Day 572 [April 27/10] -- Almost there

Today's Report
April 27/10 0800 JST / 1700 local

01°13'S, 91°15'W (South Pacific Ocean, Galápagos)

As of the 0800 (JST) / 1700 (local) call, Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III was just 65 nm, or about 14 hours, southwest of Puerto Ayora. The skipper expects to make the port on Santa Cruz Island at about 0900 local time Tuesday. 


Arrangements have been made for assistance upon Saito-san's arrival. This will be provided by local residents Ricardo Arenas and Yvonne Mortola, who operate a travel and yacht services company serving the Galapagos Islands. Saito 8 volunteer support staff members Michael Seymour and Veronica Katada have spoken with them several times and report being impressed by their helpfulness and attention to detail.

Among the several requests we've made, Saito-san will be met and shown where to anchor. He'll also be accompanied to immigration control, and provided a small skiff to use as a tender.

We feel highly fortunate to have made this contact, on the good advice of a port officer. 

We were sorry, if a bit relieved, to learn yesterday that young Abby Sunderland has, after a lot of soul-searching and on the recommendation of her land crew, decided to halt her campaign to be the youngest person to ever make a non-stop solo circumnavigation. The 16-year-old Californian is on her way to Cape Town, South Africa, to attend to repairs.

Ironically, the reason she'll stop is her 40-foot yacht's failed hydraulic steering system, essentially the same problem that is forcing Saito-san into port tomorrow.

She announced the decision in her blog this weekend, after suggesting a few days earlier that her weather window had closed for the highly dangerous transit below Australia. This was the result of the need to restart her circumnavigation following a repair stopover in Mexico due to electrical problems. That delay, plus weaker winds than hoped, meant she would not be able to clear the southern edge of Australia before the onset of the southern winter.

Although she's given up the nonstop attempt, she plans to continue her circumnavigation after getting the autopilot repaired. Cape Town is just a bit under half way. (However, she can still claim the record as the youngest single-hander to pass Cape Horn.)

This was unquestionably the right choice, if highly disappointing for the young skipper, her supporters and family, and those who have been cheering her along. Her brother Zac completed his own solo circumnavigation last year, which included several repair stops and a transit through the Panama Canal, thus bypassing Cape Horn.

Years ago we heard how daunting the seas can be along the Australian Bight from a friend who used to fly F-14 fighter jets off the now-decommissioned aircraft carrier, USS Independence. He tells a story about how during a typhoon below Australia the vessel was thrown about by massive waves to the extent that much of the crew was seasick and the huge screws of the 1,000-ft ship "were lifting completely out of the water."

Winters there are tough for vessels of any size, so you can imagine the enormous risk to a tiny yacht with a one-person crew in those tossing, frigid waters, especially if the autopilot gives out.

Meanwhile, that other spunky sailor -- a slightly older Jessica Watson, also 16 -- is nearing completion of her own eastward non-stop circumnavigation as she enters the last thousand miles toward Sydney, her starting point. 

Along the way her yacht has been knocked down four times (including this past Saturday) and rolled upside-down once. She'll become the youngest person on record, male or female, to make a successful solo circumnavigation, a feat made all the more extraordinary by including a Cape Horn passage. 

Distance to Puerto Ayora: 65 nm
Heading: 082
Reported boat speed: 5.5 kts (motoring)
Average boat speed. 3.5 kts
Weather: Clear
Temperature: 27.0° C
Barometer: 1006 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): 6 kts, SE expected to be 5-8 kts SSE & SE for next 19 hours
Current (from): E at 9.0 - 1.1 kt 
Engine rpms: 15.75 hrs, 1900 rpm
Generator: 4.0 hrs
Sails: Genoa 100%, staysail 0%, mainsail 1-pt reef

Position Map