Day 473 [Jan. 18/10] -- Tests (and dolphins)

Position (2200 JST)
53°10'S, 70°55'W -- Punta Arenas

Today's Report

The last two weeks developed into a struggle as one mishap of nature and one of electronics gone bad delayed Saito-san's departure -- again.

After things began to return to normal following the extended New Years holidays in Punta Arenas, a well rested electrician sourced and corrected issues with the Raymarine navigation system, awakening it after a long slumber only to make it obvious that it was well out of calibration.

Initially, Saito-san and the electrician, Roberto, suspected that the compass sensor, and possibly its cabling, were at fault. The sensor is mast-mounted about a third of the way up, and subject to the whims of the weather and violent motion of the seas. So is its cable.

However, before any of that could be determined, the unpredictable Punt Arenas weather visited again last Tuesday with winds blowing into the mid-30s. Sometime during the night the staysail released and a tear was inflicted at the base of the sail, leaving a rip Saito-san estimates at about two meters long. A decision was subsequently made to patch the sail using cloth from the old genoa. It is expected that this will be enough -- along with the completely new genoa -- to get NBSDIII back to Japan.

Better news developed yesterday, as emailed from Rose and her husband Pablo, who went out with Saito-san to test and recalibrate the compass sensor. The electrician had been successful in restoring function, and the operation of the navigation equipment SEEMED to have been restored, but the only way to check for sure required taking the boat out.

As advised earlier through Skype by Mike Seymour in Tokyo, as he summarized the instructions in the Raymarine compass sensor manual (a component so complex as to need its own mini-manual!), the four-person Punta Arenas team piloted NBSDIII out on a gorgeous (southern hemisphere) summery day and took her through a number of wide, continuous circles. This had the almost miraculous effect of automatically recalibrating the compass sensor, which earlier had been a full 155 degrees out of sync with the magnetic heading of the boat's compass.

In her email last night, Rose reported the results this way:
We have had a success. Roberto the electrician that Hanaoka recommended was brilliant. The yacht was given a test sail, he tested the cables, all was fine there, the sensor was fine and working, the readings on the Raymarine autopilot compass were working, Furuno radar COG [course over ground] working. The BMG also working. Roberto realised that we had to move the compass unit, so he moved it and we fixed the 5-degree difference. Now it is 1 or 2 degrees difference, and Saito is happy with that. He knows it is not perfect but can [compensate] a lot easier now. 
And then almost as an afterthought Rose -- a self-taught wildlife researcher -- wrote us in a second brief email:
Oh yes.................We saw 10 dolphins. They followed us for a while. Fabulous!
The pictures were sent in a subsequent email. We'll try to publish those tomorrow, along with a further update on the final  preparations to depart, potentially as early as sometime this week -- fingers crossed, and the winds (and sail menders) allowing!