Day 600 [May 25/10] -- Looking back from Day 600

Today's Report
May 25/10 0800 JST / 1600 local

06°17'N, 114°35'W (North Pacific Ocean) 

It's now Day 600.

Saito-san was a bit incredulous when told that this morning, not just that the circumnavigation is taking more than twice as long as he had anticipated, but that so much has happened along the way.

"So many problems!" he exclaimed. But we reminded him that the story has become so much more because of the great challenge, including the successes AND the problems, and it's the drama, not the ease of leaving and arriving back in Yokohama, that means the most. "Yes, I know, but too many, too many problems!" We laughed over that a moment, and then he got down to business: "OK, position!"

So even Saito-san, wrapped up as he is in the many day-to-day preoccupations of the act of sailing, seems to need reminding that he's gone the "wrong way," and it's made a huge difference to be bashing against waves and currents and wind, rather than coasting along with them. It's taken an enormous toll on the boat as well.

That's not to take away from his seven earlier circumnavigations, or especially the one just accomplished by 16-year-old Jessica Watson. Both she, 10 days ago, and he, five years ago, pulled off something fewer than 20 people have done in all of history -- a non-stop, unassisted solo sail around the globe.

But to understand the difference between having the centrifugal forces of the planet with you, rather than against you, one only needs to look at the last 7 days, compared to say, Saito's daily average while he made the punishing 4,370 nm westward crossing of the Indian Ocean earlier in this voyage. 

Where he is now, both the winds and the currents have been largely favorable. They decidedly were not for the first 75% of the way. Much of the time they were right on his nose.

In the past 7 days, including the slower 91 nm yesterday as he headed into the Doldrums, he sailed (with no engine assist) for a total of 987 nm. In the Indian Ocean where the winds and currents were dead against him, it took 51 days to go 4,370 nm.

That's 140 nm a day with the forces of nature on his side vs. 86 nm when they were against him. Our calculator says that's a 63% difference.

We suspect to Saito-san it's a great deal more than that.


Last week we updated the "Sailing Plan" on the Saito 8 web site now that most of the voyage is behind him. Maybe THIS is the difference, expressed not as a number, but as a summary of the travails of those first 600 days. We'll reproduce the main body of it here:

If you have been following Saito on his now nearly two-year adventure, you know it's been that [nature's opposing forces] and more.
  • His boat became disabled not once but twice as he attempted — finally succeeding over 10 months — three separate passages of Cape Horn. On the first attempt, his rudder became jammed and unusable just past midnight in a 3-day gale. On the second, his headsail was blown out. 
  • As he waited on repairs, he was forced to over-winter in Chile just 600 miles north of the Antarctic ice pack. He succeeded on attempt No. 3. 
  • 1,000 miles later, the world's fourth-strongest earthquake on record struck barely 200 miles away from him in northern Chile, causing tsunami waves to sweep nearby fishing ports. 
  • Along the voyage, his genoa headsail has had to be replaced twice and re-sewn once, and his headsail furler was replaced, also twice. 
  • The boat's hydraulically dependent steering failed two separate times, forcing him to seek repairs first in Australia and again in the storied Galapagos Islands.
  • Meanwhile the toll has been hard on the septugenarian skipper himself: He lost a dental bridge to a bone-hard biscuit, underwent abdominal surgery in Chile to repair a muscle tear, smashed his right hand, ripped a 6x1-inch gash in his right forearm, and became rail-thin through the long Chilean winter living in a boat with no internal heating, no running water, and subject to constant bashing by other vessels in a crowded fishing harbor.
There can be little wonder that few single-handers attempt such a feat westward — and not one even approaching Saito's age. When he finishes this voyage he will be more than halfway through his 76th year.

So after 600 days, this amazing story of human endurance, unflagging determination, and pure gutsiness continues.

Distance in last 24 hours: 91 nm
Total distance completed: 21,702 nm
To Yokohama: 6,498 nm (distance remaining: 23.2%)
To Hawaii WP: 2,554 nm
Heading: 310°
Reported boat speed: 3.0 - 3.2 kts
Average boat speed: 3.8 kts
Average daily DMG over last 7 days: 140 nm (73 nm DMG toward Hawaii WP) 
Weather: Overcast and rainy
Temperature: 24.0° C
Barometer: 1008 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): 9-11 kts, SW and SSW expected to be 12 kts SW reducing to 9 kts W over next 19 hrs
Waves: 2.0 m
Current (from): W at 1.0 kt (counter-current)
Engine: 0 hrs
Generator: 7.5 hrs
Sails: Genoa 90%, staysail 0%, mainsail 1-pt reef

Position Map