use during your charter.

For those keen to study the area before a sailing holiday, you can order a copy of 100 Magic Miles by David Colfelt when you make your booking.

You will also find your boat is equipped with a GPS chart plotter, the marine equivalent of your car’s Sat Nav, the only difference being you will not have a voice advising you to turn left in 300 metres.

The chart plotter accurately shows your vessel’s position every second of every day. It also shows your vessel’s course and speed in knots. This instrument is a comforting backup to the navigation you will do with your chart and your 100 Magic Miles.

Basic yacht navigation

Tips for navigating around the Whitsundays

Your briefer will thoroughly explain all the information you need to safely and confidently navigate the islands and choose a  comfortable overnight anchorage protected from the wind.

As a rough guide for how long your course will take between destinations, divide the total distance by 5kts (nautical miles per hour).  When estimating how long it will take you to arrive at your next destination, make allowance for tides, winds and waves, as this might increase the trip’s time by up to 30% or more. Also, allow time for picking up your mooring or anchoring.

You may like to consider these tips:

  • Check out this interactive map with our recommended anchorages.
  • Line-of-sight navigation is done by lining up headlands, islands and prominent features.
  • You can usually see the next island you want to head to, making the Whitsundays very simple to navigate!
  • All bareboats must be at their night’s anchorage by 4 pm to radio the base, confirming location and safety.
  • Make sure you never anchor on coral or near coral where your chain could damage it
  • By commencing your charter at Shute Harbour you will have a shorter crossing to the Islands.

Spots to watch out for

There are a few areas to pay special attention to when you’re chartering the Whitsundays:

  • The area surrounding Hayman Island – Langford Reef &  Bali Hai (Black Island)
  • “Unsafe Passage” on the northern end of Daydream Island
  • French Shoal situated approximately 1 mile east of and running parallel to Whitehaven Beach, French Shoal is simply not visible from deck level on your boat. Learn more about navigation around Whitehaven.

What more can I do to prepare for my bareboat charter?

You may mind these articles helpful when in the planning stages of your yacht charter with us.

And remember, we are here to help, to make you feel safe and comfortable while enjoying a fantastic experience in the Whitsundays.

Please let us know if you have any concerns or want to learn and prepare before your charter so we can point you in the right direction.

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Why provision for your Whitsundays holiday

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Whitsunday Rent a Yacht acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and in particular the Traditional Owners of the Whitsunday's Region, the Gia, Juru and Ngaro People; We recognise their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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