Aug. 26/11 JST
Position: 27°03'N, 142°11'E (Ogasawara, Chichijima Island, Japan)
Remaining to Yokohama: 502 nm (ETA: ?)
As Typhoon 15 looms over the horizon, now a Category 1 storm and gradually building, the great news is that some repair miracles occurred earlier this week.
First the repairs.
Obon, a week-long period in which much of Japan closes down along with local delivery service, delayed the arrival of the 100-kilo air cargo shipment containing the replacement gearbox. It took just 3 days to arrive from Auckland via Hong Kong, then another 10 days or so between Tokyo and Chichijima, thanks to the ferry's twice-weekly schedule, several area typhoons, and Obon.
And then we were faced with sending out a mechanic to the island to do the install. It was looking like that would take at least a week, plus the cost of ferry passage, travel time, and several nights in a local lodging facility along with the mechanic's actual labor charges. It was not going to be cheap.
But after emailed schematics and some welcome reassurances from Scott, the chief engineer at Whiting Power in Auckland, doubts cleared so Saito-san and Tamura-san, the island's own marine mechanic (one of two there), decided to tackle the install themselves. Back here, we already knew that Tamura-san was a retired fisherman and rather up in age, a fact Saito-san described this way: "I think he's a few years older than I am."
We were therefore delighted and relieved to be told 2 days later that they had winched the heavy load down into the boat ("We used a block and tackle," Saito said, with obvious satisfaction), where they had already dismantled and cleared away the old gearbox. Wrestling it into position, the new gearbox lined up well and the connection was made to the engine coupling and to the propeller shaft. Gearbox oil was added, the engine was started, and tests at the pier were successful as the propeller responded to fore and aft movements of the shift lever.
In the meantime, the replacement engine exhaust hose arrived on the next ferry, and that went on without a hitch. On Wednesday they took the vessel out in the harbor for a brief trial run. Other than some black smoke, everything performed well.
Of course, everything that goes well with sailing yin seems to have a counter-balancing yang, which is now approaching from the south in the form of Typhoon 15 (No. 12 by the Japanese count) that's been named "Talas." Yesterday a tropical depression, Talas is now a Category 1 that had been on a straight path to you-know-where. Later this afternoon it was projected to veer a bit west, and will turn into a Category 2 about the time it reaches Ogasawara, bringing 30-55 knot winds.
Talas in a 48-hour projection by ClearPoint Weather.
The arrow marks Chichijima.
No one is treating this lightly. Tamura-san visited the Coast Guard station yesterday afternoon to enlist the Coast Guard's help in getting NBSDIII off the concrete pier that would offer little safety with its exposed face to the approaching storm. Winds are known to reach 100 knots inside the harbor, Tamura-san told Saito-san, and if that happens the boat would be battered against the pier. As it now appears, Talas is bringing sustained winds of about half that or less.
This morning we were called by the Coast Guard station's chief officer who said they would help move the boat this afternoon to a big ship mooring buoy out in the harbor. Saito-san would remain on the boat to watch the lines. "He'll be there 5 days or so," we were told, with the peak of the typhoon expected to be in 3 days, on August 29. (The US Navy is saying Aug. 30.) Saito-san has heavy mooring lines and plenty of experience, but virtually anything can happen.
Including, we can hope, the typhoon taking an even greater turn away from its present course to the island.
Told by us what they have planned, Saito-san said he already knew and was ready. "I have plenty of food and water, so I'll be ok," he reassured us.