Sep. 1/11 JST
Position: 27°03'N, 142°11'E (Ogasawara, Chichijima Island, Japan)
Remaining to Yokohama: 502 nm (ETA: ?)
It's 8 pm. Then 8:04.
At 8:30, a half-hour later than his usual evening check-in time during Talas, we called the Coast Guard station at Ogasawara to find out whether they had any news on Saito-san. "He's never this late, rarely misses his call time more than a minute or two, so we're a bit concerned," we explained to the duty officer.
He seems OK, we were told. Anyway, they could just barely see the boat far out in the roiling darkness of the harbor. She looked unchanged as best they could tell, still at the big ship mooring at the close of the 5th day riding out Typhoon Talas.
11:30 pm came and bed called, but still not Saito-san.
We knew he was OK, despite the typhoon that was supposed to become a Category 3 but instead had meekly morphed back into a tropical storm, playing for a while as a mildly dangerous Category 1 with winds predicted to climb over 60 knots and gusts into the 70s. Instead, Talas was easing by Chichijima at a very slow 6 knots, with sustained winds rarely hitting 40 knots. And while wind-waves were 1½ to 2 meters in the harbor, they were nothing the size they might have been had Talas reached her full potential.
Saito-san had made a judgment call, that the typhoon might potentially destroy NBSDIII, but not if he were on board tending her lines and fittings, tightening the running rigging, pumping out the bilge, and making sure that a human would be ready to come to her aid if the threat ever came close to being overwhelming.
Yet this wasn't just a typhoon and a very tired boat that's done a "wrong-way" circumnavigation these past three long years. This was also about a fearless man in a 77-year-old body with a heart condition, a newly surgically repaired knee, a scar from emergency abdominal surgery, and both wrists and an arm sprained and bloodied, in far less exhausting conditions. All on this one trip alone.
Meanwhile, the northern edge of Talas had already reached Tokyo and we could see the gray beginnings of what Saito-san had so far weathered on his boat alone, while on shore, as we heard yesterday from the Coast Guard, a good many island people have been anxiously watching to see if the battered yacht and her captain would be able to last still another day of what's become a very, very long storm. Talas is expected to be gone in 2 more days which is 3 more than had been expected.
We slept fitfully, waking at dawn and again calling the Coast Guard.
No, they said, still no word, "but we can see his boat and it looks fine." A few minutes the officer called back and informed us that a watchman on the big inter-island cruise ship that is also waiting out the storm reported seeing Saito-san puttering about the deck of NBSDIII. "He looks ginky," we were told. In good health and happy.
It's exactly 8 am, and our phone's ringtone announces he's on the other end.
"Good morning, Saito-san! Is everything OK? What happened? Why didn't you call last night?"
A moment's pause, and his voice comes through, uncharacteristically sheepish.
"Oh, uh, sorry … I forgot."
|Typhoon-cum-tropical-storm Talas at 0800 this morning|