Day 961 [May 21/11 JST] -- Saito-san Nears Departure

Today's Report
May 21/11 JST

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

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

After continuing setbacks and delays involving major repairs of the vessel, it is now possible to pencil in a departure window – we're not ready to call a "date" at this point – of May 28 to June 5.

Under the expert eye of Dave Cooper (and expert hand, as he has mostly done it all from stem to stern himself, gratis), the work on Nicole BMW Shuten-doji III has been one of those unending quests to rid her of nearly three years of cumulating ills. Ten days ago, as we were on the verge of announcing his imminent departure, a 2-hour sea trial found that the computer "brain" to the autopilot system has stopped functioning for no apparent reason. So Dave and Jerry Zack, the vendor in Honolulu who originally installed the equipment in 2008 decided to send it back to the manufacturer in New Hampshire. The turn-around time even after expediting was expected to be 14 days.
Another issue has been the auxiliary generator, which last saw a mechanic's attention in Punta Arenas, and now is said to reluctantly start, but will not produce the electricity needed to charge the batteries and run the hydraulic steering, GPS, and communications. This is one item Dave said should be dealt with by the boat's original mechanic, who is due on board tomorrow.

If the genset cannot be fixed the engine can be used for battery charging, but without that as a fall-back there would be no steering other than the emergency tiller. That tiller has never been tried and is only meant as a poor, short-term substitute under the most crucial conditions.

This past week we've received two updates, which we will post here.

We will further update as we learn more. The growing concern now is the advent of the North Pacific typhoon season, which began in April and gradually worsens until peaking in mid-August and September, closing in October. There have been four smallish typhoons so far, only one that did any damage (in the Philippines). Last year there were 14 named storms the entire season.

May 12 update from Dave Cooper and Team Hawaii

Jerry and Todd came aboard around 1000 today and after a bit of head scratching and manual reading they decided that the fluxgate compass was at fault. I gave them the Raymarine fluxgate compass diagnostic instructions that I got from Raymarine and after checking the compass we decided that it wasn’t the compass but either the course computer or the control head. They couldn’t get the unit to do a master reset so at that point decided to remove all of it and send it back to Raymarine in NH to check and fix.

My experience has been that this is usually a 2-week event from the time it leaves until it returns. I would expect it to be back around the 25th or 26th of May. I will try to call/email the guys in repair and see if they can do a priority turnaround on this unit.
I don’t know if you are aware, I wasn’t, that Saito-san left Chile with only the Raymarine autopilot working, The B & G autopilot was not working so in effect all his eggs were in one basket and if the Raymarine failed he’d have to hand steer Nicole BMW. IMHO, an impossible task for a solo sailor. After Jerry and Todd left I finished  my repair of the B & G autopilot so that works now….at least at the dock and simulating changing the ship's heading by moving the fluxgate. We’ll see how it works underway on the next sea trial.

I installed the rebuilt injectors and had to reuse the old seals…none available here in Hawaii. The engine is better now but will have to wait until we do another sea trial to see how much. There is so much old carbon, soot and unburned diesel in the exhaust hose that it takes a good 30 min of hard running to start to clean it out.

The genset regulator is here so I’ll get that in tomorrow if things go well.

Saito-san and I discussed this at length so please feel free to call him and talk it all over….might be good for him to hear from home ;-) Also unrelated to the boat he has a Japanese solo sailor friend here who has just had a stroke and is in the hospital. Perhaps you can get details from him and help somehow as his wife is in Japan.

I wish I could say that all the surprises are behind us but just as the B & G autopilot “not working” only came up during Mondays sea trial, I suspect that there are more. Like the only real compass he has on board is the unattached $15 white one for the dashboard of a car. His ship’s compass has leaked all the fluid out. Gave it to Jerry today as he also does compass repair. He’ll see what he can do with it. A ship without a compass is a ship without eyes, it’s “heading” blindly along.

The boat is in better shape inside but still has lots to do storing all the stuff that has been pulled out over the many months. I wish my emails had better news each time but the issues often seem to get ahead of the good news. As we look at Nicole BMW and reflect on the issues that have been corrected since we towed her [in July 2010] as quite honestly a derelict vessel without working sails, engine, broken mast, rigging a mess, no working bilge pumps, etc., etc., she is a far far better vessel than then. Perspective often times is hard to gain when you’ve been in the swamp too long ;-)

The crest of the hill is much farther than it looked but we will be gaining it soon. “Never give up” Saito-san can & will sail out making it back home well before the height of the western Pacific Typhoon season.

-- Dave

May 20 update from Dave Cooper and Team Hawaii

Saito-san is ready to leave…even without the Raymarine Autopilot and working genset! We are all ready for him to leave also J.
We’ll leave it in your hands to work with Saito-san to make that call. We can only do the best we can to get things working and ready for the passage.

[We are asking him to stay until these last few items are sorted out, though can certainly appreciate his determination to leave!]

Today’s status:

  • Engine is OK for him to leave…not the best but still OK with 3000+ hard hours on it just isn’t as strong as new.
  • Sails and rig are as good as they are going to be
  • Running rigging is OK and he has enough spare line to make up whatever chafes/breaks
  • Bilge systems manual/electric all up and OK
  •  Genset starting very slowly but eventually does but is not producing any AC power. We are waiting for Hal Rainwater to take a look…”Maybe” tomorrow.
  • Complete Raymarine Autopilot, course computer, head and fluxgate are in Raymarine’s repair depot in New Hampshire. Earliest I’d expect it back would be mid next week. Then it need to be reinstalled and calibrated…a 1-day affair from scratch including a sea trial in “calm water” to adjust the fluxgate compass.
  •  I am off for a week cruising starting Wed AM the 26th so won’t be much help after Monday as I too have to ready Swan Song for our trip.

I would suggest the following from this end.

  • Tomorrow AM I will see where Raymarine is with the repair The answer will be what it will be.
  • I’ll see if we can arrange to fuel up on Monday
  • Hopefully I can build a fire under Hal to get him aboard to see what’s up with the genset
  • Saturday a good tidy up and make finally preparations for Saito-san's departure whenever it is but sooner rather than later.
  • On Monday PM I’ll sign-off from the boat but am worried about him getting out of the harbor by himself when he leaves…perhaps other Team Hawaii folks can give him a hand. He also needs to clears Customs before he departs!

Saito said today “no problem with just the B & G autopilot. He’ll hand steer for 20 days to an island where you are meeting him”. I couldn’t quite understand this but some place 3 days short of Yokohama he said.

[The plan is for members of Saito 8 Support Committee to meet him in Ogasawara, the first of the Izu Islands chain approximately three days south of Yokohama.]

Hopefully Raymarine and Hal will come thru tomorrow with some positive responses and help.

Put some white paint over the primed rust this afternoon and Nicole BMW looks much better

-- Dave