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)

Day 491 [Feb. 5/10] -- Good progress

Today's Report
50°08'S, 76°37'W (Pacific Ocean, 170 nm NW of Strait of Magellan)

NBSDIII made quite good progress despite early headwinds in the 24-hour period, achieving 140 nm up the Chilean coastline. Saito-san has also opened up 40 nm of sea room between him and the rocky and barren coast on his lee. He would need at least that should an extended gale develop in the next few days.

He faces opposing winds in the high teens from the NNW in the next 24 hours and likely lasting another day or two as several small lows pass through the area going eastward. Nothing major is yet seen on ClearPoint. Seas are moderate at 1.5 m.

He expects to find more favorable current as he goes up the coast and will get a large lift when he reaches the powerful Humboldt Current. (See image below.)

Distance completed: 16,840 nm
To Yokohama: 11,430 nm (distance remaining: 40.4%)
Heading: 335
Distance in last 24 hours: 140 nm
Reported boat speed: 6.5 kt (day's average: 5.8 kt)
Weather: Overcast with scattered rain; several small fronts approaching from W
Temperature: 14° C
Barometer: 990 hPa (rising)
Wind (from): Headwinds 12-14 kt NNW -- expected to rise in 19 hrs to 19 kt NNW
Waves: 1.5 m
Current (from): 0.3 kt WNW
Engine rpms: 2000 (24 hrs)

Map of the massive Humboldt Current that sweeps up the west side of the South American continent. (Note the opposing Cape Horn current below the tip of The Horn.)

Day 490 [Feb. 4/10] -- On the way again

Today's Report
52°19'S, 75°24'W (Pacific Ocean, 20 nm NW of Strait of Magellan)

Minoru Saito is back officially on his way, having re-entered the open waters of the Pacific Ocean about 5 pm local time. By 8 pm he had passed his furthest point made during his second Cape Horn attempt in October, before he lost use of his sails and engine and was forced to return to Punta Arenas.

He reported that everything is going well although he faces strong headwinds and seas so is not yet using his sails. He was motoring at 3000 rpm at the time of his 0800 JST call.

We are restarting the trip log at this point, using a distance calculation determined from Google Earth, which has been enormously helpful (and surprisingly accurate) in helping plot his course. That calculated distance includes only his forward progress and does not take into account the 1,750 additional miles he logged during his two attempts to transit Cape Horn.

The total distance for the circumnavigation is now expected to be 28,270 nm following a less-direct route that will allow Saito to avoid cyclone areas on the way back. See the route below.

Distance completed to Yokohama finish: 16,700 nm (59%)
Distance remaining to Yokohama: 11,570 nm
Heading: 285
Distance in last 12 hours: 69 nm
Boat speed: 5.5 kt (7-day average: -- kt)
Weather: Overcast with scattered rain; several small fronts approaching from WNW
Barometer: 982 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): Headwinds 22-28 kt WNW -- expected to reduce, and change to SW in 4 hours
Waves: 2.5-3.0 m, opposing
Current (from): 0.3 kt WNW
Engine: 3000 rpm (6 hrs) + 2000 (6 hrs)

Saito 8 return route; click image to enlarge.

Day 489 [Feb. 3/10] -- Overnighting Near Cabo Felix lighthouse

Today's Report
53°01'S, 73° 56'W (182 nm from Punta Arenas, Chile)

The boats made about 37 nm during the day and Saito-san says the weather has greatly improved. They are overnighting in a cove about 3 nm east of Cabo Felix lighthouse, completed in 1906.

Hanaoka-san reported this morning by email that Saito had called him and said that he will leave in the morning and enter the Pacific while conditions are still moderate.

Saito called me on 2nd February 2010 at 1945 informing that they already arrived at natural harbor next 3 miles east to Felix light house. The sea is calming down. He said that tomorrow in 0500 to 0600 with the sunrise he will be sailing out to the open sea. He was informed of wind and wave conditions for 3 days, so he knows that the conditions are getting better. Fishing boat Lucky Dream with its crew will stay in the bay where they are now during 3 hours after Saito´s departure, and will leave if they are no longer needed.

-- Hitoshi Hanaoka

From Joshua Slocum:
"Now at last the Spray carried me free of Tierra del Fuego. If by a close shave only, still she carried me clear, though her boom actually hit the beacon rocks to leeward as she lugged on sail to clear the point. The thing was done on the 13th of April, 1896. But a close shave and a narrow escape were nothing new to the Spray. The waves doffed their white caps beautifully to her in the strait that day before the southeast wind, the first true winter breeze of the season from that quarter, and here she was out on the first of it, with every prospect of clearing Cape Pillar before it should shift. So it turned out; the wind blew hard, as it always blows about Cape Horn, but she had cleared the great tide-race off Cape Pillar and the Evangelistas, the outermost rocks of all, before the change came."

The Voyage of Spray and Capt. Joshua Slocum

Day 488 [Feb. 2/10] -- Overnighting East of Magellan Entrance

Today's Report
53°21'S, 73° 5'W (Laura Cove, 145 nm from Punta Arenas, Chile)

We were called this morning by Saito-san from a point where the Strait of Magellan begins to widen as it approaches the Pacific Ocean.

Saito has been making his way west through the winding and narrow stretches of the Strait, and is now tied up in a small weather hole the local fishermen affectionately call "Laura." This will permit him and the two crew of the escort boat Lucky Dream to sleep through the night. The two boats are approx. 80 nm from the entrance to the Pacific Ocean.

He reports his yacht Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III is fine although there were some difficult times when trying to proceed at night as the channel became narrower and shallower. The tidal changes were among the strongest of the year, thanks to the full moon being at its closest orbit, producing alternating flows that threatened both boats with grounding.

A bit after sunup tomorrow Saito and his guide boat will leave. He expects to make Cabo Felix lighthouse within 9 hours and will probably tie up in a small harbor there, spend the night, then reenter the Pacific to resume the voyage. The escort boat will then return to Punta Arenas.

Weather at the moment looks good on ClearPoint for the next 3 or 4 days. Winds in the Strait were opposing from the west at about 12 kts. Winds in the Pacific are expected to be moderate from W and WNW in the high teens and mid-20s. Waves in the Pacific are 4-5.5 meters, and are expected to reduce to under 4 meters in 3 days.

See the weather graphic below, courtesy of James Hayashi, ClearPoint Weather.

Click graphic for an enlarged view.

Saito Challenge 8 News Release -- Punta Arenas Departure

News Release
January 31, 2010
Saito Challenge 8 (Tokyo)
Contact: Hunter Brumfield
Mobile: (81) 90 49 36 01 14

‘Never-Say-Die’ Saito restarts his record circumnavigation
Japanese yachtsman, 76, sets off once more at Cape Horn

PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE – The third time’s the charm, a much frustrated but determined Minoru Saito hopes as he resumed his solo circumnavigation from the world’s southern-most city today [Jan. 30 local time]. He bade farewell to his small team of local supporters in late afternoon under overcast skies after clearing immigration and customs.
The Guinness Book world record holder restarted his quest to achieve a record eighth solo circumnavigation after his 56-foot yacht Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III was disabled and nearly lost during a perilous crossing of storm-tossed Cape Horn in April.  His attempt to leave in October was aborted 2 days after he passed The Horn a second time, when he lost the use of his sails and engine. His vessel was towed back to Punta Arenas for engine and staysail furler repairs and replacement of his badly damaged headsail.
It will take him about two days to reach the point of his furthest westward progress as he proceeds westward on the Strait of Magellan to the South Pacific Ocean. He will be accompanied by a second vessel much of the way to Cabo Felix lighthouse at the strait’s entrance, should he need assistance along the sometimes narrow and winding route back. Strong, opposing tidal currents and headwinds make the strait dangerous for solo sailors.
He has already passed Cape Horn not once but twice on this circumnavigation that began 486 days and 16,500 miles ago, going the “wrong way” in a rare westward solo passage against the prevailing winds and seas. The first time a three-day gale hit him head-on and drove his yacht back eastward. At the height of the storm a line washed overboard and wrapped the rudder and propeller, crippling the vessel.  The second attempt in October saw him make an additional 270 miles, when his engine was shut down by contaminated fuel and strong headwinds damaged his two head sails.
A new genoa sail was made for him in Auckland, New Zealand, and flown to Punta Arenas in December.  A local welder was able to repair the furler.
Saito turned 76 in January. He will return to Yokohama in approximately 3 months, completing a yachting feat that will make virtually invincible his standing as the world’s oldest and most-accomplished single-handed circumnavigator. He will be able to claim records for most (8), oldest (76), and oldest westward “contrary” route circumnavigations. He already holds the Guinness Book world record as the oldest person to complete a non-stop solo circumnavigation at age 71 in 2005.
Daily updates at
Saito’s route back to the restart point of his twice-interrupted transit of Cape Horn

Day 486 [Jan. 31/10] -- Saito Departs Punta Arenas

Position (1123 JST beacon)
53°51'S, 71°03'W -- about 45 nm southwest of Punta Arenas
[Click to enlarge]

Blue line indicates the route west back to the Pacific Ocean, about 200 nm. Red line is his actual route.

Today's Report
At 3:51 pm local time, Saito-san departed Punta Arenas under overcast skies to resume his circumnavigation. Winds were about 14 kts out of the NW.

As of the day's second beacon report 7 1/2 hours later, he had proceeded 43.5 nm, averaging just under 6 kts of boat speed.

Here's what Rose & Pablo sent in an email, with pictures to follow:

It was about 3:51pm this afternoon Minoru Saito-San set off on his voyage in Nicole BMW and sailed away southwest down the Magallen Strait, winds from the Northwest to finish the Saito 8 Challenge. As soon as the last rope was tied off the neighbouring boat Del Mar III Saito San was truly ready for the last leg. We will miss him and our thoughts will be with him, he is a fiesty little spirit and shows no fear to those risks he may face, we wish him fair winds.

Best wishes,
Rose and Pablo

Even to the very end this wonderful couple were helping Saito-san through the maze of Chilean bureaucracy.

Once it was clear that he was finished and could leave, in a Skype call Rose said he was extremely happy and left at the earliest possible moment. He is being accompanied by "Lucky Dream," a fishing boat that will go with him most or all the way to Desolation Island at the western mouth of the Strait of Magellan, where he will re-enter the Pacific. If the weather is not favorable he may wait a day at Cabo Felix lighthouse, where there is a small cove that is a historic "weather hole" for Cape Horn voyagers.

A news release will be available soon.