Day 704 [Sept. 6/10 JST] -- Hawaii repairs update: Next, the boat

Today's Report
September 6/10 JST

Position:  21°17'N, 157°53'W (Honolulu) 

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

Our apologies for the update delay. We appreciate the several people who have written to ask how things are going. Happily, it seems well, thanks to Team Hawaii.

Since we are in Tokyo, it is impossible to know the full extent of effort by the volunteers assisting Saito-san. However, we are getting bits and pieces by email, as well as in our phone conversations with Saito-san.

It's clear that Dave Cooper has practically been living on the boat, as he has focused his efforts on getting NBSDIII ready once the typhoon season has largely passed and it's deemed safe to start the final miles back to Japan. So far, two typhoons have visited or neared Japan.

In the meantime, Ed Abbot, Scott Gilbert, and Kimmy have been helping patch up Saito-san, and could report last week that the medical checkup went well for someone in his mid-70s.

Saito-san's aching back was determined to be muscle strain from the arduous "U-turn" back to Hawaii that required numerous tacks during which the skipper was constantly cranking winches and man-handling the genoa. The heavy boat movement from opposing seas made it even worse. Last week he received several hours of therapy on his back, which Saito-san said helped. Our thanks to Ed for getting him to the specialist and Scott for helping with arrangements. Also for taking him back to the dentist for further work on his temporary bridge which has been troubling him. Kimmy assisted earlier, braving the unbelievably congested morning rush hour, as we mentioned in a previous post.

Through out all this, the volunteer team of Dave, Ed, and Scott (and more recently, Kimmy and new volunteer Glenn) embody the Hawaiian "Aloha Spirit" in a way that merits a statue in one of the parks that dot these magical isles of the Pacific. 

We suspect there may already be one for Dave somewhere, but one thing we've learned is that this long-time resident and master boatsman does not like to toot his own foghorn.

When it became clear there was little chance that NBSDIII would be able to make it back to Hawaii under her own power we were shocked to learn that a commercial tow those remaining 50 miles would be "at least" $6,000 -- a fee Dave said was "not unreasonable" considering the requirements of vessel, crew, insurance, fuel, and the fact it would have to be done overnight. Also, he reminded us, "This IS Hawaii."

So despite Dave's and his wonderful wife Nancy's plans to leave the next day on a week's cruise, he rang up Ed, described the potentially dire situation surrounding the boat's failing rigging, and within a few hours the two were on their way in Dave's 58-foot Swan Song to do the tow themselves. And they did, quite heroically in our book, especially considering that the commercial towing company said it would require three experienced crew, including a relief hand at the helm.

Ed reported there was one particularly dramatic moment when the tow line parted in pitch dark and strong wind, and they spent some anxious minutes getting the line back to Saito-san, which Ed did with a well-placed throw of a smaller leader line and attached fender as Dave maneuvered Swan Song close enough to reach. A day later, NBSDIII was back in port, and a few hours after that Dave, Nancy and Swan Song were off on their island cruise.

Now Dave is enthusiastically back to helping Saito-san get his tired vessel back into condition for the 13% of the circumnavigation that remains.

Ed and Scott, who say they have "actual jobs," have been helping on their days off, while Dave himself is a fairly recent retiree and can devote more time. Dave said Glenn, the newest Team Hawaii member, spent several hours last week "hanging upside-down" as he cleaned the bilge of diesel, a dirty job no one else was willing to do for money. All waste cloths and pumped-out bilge water had to be carefully disposed in accordance with strict US Coast Guard regs that forbid even a slight sheen on the water.

Dave said he could now work in the engine room without becoming coated in diesel, hydraulic fluid, sea water, etc., that had created a murky, slippery soup in the aft bilge.

Thanks Glenn!

Team Hawaii are now all off doing their own cruising over the long Labor Day weekend on a much deserved break.


After nearly two years mostly under way, NBSDIII is certainly not a boat in "Bristol condition." When she departed Yokohama in October 2008, she did in fact look very nice, and had received a great deal of attention both cosmetically (inside and out) and mechanically, and had been well muscled for the contrary circumnavigation with a newly installed engine, new mast, strongly reinforced rigging, and state-of-the-art heavy weather mainsail.

But a lot can happen in two years and over 24,000 "wrong way" miles, especially if you include 9 frigid months being bashed by larger boats in a tiny fishing harbor on the exposed Strait of Magellan in extreme southern Chile.

At the moment of this writing, it is 1° C in that tiny harbor in Punta Arenas. There was no shore power, no hot showers other than occasionally offered by a few good-hearted locals, and virtually no on-board heating. And Saito-san would not -- could not -- make his first attempt to leave Punta Arenas until January. 

Today's temp in Punta Arenas, Chile

At some point we suspect a book, or at least a long article, will describe the rigors that the vessel and her captain have gone through, but Dave has pulled together his own account of what he has so far found, some surprising, despite the attention of a number of qualified mechanics and riggers in half a dozen ports.

It's a wonder NBSDIII made it as far as she did, as Dave has now written us several times -- an assessment he has repeated but NOT always on the same problem.

We'll attempt to summarize what he's found and has fixed, or will fix, in the next few posts.