Day 595 [May 20/10] -- Another day of near-perfect sailing

Today's Report
May 20/10 0800 JST / 1700 local

01°34'N, 104°27'W (North Pacific Ocean) 

It just doesn't get much better than the good current, flat seas, and steady favorable winds that contributed 154 nm to DMG in the past 24 hours. It's not quite Saito-san's best distance to date, but close -- and certainly the best under the sort of moderate winds (in just the low teens) he has been experiencing.

Everything is going well he reported cheerfully this morning, with "no problems."

Our good friend in the States, Bill Clark, sent the following email that describes one fascination we share as well: those immense, lonely distances.

"For the first time," Bill wrote, "I took Saito’s lat/long position and popped it in Google, then clicked on the maps page. Very eerie!  

Initially you just get a single red dot in the middle of a solid blue screen, which makes you pause because it really makes it clear that he is in the middle of nowhere in the big blue sea.  

I had to slide the zoom out almost all the way before I could see his position relative to the closest land mass (Ecuador, if you discount some tiny islands between his position and Ecuador).  

Makes you appreciate just how alone he is out there – and the danger. Interesting. 

If he is a Buddhist, lots of time to meditate."  

Not to mention, as we did to Bill, that as Saito went up the coast of Peru, he was for a short time 5 miles "up" as he crossed one of the deepest oceanic trenches of the planet.

Actually, Saito-san is a sort of Buddhist / Christian / Japanese / man-of-the-world hybrid. Born in downtown Tokyo (Asakusa), he was treated in a Catholic-operated TB sanitorium as a young teen, leaving there after 18 months cured of the disease, but homeless when his neighborhood was flattened by Allied bombers near the close of the war.

He picked up his first English from the nuns, whom he remembers fondly, as well as a budding interest in life outside insular 1940s Japan. His wanderlust took on new dimensions as he grew older and started sailing. In just the past 15 or so years he has lived in Australia, New Zealand, Rhode Island and South Carolina -- all sailing Meccas -- as well as his home country, an island nation where yachting is still considered a bit of an oddity. He counts many friends in each of those places, as well as in Texas, Tennessee, Washington DC, and California.

It was only in his late thirties that Saito-san discovered how strongly he was drawn to the sea and to the special challenges of solitary sailing. To date, he's cumulatively spent more than 6 1/2 years on eight single-handed circumnavigations, plus has done a number of additional "shorter" solo voyages and single-handed races, including trips to Australia, New Zealand, and Guam (frequently) from his home port in Japan. 

Before he began the current Challenge 8 we calculated he'd sailed more than 265,000 nautical miles alone — almost exactly the distance to the moon. He's added at least 30,000 miles since, including his "sea trial" solo sail up to Japan from Auckland.

People who know him well say he is most happy when he's that "single red dot" Bill saw on the big blue sea.

For others it may be the middle of nowhere, but to Minoru Saito it's home sweet home. 

Distance in last 24 hours: 154 nm
Total distance completed: 20,986 nm
To Yokohama: 7,214 nm (distance remaining: 25.8%)
Heading: 275
Reported boat speed: 6.5 kts
Average boat speed: 6.4 kts
Weather: Clear
Temperature: 25.0° C
Barometer: 1006 hPa (slightly up)
Wind (from): 10-12 kts, ESE expected to be 7-13 kts SSE for next 19 hours
Waves: 1.0 meters
Current (from): E at 1.8 - 2.1 kt (favorable)
Engine: 0 hrs
Generator: 10.5 hrs
Sails: Genoa 90%, staysail 0%, mainsail 1-pt reef

Position Map