Whitsunday Islands skipper yourself bareboat holidays.

Anchoring Procedures

Correct anchoring in tidal waters is vital to ensure a carefree evening for all persons on board the boat. There is nothing worse than anchoring improperly and waking up in the middle of a dark night with your boat adrift or resting on top of a reef or bommie (isolated coral head).

The guidelines and procedures for correct anchoring are as follows:

  1. All boats are equipped with 55m of chain and a plow anchor.

  2. Do not anchor where the water depth is/will be less than 4 meters at low tide or above 15 meters at high tide. The best anchoring depth is between 6-10 meters in anchorages with no coral and 10 to 15 m in anchorages with coral.

  3. Always anchor in an approved anchorage as per the "100 Magic Miles" cruising guide.

  4. Never anchor on coral. Your ground tackle will damage the coral, the anchor will most likely get fouled and the marine park authority will fine you.

  5. Use the chart and the cruising guide to decide exactly where to anchor, noting water depths and the position of shallow water, reef, etc.

  6. Always approach your intended anchoring spot against the wind or tide whichever is the strongest. (Note the direction other boats are facing and approach the anchorage in the same direction).

  7. Approach the anchorage slowly (less than 3 knots), with the dinghy in davits or tied alongside and short. Ensure that the bitter end of the dinghy painter (rope) is not in the water and that the anchor is prepared to be dropped. Have a crew member forward looking for any reef. Coral reef often appears suddenly from deep water so your depth sounder may be of little use in this situation. Isolated coral heads (bommies) may be outside the main reef line. The usual colour from above the water is yellow/brown. Reef is best seen with Polaroid sunglasses and at low tide. Try to approach so that you are not looking into the sun, as the reef may be hard to see due to the sun's reflection on the water. If you are looking into the sun, go out again and approach from a different direction. If necessary do a circle around the spot you intend anchor in order to check the depth and possible obstructions, then approach the spot into the wind/tide. From about 3-4 pm reef areas are difficult to see since the sun angle becomes too low to show the difference in colour between shallow and deep water.

  8. To determine the scope (amount of chain to put out) when anchoring:

    • Check the depth with your depth meter, chart or lead line.

    • Check the tide tables for any expected increase in depth.

    • Multiply the total by 4 for the minimum length of anchor chain you should put out. For example, if the depth of water is 8 metres at low tide and the next high tide is 2 metres, the total equals 10 metres. Multiply by 4 and your minimum length of chain is 40 metres. In any event, never put out less than 35 metres of chain.

  9. Note the spot where you are going to drop your anchor, allowing for enough swinging room between your boat, other boats and any coral reef. Bring the boat to a complete stop at this spot. Slowly let out all of the chain you intend to drop as the boat drifts with the wind and current. Let the wind or current take the boat backwards until the chain goes taught. As a final test, run the engine or both engines very slow in reverse for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the anchor to dig in and to confirm the anchor has taken. When completed, fit the snubbing rope and let more chain out so that the all the weight is on the rope. If necessary check the depth around the boat with your lead line.

  10. Here are a few steps you may take to confirm that your anchor has taken:

    • Check any vibration on your chain, while it is taught / while you are in reverse, by physically feeling the chain. If the chain is vibrating after it is completely stretched out, then your boat is most likely dragging anchor and you should either re-anchor your boat or let out more scope to enable your anchor to dig in properly. Sometimes the anchor can pick up a piece of coral, rock or bottom rubble and regardless of the amount of scope you let out your anchor will still drag.

    • If your anchor has taken you will see little eddies coming along side your boat from the stern towards the bow. This is caused by the prop wash if you boat is sitting still and not moving back in response to the engine being in reverse.

    • Once you turn off your engine you can take a bearing on a fixed object from your bow and 90 degrees from that point or from your beam. Check periodically that these two bearings maintain a 90 degree angle. It is important that you have taken the bearing on a fixed object and not a floating object that can also change position.

  11. A rough guide to determine if you have enough swinging room is as follows:

    • Your boat should be 3 - 4 boat lengths from the position you first dropped the anchor.
    • The distance from the point where you have dropped the anchor is the radius of your swing, as the boat moves around. You may move in a full circle as the tide changes, so it is important to make sure there is no shallow water, reef or bommie within the circle of your swing.

    • As you swing around with the tide/wind, check the position of your boat against adjoining landmarks now and again to ensure the anchor is not dragging.

  12. If you are being affected by strong winds, or if you are not in a protected anchorage, let out more chain as this improves holding.

  13. The anchor winch uses a lot of battery power, so select your anchoring position carefully. It takes time before the engine can recharge your anchor winch battery. Dropping and pulling your anchor up twice in a short period of time, could flatten the battery. Pulling the chain up by hand is a lot of hard work.

The guidelines and procedures for raising the anchor are as follows:


Approved Overnight Anchorages


Anchorages protected from all wind directions up to 25-30 knots:

Hamilton Island Hamilton Harbour C22 Inside Harbour (Booking required)
Hook Island Macona Inlet C10a 1, 2 (Caution, extensive reef)
Hook Island Nara Inlet C10b   1, 2, 3 (Room for only 4-6 boats in Refuge Bay , extensive reef)
Whitsunday Island Gulnare Inlet C20 1. May only enter on a rising tide
Long Island Palm Bay C 4 Inside Lagoon (booking required)
Mainland Abel Pt C1 Inside marina

Anchorages protected from the North and North-Easterlies:

Daydream Island Mooring outside Marina C8 Moorings only (Booking required) N/NE winds up to 20 knts
Whitsunday Island Beach 25 C20 2
Whitsunday Island Chance Bay C25 1, 2 (caution extensive reef)
Whitsunday Island Turtle Bay C24 1, 2, 3, 4
Whitsunday Island Dugong Inlet C19 3
Hook Island Mackerel Bay C14/15 4 (uncomfortable over 15 knots)
Hook Island Saba Bay C14/15 6 (caution extensive reef)
Hook Island Stonehaven C12 1, 2 in N/E only
Lindeman Island Plantation Bay S2 1
Shaw Island Billbob Bay S3 4, 5 (vessel survey may not allow)
Shaw Island Neck Bay S3 2 N/E winds only
Shaw Island   S3 1, 2 N/E winds only
Thomas Island Anchorage 2 S6 3 (vessel survey may not allow)

Anchorages protected from the South and South-Easterlies:

Border Island Cateran Bay C29 1 Moorings or anchorage (uncomfortable in winds over 20 knts)
Daydream Island Daydream Moorings C8 Moorings only (Booking required) Light SE winds up to 15 knots
Haslewood Island Chalkie's Beach C26 2 Deep and difficult to anchor
Haslewood Island Windy Bay C31 3
Hayman Island Blue Pearl Bay C13b 2 (caution deep anchorage) or on moorings
Hook Island Butterfly Bay C14/15 2 or on moorings
Hook Island Maureen's Cove C14/15 3 or on moorings
Hook Island Observatory C17 1 Only anchor well west of the observatory jetty
Hook Island Stonehaven C12 1 or on moorings
2 or on moorings
3 Best in strong winds
Lindeman Island Boat Port S1 3 Light conditions
Lindeman Island Gap Beach S1 5 (ok up to 15 to 20 knots)
Long Island Happy Bay C4 1 or on moorings
Long Island Palm Bay Resort C4 Moorings only, booking essential
Mainland Double Bay West N12 2
Mainland Double Bay East N13 1, 2 (caution reef)
Mainland Funnel Bay C2 1, 2 (shallow in areas)
Mainland Woodwark Bay N14 1, 2, 3
Mainland Airlie Beach C1 1, 2, 3 & Whitsunday Escape moorings usually available outside marina (contact office)
Shaw Island Burning Point S3 3
Shaw Island Neck Bay S2 2 (strong current)
South Molle Island Bauer Bay (Resort) C9a 1 Eastern side of the jetty
Moorings available
Whitsunday Island Cid Harbour C19 1, 2
Whitsunday Island Mays Bay C18 1
Whitsunday Island Tongue Bay C27 1 or on moorings (caution beach access not possible at low tide)
Whitsunday Island Apostle Bay C28 May have side swell
Whitsunday Island Whitehaven Beach C26 1
Whitsunday Island Beach 25 C20 2 Shallow close inshore

Further anchorages and moorings available for daytime light weather conditions only

Black Island   C12 Moorings only (Caution Reef)
Esk Island   C27 Moorings only
Dumbell Island   C29 Moorings only
Henning Island   C20 Moorings only
Langford Reef Blue Pearl Bay C12 Moorings or anchorage (caution reef is close to moorings)
Hook Island False Nara C11 Moorings only
(Caution Reef)
Hook Island Curlew Beach C10 Anchorage only
Hook Island Manta Ray Bay C14/15 Moorings ONLY (Caution some moorings are for dinghies only and are in shallow water).
Hook Island Pinnacle Bay C14/15 Moorings only
Hook Island Luncheon Bay C14/15 Moorings only
Hazelwood Island Katie's Cove C26 Anchorage only (shallow areas)
Maher Island West Side only S2 Light conditions only
Whitsunday Island Betty's Beach C27 Anchor Outside Hill Inlet
Whitsunday Island Whitehaven Beach C27 Anchor anywhere along beach