Day 973 [June 2/11 JST] -- Debris Not Likely to Cause Trouble

Today's Report
June 2/11 0800 JST 

Position:  23°22'N, 176°07'W
Remaining to Yokohama finish:  2,458 nm / 9.0% (approx. 15 - 22 days)

A cooling water issue silenced the engine at mid-morning. Saito-san had been inspecting and cleaning the injectors and when he restarted the engine it soon began overheating so he shut it down.

We've seen this problem several times before, so suspicions were directed at the seawater pump impeller, a fan-like rubber part that can wear out and occasionally requires replacing. This time, however, Saito-san found a 5-cm split in the seawater hose in advance of the impeller in the seawater cooling circuit. There is no spare hose so it was expected that this could be fixed by tightly wrapping the split with overlapping layers of duct tape. Whether the dry impeller was destroyed by friction was not immediately determined, but seems likely. Fortunately, there are two spare impellers on board.

Even before the cooling problem, Saito-san had switched back to sail power for nearly half the 24-hr period. He progressed 106 nm overground, and by 0800 this morning had reduced the distance to Yokohama to 2,458 nm. Of course he prefers this to motoring, but at the slower speed it will add several days to his ETA unless he can get the engine back up running again.

In the weeks following the March 11 9.0 magnitude Japan earthquake, the prospect of floating debris becoming a navigation hazard raised concerns that it might endanger Saito-san. He set his return route to give himself a wide berth of the North Pacific area east of Honshu, adding about 200 nm to the route along a wide westward detour. He's since made this a more direct line toward Yokohama, effectively cutting a week or so off his return time.

Saito 8 Committee member Hide Katada yesterday located a web site published by the Japanese Coast Guard that lists "temporary" navigation hazards not indicated by local marine charts, including navy exercises, newly shoaling areas, construction, and, we were glad to see, the location of the debris field from the March 11 tsunami. The debris is marked with buoys, and, it is presumed, seeded with one or more satellite-linked locator beacons to track its movement.

If nothing else, the official warning is ominous:

Coast Guard warning as of June 1

When we plotted the position of the debris field, what surprised us was how close it still is to the Japanese coast. 

Here's where one media report indicated it would be in about a year. 

In any case, the debris is expected to move north and east along with the Kuroshio (Black) Current. 

The upshot of all this is: For Saito-san it appears that the debris is still well away from his intended route and should not cause him any trouble. We will, of course, continue monitoring. (You can help, if you want, by occasionally checking here. See the items marked "Drifting.")

To read more on the tsunami debris, see this article from April.

Distance in last 24 hours: 106 nm DMG
Total distance completed: 25,356 nm

To Yokohama: 2,458 nm (measured)
Average daily DMG over last 7 days: 159 nm (measured) 
ETA: 15.5 days (if motor-assisted); 23 days (if sailing @ 4.5 kts)

Heading: 295°
Reported boat speed: 4.5 kts (sailing)
Average boat speed: 4.4 kts
Weather: Mostly overcast, no rain; warm
Temperature: 26° C
Barometer: 1020 hPa 
Wind (from): 10-13 kts E
Waves: 1.5-2.0 m
Sails: Genoa 90%, staysail 0%, mainsail 3pt reef
Engine: 10 hrs at 2000 rpm
Generator: 10 hrs

[Weather and wind forecasts are from ClearPoint Weather, a Saito 8 contributing sponsor.]