Day 492 [Feb. 6/10] -- Slowing rpms, again

Today's Report
47°46'S, 76°29'W (Pacific Ocean, 303 nm NNW of Strait of Magellan)

The period went well until about noon his time when the engine again began showing reduced rpms, falling from a desired 2,000 rpm and 6 kt boat speed, to 1,500-1,600 rpm / 3.5-5.0 kt. This is the same condition that developed as he attempted to transit Cape Horn the second time.

He cleaned the fuel element several times yesterday, and bled the fuel system of air but could see no immediate improvement. He said he would proceed under 70% staysail in the face of mostly opposing winds, and was able to make about 3 kt steering about 040 degrees off his desired course, but could still make some northerly progress.

At midnight his time he called to report that the engine rpms had suddenly improved and the boat was back to 2,000 rpm and making about 6 kt. "I don't know why [the engine went back to normal]," he said through a very poor Iridium connection. [Possibilities include an air bubble or other obstruction washed through the fuel circuit, or even that seaweed or fishing line had wrapped the propeller and later came off.]

Earlier today, his shore support in Tokyo and Punta Arenas conferred with Saito about the option of pulling into port at Valdivia, a city of 140,000 population 500 nm north of his current position. Valdivia has adequate port facilities with services that are much better than those of Punta Arenas, Hanaoka-san said. It is expected to take 3 to 6 days to go that distance, and the decision will be made as he gets nearer. Another port, Ancud, pop. 40,000, is about 150 nm closer but thought to be too small to offer adequate services.

If the fuel is contaminated, as feared, the engine and aux. generator will both stop operating and the boat would have no electrical power to operate the hydraulic steering system.

Distance in last 24 hours: 120 nm
Distance completed: 16,960 nm
To Yokohama: 11,310 nm (distance remaining: 40.0%)
Heading: 030
Reported boat speed: 5.5 - 6.0 kt (day's average: 5.0 kt)
Weather: Overcast with scattered rain; mixed winds, moderate seas
Temperature: 11.5° C
Barometer: 984 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): Headwinds 16-20 kt NW -- expected to change to 20 kt from SW in 7 hours
Waves: 2.0 m
Current (from): 0.3 kt WNW
Engine rpms: 1,500 - 2,000 (24 hrs)