Day 573 [April 28/10] -- An easy, on-time arrival in Puerto Ayora

Today's Report
April 28/10 0800 JST / 1700 local

00°44'S, 90°18'W (Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos)

Saito-san arrived at 0830 local time and by 0900 had anchored in 12 meters of water using two anchors in a gentle bay about 200 meters offshore. He was assisted by yacht services manager Ricardo Arenas, who met him on arrival and will help him during his repair stopover. 

This is the second time for Saito-san to visit the Galapagos, although we've not yet clarified with him whether this is the same port. The first time was 20 years ago on another solo circumnavigation. Several days ago he remembered it as much smaller and less developed than the present-day port. That seems to fit the description of another smaller port on an adjacent island further east.

In the next week, as he awaits delivery of repair parts for the hydraulic steering system, he will attend to several tasks, including repairing the broken lazy jack (lines used for sail handling when lowering or raising the mainsail), and fixing a torn batten pocket on the main. He'll have to go up the mast, which is outfitted with folding mast pegs, to make those repairs.

He'll also need to ferry over plastic containers of fuel to replenish the tanks; he expects to buy about 200 gallons of diesel. 

The parts for the hydraulic steering system were purchased yesterday from a distributor in Seattle and will be sent by DHL. It is expected they will take at least a week to get there, including going through customs. Great thanks to Saito 8 Committee Co-Chair Gary Thomas and Safety Officer Mike Seymour for handling these arrangements. Also, our deep appreciation to Yvonne Mortola in Puerto Ayora for liaisoning in Spanish with the mechanics who are doing the repairs.

Over in Australia all eyes are on Jessica Watson, who has found herself in the sort of heavy weather conditions we described yesterday off the southern coast of that continent. The young solo sailor yesterday was near the upper, leading edge of an intense and quite large low pressure system that was generating sustained winds of 30 to 40 knots and waves topping 8 meters.

Thanks to Tokyo sailor and new Saito 8 support member David Devlin for sending along the ClearPoint Weather image that graphically displays what Jessica is facing. Fortunately, she has become a celebrated national hero during her circumnavigation and there is little question that the Australian Coast Guard is posed to come to her assistance at a moment's notice.

[Click to enlarge]

The approximate location of Jessica's 34-foot yacht "Pink Lady" is indicated by the sailboat icon.

By mid-morning Tokyo time the large system was shown to be passing quickly but over the next 4 days there is a succession of at least 2 more nasty lows on the screen. It appears they will mostly pass south of her, but she's clearly in for a rough week.

Position Map (click to enlarge)

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, Gal├ípagos)

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

Day 571 [April 26/10] -- Another day and a half to Puerto Ayora

Today's Report
April 26/10 0800 JST / 1700 local

01°14'S, 92°40'W (South Pacific Ocean, toward the Gal├ípagos)

Another day of weak winds and mostly motoring to erase another 118 nm off the route back. It appears he should be in Puerto Ayora by Tuesday. At 1700 local time he was 150 nm west of the port on Santa Cruz Island.

Veronica Katada spoke again with weekend port staff who told her the following:
  • Yachts need to anchor
  • Bottom of the anchorage area is rock
  • Supply of fuel is done through plastic containers
It was believed that there are tenders (small row boats) available, and we were asked to call back during work hours on Monday. Saito-san does not have a tender but it is expected that other cruisers will be able to assist him getting to shore and back, and ferrying service can probably be hired as well.

Distance to Puerto Ayora: 150 nm
Heading: 094
Reported boat speed: 5.5 kts (motoring)
Average boat speed. 4.9 kts
Weather: Clear
Temperature: 27.0° C
Barometer: 1007 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): 6-8 kts, SSE expected to be 8 kts S for much of next 19 hours
Current (from): E at 1.0 - 1.5 kt (unfavorable)
Engine rpms: 18.5 hrs, 1800 rpm
Generator: 3.5 hrs
Sails: Genoa 100%, staysail 0%, mainsail 1-pt reef

Position Map (click to enlarge)