Day 992 [June 21/11 JST] – Saito-san Back in Japanese Waters

Today's Report
June 21/11 0800 JST 

Position:  22°04'N, 162°11'E
Remaining to Yokohama finish:  1,660 nm / 5.8% (ETA: 17 - 21 days)

Another 100-plus mile day, with no problems to report. The hiccup with the autopilot that made it turn off momentarily 2 days ago did not repeat. Saito-san confirmed that he checked the water levels on the ship's batteries and they were fine. To be certain that they were adequately charged, he ran the genset 11 hours, 3 more than normal.

Winds eased for part of the day but his "toward Yokohama" heading helped him peel off another 107 nm DMG for the period, now averaging 104 nm for each of the last 4 days as measured on Google Earth. At 0800 this morning boat speed had dropped to 3.5 kts.

Earlier he asked us to keep our eye on his route since he does not have detailed charts of the area he is in. Google Earth does not claim precision, but we've found that it has been accurate to a surprising degree. In NBSDIII's general area few islands can been seen, and none that should offer any navigation hazard as they are well away.

That said, we did spot an unidentified island not far off his route in about 450 nm. When we looked at it up close, this is what we saw – an almost perfectly triangular island including buildings, various structures, what appear to be some very basic roads, and even a Google Earth "airport" icon, but, oddly – no name. We suspected the buildings were old WWII fortifications, but it was still quite curious that the island, approximately 1 mile across, was not identified in some way.

The "mystery island" at 24° 17'N, 153° 59'E [Click to enlarge]

So we kept looking, Googling the coordinates and found it here, on a Japanese list of "observation stations." 
The list identifies it as Minamitorishima Japan (literally, "South Bird Island") MNM224N00 24 17 N 153 59 E.

With the name we could then find an entry on Wikipedia; interestingly, this turns out to be quite an important spot for Japan's territorial claims, to wit:

It is the easternmost territory belonging to Japan, and the only Japanese territory on the Pacific Plate, past the Japan Trench. Although very small, is of extreme strategic importance, as it enables Japan to claim a 428,875 square kilometres (165,589.6 sq mi) Exclusive Economic Zone in the surrounding waters.

When we told Saito-san about the island this morning, he said he knew it. "That's a Japanese island," he acknowledged, "But it is more north, about 24 degrees. I think." (He was right, as usual.)

So much for our "mystery island." The reason Google Earth doesn't name it, apparently, is because of past ownership disputes. It's also called Marcus Island and was claimed as an American territory back in the 1900s, later being ceded to Japan.

Anyway, we told him: "Welcome back to Japan!" His response: "Yes, I've made a full circle."

Here's an interesting coincidence. Although the island was first discovered in 1694, the first person to set foot on it, says Wikipedia, was a Japanese in 1879. His name: Kiozaemon Saito.

[Click to enlarge]
Distance in last 24 hours: 107 nm DOG / 107 nm DMG
Total distance completed: 26,801 nm
To Yokohama: 1,660 nm (measured)
To 150th longitude (turn up to north): 671 nm (measured)

Average daily DMG over last 4 days of sailing: 103 nm (measured) 
ETA: 17 days

Heading: 295°
Reported boat speed: 3.5 kts
Average boat speed: 4.5 kts
Weather: Overcast; warming
Temperature: 29.0° C
Barometer: 1017 hPa 
Wind (from): 8-11 kts ENE
Waves: 1.5 m
Sails: Genoa 90%, staysail 0%, mainsail 3pt reef
Engine: 0 hrs
Generator: 11 hrs

[Weather and wind forecasts are from ClearPoint Weather, a Saito 8 Supporting Sponsor.]