Day 893 [March 14/11 JST] -- Saito-san Survives Second Tsunami as Team Hawaii Barely Escapes the Worst

Today's Report
March 14/11 JST

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

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

We are relieved to be able to report that not just Saito-san, but members of Team Hawaii and their boats weathered the tsunami produced by the devastating earthquake in Japan on March 11. Below we are attaching the riveting stories of their own harrowing experiences as they sought to save their boats. Dave and Scott went out in their vessels in the dark, seeking the relative safety of the sea. Ed found that his boat, which is also his home, went out on her own with a finger pier still attached!

We knew that Saito-san had been evacuated by Derek Nakamura, who put Saito-san up in his home to await the arrival of what turned out to be a 6-foot surge in the harbor where Nicole BMW Shuten-Dohji III is tied to a floating dock. She is still not moveable so there was no choice to take her to sea along with upwards of 800 other vessels in that nightmarish situation.

We called Saito-san again this morning and the skipper himself was relieved to hear news from us that Tokyo was basically spared the worst of what has now been upgraded to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit 70 km (45 mi) off the coast near Sendai at 2:46 pm Friday .

The resulting waves at this writing are believed to have killed as many as 10,000 people in Sendai and Miyagi Prefecture about 400 km (250 mi) northeast of Tokyo. [Sadly, this number was later raised to approximately 21,000 dead or missing.]

On Friday we had our own scare here in Tokyo but soon understood that Hawaii was in the path of a series of waves traveling the speed of a jet liner. (There are still unconfirmed reports of a cruise ship carrying 100 passengers that has gone missing. Later, on TV, we may have spotted it -- on top of a building.)

We called Saito-san to make sure he had left for higher ground, and were relieved that he had been picked up by Derek and that they were at that moment watching TV coverage of the earthquake and the approaching waves.

He told us this morning that his boat was fine, "Good. No damage!" adding that destruction was much worse in Ala Wai Marina immediately to his east, but especially at Keehi Marina to the west. Keehi, the original home marina of NBSDIII, and where Ed Abbot lives aboard his sailing yacht, was badly damaged by violent surges that carried off as many as 200 vessels -- many, like Ed's -- still attached to their floating finger piers.

For Saito-san, incredibly, this was the second major tsunami of his drama-filled circumnavigation, now in its 893rd day.

The first tsunami was just over a year ago, on February 27, as he sought repairs in Valdivia, Chile, awakening after midnight as his boat was slammed against the cement jetty to which she was attached. That was history's 6th-strongest earthquake, which spawned tsunami waves that wiped out entire towns along the Chilean coast. 

Japan's newly named Sendai Earthquake goes down in the records as the 5th worst. 

Here are the stories from Team Hawaii, in the order received.


Just got back from 12 hours at sea. We left the docks at 0030 and spent the night out in deep water away from any chance of the tsunami getting Swan Song.

The tsunami in fact came in and did do a bit of damage…basically wiping out 2 floating dock marinas and sinking a few boats that got trapped under the docks when the water went out. Then when it comes back in the boat can’t rise and it fills with water.

Tsunamis in deep water aren’t a problem but in shallow water they cause huge amounts of flooding.

Last night we moved our cars to the upper deck of the mall. I put my electric scooter on the 2nd floor of the Ilikai Condos. Then we disconnected the shore power, cable TV, Internet, docklines and slipped away into the darkness. It’s quite a sight with 500-800 boats all just slowly motoring about all night. My radar was virtually useless with 100’s of targets on the 20-mile range! Seas were in the 4-6’ range with wind in the mid-teens. Some swell from the East.

Swan Song was the most comfortable boat out there. Some of the sailboats were putting their spreaders in the water from side to side rolling. Swan Song’s idle speed is 4.5 kts which is greater than most of the sailboats so I was forever in and out of gear to avoid running them over. With Swan Song’s size and high bow many of them just can’t be seen.

Looks like we have swapped annual Caribbean hurricanes for annual Hawaiian tsunamis. Last year’s was the one in Chile that we went to sea for.

There was a 55’ [unmanned] sailboat disabled and adrift about 10 miles out but I resisted this time. The memory of the 50-odd mile tow a few months back was too vivid in my brain ;-(

So we are safe, Swan Song is safe, the fleet is in good nick, it’s a beautiful day and we just got a day off the dock thrown in!!! What could be better?


Dave & Nancy
Swan Song
Roughwater 58
Limin in Waikiki Beach


Hi everybody.

Alive and afloat. Dinged up a bit. It was a really awesome and frightening experience.

After hearing the surges at Wake and Saipan were both below 2', I expected the surge here in Keehi to be similar to last February's tsunami. So I opted to stay at the dock rather than go outside and run the gauntlet of boats while singlehanding.

So when the docks started breaking up, and the boats with the docks started drifting back and forth, there was nothing to do but watch. Finally, what was left of the dock moorings broke away and 4 docks with all their boats drifted over and smashed into the state docks. That's when I lost sight of my boat. The sounds of boats crashing against each other and the sounds of breakage were heartbreaking. I've never heard anything like that before & hope I never hear it again.

At first light, I could see Red Sky, still afloat, with her finger pier still lashed alongside, and near the outer edge of the maritime mosh pit. Many other boats holed, and most boats tangled up with others. I borrowed a dingy from a friend and rowed out, checked the bilge which was a little higher than normal, but steady, so I started the engine, pumped out the bilge, waited for the surge to point my bow in a favorable direction, and cast off. Fortunately, 2 docks at the marina had survived, and there were a few empty slips.

I tried to gauge the surge which was running back and forth at a pretty good clip and made a slightly less than elegant landing, but managed not to embarrass myself too badly.

Red Sky has a deep gouge below the waterline which was weeping water. I repaired that with some waterproof epoxy. Also about a 2" hole thru the hull about an inch above the waterline. I have a temporary patch there until the insurance surveyor has a chance to examine the boat. Some bent stanchions, and a chunk out of the bowsprit. Some scratches and gouges in the topsides... but all in all it could have been much worse.

I believe that if I had not retrieved her when I had, the slow leak would eventually have dropped the hole below the surface and she would have been a total loss.

Alive, well, and afloat.


My story is much cleaner and with only one small scratch on the hull from trying to come back to dock clumsily with the surge against me.

I went out at 0200 solo to the BIG crowd of lights off shore. I think I followed Dave out in his mega yacht (with inflatable in tow?) at 0210.

We were not allowed to go back into Ala Wai till the surge was agreeably much lighter at about 1130. It was about a 9.5 hour sail-a-thon and the only rough part was trying to stay awake in the cool morning air. I agree with Ed that Keehi took a very severe beating.

Our sympathy goes to Japan and the tremendous loss. I hope that the world comes together to quickly provide aid to all those suffering in the cold there.