Day 452 [Dec. 28/09] -- Counting down

Position (1000 JST)
53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas

Today's Report

Saito-san called this morning by Iridium to report that last-minute repairs continue to go smoothly.

An electrician from a neighboring boat was able to determine a faulty cable was the reason the fuel transfer pump had stopped working. The pump is required for moving diesel fuel between the three tanks being used. After the cable was replaced the pump was back operating well, Saito-san reported.

Saito-san was clearly enthused about his apparently imminent departure, and said he expects to leave as early as this Tuesday, following the official nod from the Coast Guard.

ClearPoint this morning showed the weather on the Strait of Magellan to be mild, with moderate winds out of the NW.

We will start posting weather reports tomorrow.

Meanwhile, here's a nice update /summary published today by Asia, on "Never-Say-Die" Minoru Saito.

Hmmm... Never Say Die = NSD = Nicole Shuten-Dohji... not bad!

Day 451 [Dec. 27/09] -- Nearing Punta Arenas departure No. 2

Position (1000 JST)
53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas

Today's Report

Preparations for Saito-san's second departure from Chile are now at a point where it it looks like he'll be able to leave soon. There has been much activity at the boat, with a number of tasks that have been occupying Saito-san's attention and that of his small but dedicated support team in Punta Arenas, the world's southern-most city.

We continue to owe much thanks toward the Punta Arenas team, composed of volunteer supporters Hitoshi Hanaoke, Rose Bliss and her husband Pablo Pineida, and Gonzalo Stewart. Without their strong interest and friendship the challenges facing Saito-san the past 8 months as he over-wintered and attended to repairs in Punta Arenas would have been far more difficult.

Over the past several weeks, the mechanic and electrician employed by Hanaoka-san's fishing company have carried out a number of engine-room repairs and maintenance procedures, and a second electrician was able to repair the faulty Charge Master voltage regulator and spare Iridium phone. A welder, at Pablo's instructions, appears to have done a first-class job repairing the cracked staysail furler.

Here is a summary of the repair and maintenance items as Saito-san readies to resume the circumnavigation.
  • New genoa made and delivered from Auckland
  • Repaired staysail furler
  • Repaired engine
  • Repaired aux. generator
  • Cleaned and flushed fuel supply
  • Repaired Charge Master voltage regulator
  • Repaired & adjusted radar
  • Patched old genoa for use as a spare
  • Recertified life raft
  • Added 3,500 liters of diesel fuel (stern, starboard and port mid-ships tanks full, with the smaller foretank no longer to be used due to fouling)
  • New ships batteries
  • Spare Iridium phone repaired
  • Single sideband radio restored / confirmed to be operating
Checks were carried out on the following items, with each passing inspection:
  • Steering yoke
  • Steering wheel
  • Steering system
  • Bearings on hydraulic coupler
  • EPIRBs (two)
  • Bilge pumps - automatic and manual (lifted up floorboards and checked holes for no blockage)
  • Battery fluid readings and volt readings good and clean (DC volts 14/24 ampere)
  • Purchased replacement digital camera
  • Purchased food
  • Purchased 1,000 liters of water
  • Extended liability insurance for the next year (in Tokyo)
  • Automatic beacon reports increased from two to four a day

    Saito Challenge 8 main sponsor Nicole BMW has been instrumental in all of this, through provision of emergency funds and assistance for several deliveries (sail, radar magnetron, Harken furler, etc.) handled by the company's export/import expert, Mr. Ohno of Nicole Racing.  We gratefully acknowledge Nicole Group's president Nico Roehreke's continuing support through all of these major challenges.

    Saito-san and Gonzalo will go to the local Coast Guard office Monday to apply for permission to leave, and Saito-san hopes that the departure will be as soon as this coming Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the speed of the Coast Guard inspection and approval, and the weather.

    Saito-san is making arrangements to be accompanied westward on the Strait of Magellan by a second vessel, for a passage expected to take about 30 hours, after which he will enter the Southern Pacific Ocean to restart the circumnavigation in the Southern Pacific Ocean. He will thus resume from the point of furthest progress before losing the use of his engine, staysail, and genoa on Nov. 1.

    He will not need to make a third Cape Horn passage, and after returning through the strait will be able to continue up the rugged western coast of Chile on the northward-flowing Humboldt Current.

    Day 427 [Dec. 3/09] -- Genoa update

    Position (1000 JST)
    53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas

    Today's Report

    The genoa was arriving in Santiago, Chile, today and was to be received in Punta Arenas either today or tomorrow by Gonzalo Avil├ęs Stewart of Ian Taylor & Company, a local importer that has been helping us locally.

    We should learn soon whether the sail made it through Chilean customs ok.

    Our first attempt in May to send Saito-san his heart medicines took a month from Japan, despite being fully documented and dispatched by express courier. By comparison, it will seem a small miracle if the genoa just takes three or four days from Auckland, NZ.

    Our thanks to Gonzalo for his personal and careful assistance in this matter.

    Day 426 [Dec. 2/09] -- Genoa on its way

    Position (1300 JST)
    53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas

    Today's Report

    We received word today the new genoa has been shipped from Auckland and is expected to be at Punta Arenas airport by Dec. 3. Barring no import difficulties, the sail should be in Saito-san's possession by Thursday or Friday. Our thanks to the folks at Evolution Sails, Auckland, and Nicole Racing, Yokohama, for expediting the shipment.

    Meanwhile, to better attend to engine and electrical repairs, the vessel is scheduled to be lifted out and placed on a cradle on land on Dec. 5. Currently it is difficult (not to mention potentially dangerous) for the electricians and other repair people to go by small dinghy to the boat at its mooring.

    NBSDIII herself will also be safer and less subject to the windstorms that come up periodically and make shore-side moorings risky.

    On the list of repairs as indicated by a fax from Saito-san yesterday:

    • Engine fine-tuning (now starts and runs)
    • Aux. generator operation and charging
    • Battery charging issues
    • Replacement of winch battery in the forward anchor well
    • Potential water damage to electrical panel

    Also, a small but persistent leak in the aft head, which has proved impossible to source on the water, and is likely a leaking through-hull fitting.

    Day 419 [Nov. 26/09] -- Repairs and replacements

    Position (1300 JST)
    53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas

    Today's Report
    Our apologies for the infrequency of updates, but the situation in Punta Arenas and efforts to restore Nicole BMW Shuten-Dohji III back to fit sailing condition have only recently become clear enough to announce.

    Upon return to Punta Arenas, Saito-san reported that the genoa head sail was ripped during the second transit of Cape Horn, after he was forced to use it when the staysail furler became inoperable and the sail could not be deployed.

    The Hydranet (Tm) staysail was later determined to be ok, but the Dacron genoa was badly damaged, especially its bottom panels. (Hydranet is material considered the best for heavy weather sailing, while Dacron is light enough for genoa use in milder conditions.)

    Later it was determined that a part of the staysail furler drum had become cracked so that the sail could not be reduced or rolled up.

    We received these photos of repairs Saito-san had done at a local awning factory, below, but there was a consensus within the Saito 8 safety committee that without professional attention the badly torn genoa would probably be unsafe.

    Discussions then turned to where proper repairs might be done, and it appeared that the closest sail loft was in Buenos Aires, 1,200 miles to the north. Enquiries to the company by email determined that the only Dacron cloth they had on hand was less than half the 12-mil thickness needed.

    We then turned to the original sailmaker in Auckland, and they met all the sail specifications plus had the original sail dimensions and design. It was consequently decided that a new sail would be ordered from there rather than send the old sail to Auckland (and back) for repairs.

    This was our safest and fastest option, but also means Saito will have a completely new sail and will still be able to use the repaired sail as an emergency spare.

    Today we were told the new genoa has been finished and will be shipped Friday. It will likely arrive in Punta Arenas within the next 8-10 days.

    Meanwhile, the engine is also receiving close attention by Hanaoka-san's mechanics. They decided the injectors and pump need replacing (sourced locally), total engine maintenance must be carried out, and new, clean fuel brought on to replace the contaminated fuel that caused the engine failure.

    Saito-san has been in good health, saying there have been no residual problems from his hernia surgery back in October. He has been assisted by several local residents, Rosalynde and Pablo, as well as his (and our) "guardian angel" Hitoshi Hanaoka.

    Rosalynde writes:

    To cheer Minoru up we took him to see a special tall clipper ship called the Stad Amsterdam yesterday. She is sailing around the world following the voyage of Charles Darwin in The Beagle. A Dutch TV company is following this journey and televising it live once a week.
    They have their own website at

    We were given a tour and he really enjoyed being on the bridge having a chance to take a good look at the navigational maps. The crew on board who met him had great respect and asked for advice from his sailing through the Magallenes Strait.

    Here are some pictures of that trip. The Stad Amsterdam has now set sail through the Strait to Tompkins Bay.

    Our continued thanks to Rosalynde and Pablo for their many kindnesses shown to Saito-san, and to our sponsor Nicole BMW for the emergency assistance graciously provided for the genoa replacement.

    Hanaoka-san is now such an important part of the Saito Challenge that thanks are perhaps superfluous, but we still want him to know how appreciative we are for everything he has done ... and will do!

    Day 399 [Nov. 6/09] -- Waiting

    Position (1900 JST)
    53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas
    [Click to enlarge]

    Today's Report

    Saito-san reports that NBSDIII is moored at the Coast Guard receiving station and that yesterday he cleared immigration back into Chile.

    The boat was to be towed back to the port facilities used by Hanaoka-san's company, where the engine and generator will be fixed, the fuel tanks cleaned, and the staysail repaired. The leak in the aft head will also be traced and fixed.

    No schedule is presently set but it is expected that the work and inspections will take a week or more to ensure that the vessel is back in good working order and fully ready to resume the circumnavigation. He said a decision on departure can only be made after the engine and generator are repaired. All fuel will be replaced after the tanks are cleaned.

    Saito-san expressed his thanks for the messages of support he has received.

    Day 397 [Nov. 4/09] -- Back in Punta Arenas

    Position (0800 JST)
    53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas
    [Click to enlarge]

    Today's Report

    At 0830 local time Saito-san called to say he had arrived in Punta Arenas. He was exhausted and disappointed, but clearly glad to be be back where the engine and generator can get professional attention. The contaminated fuel will be cleaned or replaced and the tanks flushed.

    We will provide updates over the next several day as we learn more.

    His "circumnavigation" from Punta Arenas, around the Horn, and back to Punta Arenas was 1,400 nn and took 10 days. Of that, 182 nm were under tow.

    When he is ready, he will resume from the west entrance of the Strait of Magellan, and will not have to make a third transit of the Horn to fulfill the route requirement of his No. 8 circumnavigation.

    Day 396 [Nov. 3/09] -- Under tow to Punta Arenas

    Position (1645 JST)
    52°46'S, 74°17'W -- Strait of Magellan
    [Click to enlarge]

    Today's Report

    By 1700 local time Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III had been towed 84 nm east on the Strait of Magellan, and had another 98 nm to go to Punta Arenas.

    We have heard no word yet from Saito-san, but can assume he is catching up on sleep and resting after 7 tough days at sea.

    Despite the setback caused by engine failure from contaminated fuel, he did succeed in passing Cape Horn. When he restarts it will be from the Cabo Felix lighthouse, on the west side of the Strait.

    Day 395 [Nov. 2/09] -- Rendezvous successful with Coast Guard vessel


    Saito-san and the Coast Guard vessel meet at approx. 0435 local time. NBSDIII is now reported under tow to Punta Arenas.

    Position (1645 JST)
    52°46'S, 74°17'W -- Strait of Magellan
    [Click to enlarge]

    Distance completed to Yokohama finish: 66%
    Boat speed: 3.0-4.0 kt
    Weather: Moderate winds
    Barometer: 999 hPa (dropping)
    Waves: 3.5-4.0 m
    Wind (from): 19-22 kt W
    Current (from): 1.0 kt W
    Distance in last 24 hours: 70 nm
    Engine: 1700 rpm (0 hrs) and 2000 rpm (0 hrs) -- 0 L

    Today's Report

    Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III was expected to be under tow at approx. 2300 hours locally after Saito-san managed to return in strong winds and heavy (5.5 meter) seas to the entrance of the Strait of Magellan.

    At 0435, 5 1/2 hours later than scheduled, we received word that the rendezvous near Cabo Felix lighthouse was successful, and NBSDIII was under tow. No further information was immediately available.

    About 18 hours ago he lost the use of his staysail, and with a partially opened jib foresail, he sailed under highly difficult conditions approx 30 nm back after he learned that a Chilean Coast Guard vessel would rendezvous with him. We were told that the Coast Guard vessel could not enter into the waters of the Pacific Ocean to assist Saito, but rather would have to wait until he entered the Strait on his own.

    We are still waiting to learn what happened with the staysail. Saito told Hanaoka-san, the Chilean shore crew chief, by Iridium phone that he could not furl the sail, so it is believed he lowered it completely.

    He lost the use of the engine and aux. generator on Saturday due to contaminated fuel. Both are essential to recharge the ship's batteries and to go against the contrary winds and currents during a westward passage of Cape Horn.

    Initially he was asked to proceed up the coast, but later we received new instructions that he should rendezvous with a Coast Guard vessel at the Cabo Felix lighthouse, approx. 26 nm inside the Strait.

    To conserve Iridium phone battery power he did not call in and thus did not receive the new instructions until hours later. At the time of yesterday's 1600 JST beacon we could see he had moved past the entrance to the Strait. Sea conditions worsened as he began to make his way back with winds in the high 20s and seas of 5 meters.

    He will be towed to Punta Arenas, about 130 nm. This port is where he restarted his circumnavigation on Oct. 24 after a 6-month repair layover. It is the only port in reach with adequate facilities to repair the engine and aux. generator.

    He has called to provide updates on his situation to Mike Seymour, Saito 8 Safety officer. He has also been in contact with Hitoshi Hanaoka in Chile, who is serving as liaison with the Chilean Coast Guard.

    We express our great appreciation to both for their handling of the emergency, and to the Chilean Coast Guard for their timely assistance to Minoru Saito.


    Barometric chart + 3 hrs [click to enlarge]
    Winds + 3 hrs
    Waves -3 hrs

    Day 394 [Nov. 1/09] -- Engine dies as fuel problem worsens


    The 11/01 1600 (JST) beacon report showed him to be still about 25 nm from the entrance to Nelson Channel at the west entrance of the Strait of Magellan.

    Position (1600 JST beacon)
    52°25'S, 75°31'W -- about 422 nm west of Cape Horn
    [Click to enlarge]

    Distance completed to Yokohama finish: 66%
    Boat speed: 3.0-4.0 kt (7-day average: -- kt)
    Weather: Moderate winds, large seas
    Barometer: 1005 hPa (rising)
    Waves: 5.0 m
    Wind (from): 19-22 kt W -- winds beginning to rise
    Current (from): 1.0 kt W
    Distance in last 24 hours: 107 nm
    Engine: 1700 rpm (8 hrs) and 2000 rpm (8 hrs) -- 96 L

    Today's Report

    At 0230 JST Saito called to report that the engine would not start and neither would the aux. generator used for recharging the batteries. Because the hydraulic steering system depends on power from the batteries, this requires that he make for the nearest port in order to get the engine and generator back in service.

    It is thought that the fuel lines and filters are blocked by particulates due to fuel contamination. Saito has struggled with reduced engine rpms since before crossing Cape Horn 4 days ago as the problem worsened.

    The closest port is about 130 nm east on the Strait of Magellan, at Punta Arenas. He restarted his circumnavigation from Punta Arenas on Oct. 24.

    A Chilean Coast Guard vessel has been summoned and is expected to rendezvous with NBSDIII in approx. 12 hours at Cabo (Cape) Felix, a lighthouse about 26 nm east. It is expected that Saito will need a tow as single-handed sailing is impossible within the twisting and frequently narrow channels of the waterway. As well, the batteries would not last long for the hydraulically assisted steering.

    He has a separate tiller system that can be rigged in emergencies.

    He called Tokyo at 0700 to explain his situation to Mike Seymour, Saito 8 Safety officer. He has also been in contact with Hitoshi Hanaoka in Chile, who is serving as liaison with the Chilean Coast Guard.

    The skipper and vessel were both reported to be fine at the time of his last call to Hanaoka, and under sail in 19 kt favorable winds from the WSW. Seas are large at 4.5 to 5.0 m, but will reduce to 3.5 m as he enters the west entrance of the Strait with its more protected waters.


    Barometric chart + 3 hrs [click to enlarge]
    Winds + 3 hrs
    Waves -2 hrs

    Day 393 [Oct. 31/09] -- Two fronts moving in

    Position (0800 JST)
    54°04'S, 74°38'W -- about 280 nm west of Cape Horn
    [Click to enlarge]

    Distance completed to Yokohama finish: 66%
    Heading: 295
    Boat speed: 6.0 kt (7-day average: -- kt)
    Weather: Partly cloudy becoming overcast, rain
    Barometer: 996 hPa (rising)
    Waves: 2.5-3.5 m
    Wind (from): 24-28 kt W -- winds beginning to rise
    Current (from): 1.0 kt W
    Distance in last 24 hours: 142 nm
    Engine: 1700 rpm (16 hrs) and 2000 rpm (8 hrs) -- 200 L

    Today's Report

    A good day of progress with steady but reduced winds and relatively flat seas at 2.5 M. A moderate cold front is beginning to make itself felt, and is expected to last about 20 hrs. It will almost immediately be followed by a second front. Both will bring winds in the high 20s to high 30s, from the WNW and W.

    At about noon yesterday Saito-san passed the furthest westward point he reached during his first Cape Horn attempt in April. "I'm making good progress," he reported. Improved boat speed was thanks to use of the fully open staysail, with winds at a close reach mainly steady from the west. The angle to the wind improved yesterday as he began to turn more north.

    The lee shore was approx. 30 nm off his starboard side at the time of his morning call. (Saito-san has decided that 15 to 20 nm of sea room "is enough.") On ClearPoint we're seeing waves building to about 4.5 M in his area, with no improvement closer in to the shore.

    Both fronts can be expected to have passed within about 48 hours. A third front will follow soon after, although by then he may be north enough to miss the worst of it.

    Iridium reception was good. Both 12-hr beacon reports were received normally.

    Saito-san will call in his next position at 1400 JST today.

    UPDATE -- 1400 POSITION [Click to enlarge]

    UPDATE -- 2000 POSITION [Click to enlarge]

    Barometric chart + 2 hrs [click to enlarge]

    Winds + 7 hrs
    Waves + 1 hr

    Day 392 [Oct. 30/09] -- Improved progress

    Position (0800 JST)
    55°38'S, 71°36'W -- about 146 nm west of Cape Horn
    [Click to enlarge]

    Distance completed to Yokohama finish: 65%
    Heading: 295
    Boat speed: 5.0 kt (7-day average: -- kt)
    Weather: Overcast becoming partly cloudy
    Barometer: 984 hPa (steady)
    Waves: 3.5-4.0 m
    Wind (from): 22-24 kt W -- winds somewhat down, still headwind
    Current (from): 1.0 kt SW
    Distance in last 24 hours: 70 nm
    Engine: 1700 rpm (16 hrs) and 2000 rpm (8 hrs) -- 200 L

    Today's Report

    Yesterday's cold front lingered and was still over Saito-san's 0800 JST position, although seas were already down a bit at the time of his call, dropping to 3.5 - 4.0 m waves and 22-24 kt winds from the west.

    Clarifications received from Whiting Power in New Zealand indicated a third "secondary" fuel filter equipped on the engine that was installed by the Auckland company last year. This filter is apparently causing reduced fuel flow due to particulate build-up. The filter may or may not have been replaced in Yokohama before departure by a diesel mechanic, but in any case there are no spares aboard that Saito-san can locate. (The engine-mounted fuel filter is in a self-contained cartridge that cannot be opened or cleaned. Saito-san reports having 4 spares for the aux. dual-filter system that was installed in Auckland during the refit.)

    This morning preparations were being made to arrange delivery of a replacement filter by DHL to Punta Arenas, and Hanaoka-san, who continues to provide immensely helpful shore support there, was making arrangements for the filter and additional primary spares to be picked up by Saito-san in a port up the coast.

    Until the spare filter can be handed over, the engine will see less use, and the sails, which have been kept furled in the strong opposing headwinds, will begin to see more service. At daybreak Saito-san unfurled the staysail. Boat speed rose to 5 kts from an average 2.6 kts as a result.

    A new front is expected in about 27 hours, refreshing the westerly headwinds into the 30s, and seas will rise to over 4 meters. The effects of the front are expected to last about 24 hours.

    We asked Saito-san to be sure to maintain adequate sea room as the stronger winds will try to push him toward the lee shore, presently about 35 nm off his starboard side.

    Iridium reception was good, at near-cell phone quality. We received no locator beacon report yesterday, but one came at 0410 this morning. Normally two are received in a 24-hr period.

    Saito-san was expected to pass the furthest westward point he reached in April, by about noon today.

    [See our earlier commentary during Saito-san's first Horn passage attempt in April.]

    Saito-san will call in his next position at 1400 JST today.




    Barometric chart + 7 hrs [click to enlarge]
    Winds + 7 hrs
    Waves + 1 hr