Day 968 [May 28/11 JST] -- 'Stuck on the Ocean?" Not Saito-san!

Today's Report
May 28/11 0800 JST 

Position:  19°40'N, 164°05'W
Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  11.3%

Other than a momentary pause to sort through an engine fuel-flow issue, Saito-san & NBSDIII saw another good day of motoring before a gradually weakening tail wind. The DOG was 165 nm as he moved 136 nm closer to the mid-ocean waypoint (in 1,187 nm) where he plans to turn up north toward Yokohama.

With some advice from Dave and Tokyo, Saito-san tracked down the problem and got started back up again, losing about an hour's steaming time. We all also now have a better understanding of the fuel "burn rate" at constant, higher rpms and Saito-san has eased back a bit to reduce fuel use.

The reduced boat speed is just 1 kt less at the easier 6.8 kts, so daily distances can be expected to fall by about 25 nm. (Less than that, actually. At noon's beacon position we saw that he had averaged 7.2 kts since 0800 this morning.)

All this should become moot when he turns north and can use the sails without damaging them or the rigging.

Conditions stayed fair during the period, with slightly higher sea swells at almost 3 meters, and gradually reducing winds.

Distance in last 24 hours: 165 nm over ground / 136 nm DMG
Total distance completed: 24,564 nm

To Yokohama: 3,136 nm

To Mid WP: 1,187 nm (turn to north after avoiding tsunami debris field)
Heading: 270°
Reported boat speed: 6.5 - 6.8 kts
Average boat speed: 6.9 kts
Average daily DMG over last 2 days: 180 nm 
Weather: Partly cloudy, warm
Temperature: 25.5° C
Barometer: 1018 hPa 
Wind (from): 14-15 kts ENE, expected to be 15-17 kts E over next 19 hrs
Waves: 2.5-3.0 m
Sails: Genoa 0%, staysail 0%, mainsail down

We enjoyed seeing this last-minute interview with Saito-san that was conducted by the Honolulu ABC affiliate TV station, KHON-ABC Ch. 2. Click to view it here.

The trials & tribulations Saito-san has experienced on the circumnavigation were a bit pumped up for the viewing audience, of course, but they even missed some of the other amazing drama as we know it. No complaints, as we all love a good story, and there is more than enough adventure in this three-year epic story.

One thing, though: He'd never complain about being "stuck in the ocean." The subtitle technician thought he said that, when the skipper was actually saying "Southern Ocean. You know, Southern Ocean." Watch and you'll understand what we mean.

The only grousing you'll ever hear Saito-san make is being stuck on the land!

[Click to enlarge]

Day 967 [May 27/11 JST] -- All's Well -- Thanks to Team Hawaii!

Today's Report
May 27/11 0800 JST 

Position:  20°10'N, 161°16'W
Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  11.9%

Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III's first day out from Hawaii was picture perfect, as Saito-san motored throughout the day and night to nurse the rigging and mast before the strong, constant tradewinds from the east.

During the period that started 26 hours ago at 0600 Japan time (JST), he gained 199 nm toward his Yokohama destination. He has barely 12% still to go in the 27,700 nm circumnavigation.

The Small Craft Advisory was lifted for the Hawaii Islands during the day, but Saito-san had already cleared the affected area that was seeing 25 – 33 kt winds. Over the next few days the winds at his position will moderate, dropping from the present 18-19 knots to 16-17 kts.

Until he is able to achieve a boat heading that puts the wind more to his starboard side, he will continue to keep the sails dowsed to avoid the erratic, difficult-to-control movement of the main boom and genoa caused by dead-astern winds. (In his previous attempt to leave Hawaii a year ago the rigging began to fail and dangerous cracks were later found in the mast. They have since been fixed.)

Skies are partly cloudy with scattered showers. Sea swells are moderate at 2-2.5 meters.

He expects to continue under engine power until he reaches a mid-ocean point in about 1,300 nm, after which he plans to turn in a more northerly direction toward Japan. This turn takes into account the massive floating debris field of destroyed buildings, homes, and boats from the March 11 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami as it moves in a broad arc to the west and north of Japan on the Black Current. The amassed debris will likely enter the Hawaiian Island waters some time next year as it follows an enormous circle through the Pacific Ocean.  Presently it is thought to pose no risk on the route he plans to follow.

[Click to enlarge] 

These images of the departure were snapped by Ed Abbot. [Click to enlarge]

Distance in last 26 hours: 199 nm over ground
Total distance completed: 24,399 nm
To Yokohama: 3,401 nm
To Mid WP: 1,323 nm (turn to north after avoiding tsunami debris field)
Heading: 240°
Reported boat speed: 7.5 kts
Average boat speed: 7.7 kts
Average daily DMG over last 1 day: 199 nm 
Weather: Partly cloudy, scattered showers, warm
Temperature: 25.5° C
Barometer: 1018 hPa 
Wind (from): 12-18 kts E and ENE, expected to be 16-17 kts E over next 25 hrs
Waves: 2.0-2.5 m
Sails: Genoa 0%, staysail 0%, mainsail down
About Our Wonderful Friends in Team Hawaii
Throughout, Team Hawaii has been fantastic to Saito-san, and that continued right up to the moment of departure (and after). At every point, in every aspect, there has been one display of selfless help after another from people who, like many others all along the route, have been drawn either to the man and the historic challenge of this 8th solo circumnavigation, or both.

Here are the members of Team Hawaii and the nature of the assistance they provided, all on a volunteer basis, and at their own personal expense.

Pictures supplied by Ed Abbot from the departure dinner two nights ago.

Left to Right for Team Hawaii is Glen Pang, Scott Gilbert, Bill Beadle, Saito-san, Dave Cooper and Ed Abbot. (Unfortunately, missing is Derek.)

For the "other side" is Naomi Wasano, Mrs. Les Vasconcellos, Saito-san, Nancy Terrell, Kimmy Apo, and Barbara Dove.

At the risk of leaving out much information, here is a snapshot of the help they provided over the past year.

Dave Cooper
The list is long and seemed never-ending: Rescue towing, rigging and mast repairs, major engine & electrical work, cleaning, maintenance, painting, bilge and emergency pump repair, sea trials, troubleshooting, and repair or replacement of parts, spares, and equipment. 
Also, regular detailed updates and accounting to Saito 8 in Tokyo so we could get more than the occasional "It's bad!" reports from Saito-san.

Judging from their comments there was a lot of shared admiration and friendship between the two veteran sailors.

All costs were carried by Dave until recent reimbursement totaling nearly $12,000 in parts and materials, at cost and usually at a special discount. Dave also arranged major discounts, the donation of a $5,000 Harken roller furler system from the manufacturer ("the president is an old friend," he informed us), and helped coordinate other members of Team Hawaii as well as recruited several helpful members. Oh, and in the end, he conservatively calculated 425 hours of labor, all expertly done, worth at least $21,000 -- all donated.

(Not least, we express again our deep gratitude to Dave's wife, Nancy Terrell, for releasing him as often as she did from his self-described "Honey Do" list on their own beautiful motor-trawler Swan Song. Nancy is an experienced bluewater cruiser herself, and something we personally find fascinating was that she, in a former land-bound existence, was "Miss Nancy" of Romper Room, a popular ABC-TV program in the US.)

Scott Gilbert
Scott was our first contact after we determined that Saito-san would reluctantly make a "brief" repair stopover in Honolulu. Previously we had gotten to know Scott, a sailboat owner, during the purchase of the vessel and original prep before Saito-san left for New Zealand in 2008. When we contacted him this time, Scott began seeking the help of others in local cruising groups, and Ed Abbot and Dave were the first to respond. Scott, as an RN surgical nurse, has been invaluable in helping Saito-san attend to various medical issues, including replacement of a lost upper dental bridge, doctor visits for recurring bouts of colds and bronchitis, followed later by orthopedic surgery on his knee after a disabilitating injury (below), and visits to the rehab clinic. Scott has also acted as a booster of the skipper's sometimes flagging spirits, and Scott and his wife have treated Saito-san to several home-cooked meals. Along with Dave he also kept us up to date with encouraging progress reports. As well, he could be counted on to spend a lot of sore-muscles time wrangling sails off and on the boat as well as cranking Dave or Saito-san high up the mast. 
Scott also footed some of Saito-san's clinic bills along the way and we can't get him to say how much... Scott?

Ed Abbot
Ed was also acquainted with Saito-san, as a live-aboard sailor in the marina they shared for a time as the boat was being prepared in 2008. Ed works as chief engineer at a geospace operation in Honolulu, and often devoted weekends to helping Saito-san. He's also been our main go-between for sending heart pills, delivery parcels, and reminders to Saito-san to buy more time on his rental cell phone. Ed was a hero, we (and others) thought when he joined Dave on an overnight tow to muscle NBSDIII the last 50 miles through strong opposing winds and heavy seas. Without their help it was later determined that NBSDIII's badly cracked mast had, at most, only a few hours left in an upright position. After the March 11 tsunami, Ed had to chase his boat (and home) as it was sucked out into the bay with a number of other vessels, still attached to its floating finger pier!

Naomi Wasano
Naomi was getting close to finishing her second tour of duty as the Commander of the Honolulu Sail & Power Squadron when she found herself caught up in the "challenge." This was about the time a motorist turned into Saito-san as he was waiting at a pedestrian crosswalk, and Naomi became one of the crew tasked with getting Saito-san to doctor's appointments, then later the surgical hospital and rehabilitation therapy for badly ripped tendons in his knee. She's also helped introduce Saito-san to the local boating community, and arranged get-togethers, including for his 77th birthday celebration.

Kimmy Apo
Kimmy came on board soon after Saito-san made his second Hawaiian landfall, and with prepared dishes and her beautiful smile kept al least some of the gloom away. A friend of Ed's, she helped as well in getting Saito-san to clinic visits and was the person who recommended Derek Nakamura, who has one of the more  specialized jobs of Team Hawaii.

Derek Nakamura
A third(?)-generation Japanese-American, Derek is a well-respected lawyer and insurance litigator who began assisting Saito-san on a pro bono (later contingent) basis in negotiations with the insurance company of the motorist whose vehicle sent Saito-san to the emergency room. More details will come out later we assume, but for the moment Saito-san faces hefty medical bills from an accident the Honolulu police attributed 100% to the motorist. (The insurance company does not disagree.) Saito-san still walks with a limp and occasional brace, as well as a heightened understanding of the hazards of pedestrian walkways and late-afternoon Honolulu traffic.
Derek also invited Saito-san to his home to wait out the tsunami waves on March 12, as they wondered whether Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III would still be there in the morning. With no working engine, she could not join other vessels that were leaving for sea to escape the worst of the approaching waves. She was fine, though a number of vessels in adjacent marinas were damaged -- including Ed's.

Other members of Team Hawaii
We have caught the names of several others who have helped in big or small ways, so hope to be able to expand this list if one of the Team will kindly send us that information.

So that's the "short" version of the fantastic assistance Saito-san received from his friends in Hawaii. No wonder, as Dave said yesterday, that he was "a bit misty-eyed" as he made his farewells.

We are still beholding to the also crucial support Saito-san received in Punta Arenas in 2009 from "Team Chile," comprised of Rose Bliss, her husband Pablo, and Hitoshi Hanaoka. Together they kept the skipper warm, safe, and -- finally! --able to leave the frosty environs of Cape Horn -- but not until after nearly 9 months and three hard-fought tries.

Day 966 [May 26/11 JST] -- Saito-san bids Hawaii goodbye, leaves before noon today

 May 26/11 0600 JST (May 25/11 1100 HST)

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

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

Following dockside interviews by Hawaii's two main TV stations, with handshakes and hugs all around to Team Hawaii and well-wishers, Saito-san slipped the lines of Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III at 11 am to begin the final leg of his epic circumnavigation, now in its 966th day.

Weather was clear but a large high pressure system to the north prompted a Small Craft Advisory for the area, with winds between 25 to 33 kts from the ENE and gusting higher. It was expected that since Saito-san will be sailing in the lee of the island as he heads NNW, he should instead see tradewinds in the mid to high teens, reducing in the next few days.

We received this email from Dave Cooper who delayed his own plan for a week's cruise and could be on hand for Saito-san's departure.

Aloha, with a bit of fanfare Saito-san and Nicole BMW sailed out of Kewalo Basin at ~1100 today. Just shy of his first arrival here 1 year ago!

We had KHON & KITV on hand to record the event and a last minute interview of Saito-san. He was in top spirits and a bit misty eyed as we all shook hand and hugged. He has been an inspiration to all and a good friend during his unexpected long stay here.

We wish him well and turn his tracking over to Team Japan

Winds here today are hovering around 20 and the seas offshore are 8-10’. It will be a day before he clears the lee of the Hawaii Islands but the winds are expected to drop down to the high teens. So he should make good time for the next week or two.

Again thanks to all the Team Hawaii folks and to his friends who gather for the sendoff with cookies, leis, and other sundry gifts.


PS: Nicole BMW demonstrated that she was reluctant to leave as she would start this AM. I planned to move her to a dock that would be easier with the wind for Saito-san to depart from. A quick dive into the engine room to diagnose the problem. The transmission neutral switch in the transmission is intermittent and needs to have the transmission lever jiggled in order for the Yanmar to start. Saito-san was shown and briefed on what he needs to do if it doesn’t start so I don’t expect that it will be an issue for him. However it does point out that no matter how much is fixed there’s always one more place to act up.

Our huge thanks again to Dave and all members of Team Hawaii. We plan to review their prodigious, amazingly selfless efforts over the past year in a follow-up post. For now, our congratulations to the indomitable Minoru Saito as he sets out once again on his historic voyage, one year older at age 77!

Day 964 [May 25/11 JST] -- Saito-san clears customs and readies to leave tomorrow

May 25/11 JST

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

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

With boat repairs completed and checked out on Monday's sea trial, Minoru Saito has received clearance to leave from the U.S. Coast Guard and will depart tomorrow. A farewell party will be hosted tonight by members of Team Hawaii.

The following news release is being sent to media in Japan and Hawaii.   

News Release
May 25, 2011
Saito Challenge 8 (Tokyo & Honolulu)
Contact: Hunter Brumfield
Phone: (+81 3) 3626-3539
Mobile: (+81) 90 52 13 49 67

Japanese yachtsman, 77, ready for 'final' departure on his 33-month epic circumnavigation

HONOLULU, HAWAII – Guinness Book world record holder Minoru Saito, 77, was set to leave port Thursday [May 26] after what turned into an 11-month repair stopover in Hawaii. He hopes to finish the remaining 3,700 miles of his solo circumnavigation to Yokohama in his 56-foot steel-hulled sailboat, Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III, within 5 weeks.

He has sailed more than 27,000 nautical miles since leaving Yokohama in October, 2008. His boat was disabled in two separate attempts to round stormy Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. He succeeded on the third try.

His attempt to depart Hawaii last July resulted in an abrupt thousand-mile U-turn that ended with an overnight emergency tow as his weary vessel literally started falling apart around him. Rigging, mast, engine, sail, and electrical troubles have been corrected in the months since through the volunteer labor of fellow boaters in Honolulu and continuing support of voyage sponsors and private donors, supplemented by Saito's retirement savings. 

The solo yachtsman departed Chile in February, 2010, following a 9-month interruption to attend to repairs and wait out the harsh winter in a small fishing harbor in Punta Arenas, the world’s southern-most city. Twenty-three days later the fourth-most powerful earthquake in history, measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, struck barely 200 miles from the small coastal port where Saito had stopped to fix the boat’s battery charging system.

This time, the even-stronger 9.0 magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11 sent tsunami waves swirling into marinas of Honolulu, including Saito's. Extensive damage was reported in neighboring marinas as a number of vessels, in some cases still attached to their floating finger piers, were sucked out to sea. No fatalities occurred, although damages were estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

Saito’s shore crew of volunteers in Hawaii reports that he is in good spirits and anxious to leave despite the extended voyage that will fall just short of three years in duration when he arrives in Yokohama in July. The circumnavigation had initially been expected to take about 9 months.

The physical toll of the voyage has been hard on the skipper: He underwent emergency abdominal surgery in Punta Arenas, received a 6-inch gash on his right forearm from a falling hatch, and suffered the frigid Chilean winter living aboard a boat for 9 months with no internal heating and no running water, and subject to constant bashing by other vessels in a crowded fishing harbor. In October in Honolulu, he was struck by an errant motorist as he used a pedestrian crosswalk, causing a knee injury that required surgery and the use of an orthopedic knee brace. Police judged the motorist at fault.

Saito will be 77 and 7 months old when he returns in July, completing an epic 27,000-mile voyage that promises to secure his standing as the world’s oldest and most-accomplished single-handed circumnavigator. He’ll be able to claim circumnavigation records for most (8), oldest (77), and oldest to complete a westward “contrary” route. He already holds the Guinness Book world record as the oldest sailor at age 71 to complete a non-stop, unassisted solo rounding of the globe.

Daily updates at

Day 963 [May 23/11 JST] -- More Good Progress on Repairs

May 23/11 JST

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

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

News stays good from Dave Cooper and Team Hawaii, as Saito-san sets his departure date for this coming Saturday. 

Aloha, some good progress and a wee bit of luck today.

-       Genset is back working. There was a resistor installed in the wiring that I could not figure out but did not want to remove it for fear of blowing up the new voltage regulator. Hal Rainwater came and after checking all my wiring, the new schematic and the stars, decided that someone had added it for some reason, perhaps the old regulator had failed and this external resistor was added to make it work. We do know that the unit has been worked on sometime as the original circuit breaker was changed to a fuse. In any case I removed the resistor and the voltage came up fine.

-       The autopilot is back at the same level as it was when Jerry removed it to send back. We will try to do a calibration on the sea trial on Monday and see if that corrects the wandering compass error.

-       The depth sounder has started giving strange readings and the repeater shows a different depth that the master…virtually impossible as they are on the same SeaTalk bus…but that is what is happening. In opening the panel to see what was back there it was one mess of green corrosion. We cleaned up what we could but one of the wires had broken off from the wind instrument. These are the very tiny crimped terminals that Raymarine uses…hard to find anywhere. However Swan Song had some spares so a quick trip to my boat and that is now back in business. We’ll leave the depth sounder to be dealt with in Japan…not much shallow water between here and there.

-       Mike [Seymour, Saito 8 Safety Officer in Tokyo] asked that the rudder, rams, and rudder feedback units all be checked as these had been problems in the past. All are A-OK and the emergency tiller is now located in the aft head and relatively easy to get to.

A few more items to be done tomorrow [Sunday] and then the sea trial and fueling on Monday.

Saito-san consulted the charts today and thinks that Saturday is the best day to leave. Team Hawaii, I don’t know who will be around to help him off the dock, etc., but can someone step forward? Plus his provisioning run and clearing out?

A long but successful day, for a change ;-)


Day 962 [May 22/11 JST] -- Starting to Move Quickly

May 22/11 JST

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

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

Suddenly things seem to be moving quite fast. We reported yesterday that Team Hawaii was waiting for the diagnosis on the all-important Raymarine autopilot and the aux generator used to supply AC power and charge the ship's batteries.

Today we learned that the autopilot was found by the maker in New Hampshire to be in working order, and had been returned for reinstallation. Now it is believed that an insitu recalibration may be all that is necessary after a careful reinstall by Jerry Zack, the original vendor.

Likewise, the genset, while definitely showing a lot of age, was fixed yesterday by Hal Rainwater, who was the vessel's main mechanic in her previous life as a Honolulu-based dive & commercial sailboat going back several decades. He determined that the voltage regulator was kaput, so he swapped it out for a working one.

So after a sea trial on Monday, a fuel top-up, a final prop cleaning and one-month provisioning, Saito-san looks ready to ask for clearance to depart from the Coast Guard. That may come as early as Wednesday.

More updates to come after the sea trial.