Day 567 [April 22/10] -- Hydraulic steering woes force repair stop in the Galápagos

Today's Report
April 22/10 0800 JST / 1700 local

00°51'N, 97°00'W (North Pacific Ocean, Equator)

What started as a broken connecting pin in the steering system and a slow leak of hydraulic fluid has turned into a serious problem that is forcing Saito-san to retrace his route back to the Galápagos, making for a port on Santa Cruz Island. (Map)

The Tokyo shore crew has been busy this morning arranging for his smooth entry into the port of Puerto Ayora, on the southeast corner of the island, about 445 nm east of his evening position. Due to stiff headwinds and opposing currents it will take him at least three days, and maybe four, to reach port. He is also treating the rapidly failing steering system gingerly so is sailing conservatively.

Images from Google Earth of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island (click to enlarge)

The leak became worse during the daylight hours today as the waves and winds grew, putting more force on the rudder, and thus increasing hydraulic pressure inside the steering system. He may run out of fluid soon and has made several efforts to rig a catchment system for the dripping liquid. He estimates he is losing about half the fluid, being mainly wiped up with newspapers, and the rest he pours back into the hydraulic reservoir. 

The maker of the hydraulic steering cylinders has been contacted in North Vancouver, BC, and arrangements are being made to have two replacement cylinders flown in. Safety officer Mike Seymour has been discussing this and stopgap procedures with Saito-san, but there is only so much the skipper can do.

If the steering fails completely, he can rig an emergency tiller, and that should be able to get him the remaining miles back to Santa Cruz. The SE direction of the wind is requiring him to tack south before he can turn east. While the winds are strong and have been growing, the weather looks good for the next several days and does not appear threatening at least into next week.

In the meantime, the port authorities in Puerto Ayora have been informed by the safety committee (through the tri-lingual assistance of Hide and Veronica Katada) and arrangements are being made there to provide Saito-san with port and repair assistance upon arrival. Spanish is the primary language of the Ecuadorian islands.

Distance to Puerto Ayora: 445 nm
Heading: 186
Reported boat speed: 3.5-4.0 kts
Weather: Clear
Temperature: 28.0° C
Barometer: 1007 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): 15-20 kts, SE expected to be 15 ESE for next 19 hours
Current (from): E at 1.0 - 1.5 kt (unfavorable)
Engine rpms: 0 hrs 
Generator: 8.0 hrs
Sails: Genoa 0%, staysail 100%, mainsail 2-pt reef

Position Map (click to enlarge)