Day 1015 [July 14/11 JST] – 78-kt Winds, 14-m Seas as a Seething King Neptune Passes By

Today's Report
July 14/11 1800 JST 

Position:  27°03'N, 142°11'E (Ogasawara, Chichijima Island, Japan)
Remaining to Yokohama:  502 nm (ETA: July ??)

He's in port. Thank whichever stars or deity you wish. Just don't thank Neptune.

The typhoon we reported 3 days ago was first a smallish one -- then shockingly a second typhoon formed only a few hours behind. They later combined a few hundred miles ESE of Ogasawara and together got big and mean.

Winds hitting high 70s above; waves at 14 meters, below
(shown projected to 2 days from today).

The resulting 1,700 nm-wide cyclonic monster, bearing the South Asian name "Ma-On," is now following a lazy curve to the west and up north to Honshu, the largest island of the Japanese archipelago that includes Yokohama and Tokyo.

Looking at its expanse on ClearPoint, the affected area easily could encompass the entire breadth of Japan, where it is expected to land in 4 or 5 days.

Meanwhile, the location where Saito-san might have been if he'd been a knot or two slower last week is now seeing 78 kt winds and 14 m seas. That's close to double what he experienced during the worst at Cape Horn. Even absent the frigid Antarctic air, this is a speed of wind you cannot both face and breathe. Waves that high can disable and overturn much larger merchant ships not to mention relatively puny 56-foot, single-handed sailboats.

Pardon us for the hyperbole, but it's as if King Neptune, unforgiving and furious, has followed NBSDIII's wake in hope of inflicting one final, lethal blow before Saito-san can make it sound and safe into Yokohama.

Happily for Minoru Saito, and for everyone who has monitored from afar as he has survived one near-disastrous scrape after another, he can sit this one out in Ogasawara as a thoroughly enraged Neptune passes by.

Thanks to the assistance of one of the two (and only) very busy boat mechanics on Chichijima island, NBSDIII now has a working engine – after a fashion. The exhaust hose that disintegrated a week out from Hawaii has been tightly bound, wrapped by layer upon layer of thermally resistant tape. It's enough, it is thought, to maybe get him out the door and up 385 nm to Hachijojima where a new exhaust hose is being flown in by Saito 8 safety officer Mike Seymour.  If he babies the throttle and relies on the sails he should be OK.

There as well is a hope to repair the genset, where the breakdown has been sourced to a cracked pulley that won't adequately grip the alternator drive belt. Fortunately, if the engine holds up, the genset is not essential to the last few days and miles of the voyage. The engine instead can charge the batteries and with that juice he'll have radar and running lights to help him dodge the last hazards of the circumnavigation: the massive ships running in and out of Tokyo Bay.

Thanks to Ma-On backing them up, there promises to be more than the usual ship traffic, plus one phenomenally determined captain and his stalwart vessel.

Our Newest Sponsors

We are delighted to announce that two new supporting sponsors have joined the Saito Challenge 8 Campaign as of yesterday.

We greatly welcome the decision by Ed Rogers, owner and CEO of Rogers Investment Advisors, a Tokyo-based firm, along with a second U.S. financial firm he supports in Japan, Wolver Hill Asset Management, LLC. Both firms are respected players in the investment market in Japan.

In an email to us, Ed wrote the following:

… at its core this is about supporting an amazing human being and an amazing example of human spirit. Given recent events in Japan I think it is also about trying to help Japanese people connect with the strong inner spirit they must have to face all of their recent (over the past 2 decades all the way through to the Tohoku earthquake!) challenges.

We could not agree more. And we feel we can speak for all our sponsors and volunteers that never before has there been a need for someone like Minoru Saito to help reinforce the determination of the Japanese people to "Never Give Up!"

Day 1013 [July 12/11 JST] – Next, A Typhoon

Today's Report
July 12/11 1800 JST 

Position:  27°03'N, 142°11'E (Ogasawara, Chichijima Island, Japan)
Remaining to Yokohama:  502 nm (ETA: ? days)

We're not superstitious. We're not. But no sooner than NBSDIII made an easy arrival in Ogasawara, a little surprise began brewing down south.

When we told Saito-san this morning, he laughed momentarily, but it didn't sound entirely convincing. "What? A typhoon? No!"

"Yes," we said. "It’s passing Ogasawara in two days, and there may be a second one a few days after that."

In the image you can see that the upper right quadrant of the spiraling storm will probably move through Saito-san's position, if ClearPoint's projection holds true. Sustained winds of about 27-30 kts are predicted, with gusts at least another 10 kts over that. Closer to the center ClearPoint is predicting 42-kt winds.

Typhoon No. 8 of the season. Cross marks the port in Ogasawara.
This appears to be a relatively small typhoon, but the upper-right quadrant is where typhoons usually have their strongest punch. This is why sailors – when out to sea – try to move to the lower left quarter of a typhoon in order to escape the worst. We could see a 10-kt difference in this one between the quadrants.

So we are thanking Saito-san's lucky stars (he is superstitious) that he is safely in port as he waits out this blow, rather than out on the ocean with no engine and a badly weathered mainsail.

When Saito-san arrived in Ogasawara, a friend of our friend Ralf Meiranke, of the Japan Blind Sailing Association, happened to be there with a camera. He snapped away.

Ralf forwarded his pictures, below, and wrote the following:

"Kiyotaka Iizuka is currently on holiday in Ogasawara and took some pictures when Saito-san arrived. I am sure you received already plenty of pictures, but just in case...."

Well, we didn't and we do very much appreciate his and Ralf's kind efforts to get them to us. It also answered a question for us, as discussed below.

And about that sail…

The main sail was reduced in size in Hawaii because in its badly weathered condition the first good blow was expected to turn it to shreds. So on the advice of the sail loft it was cut down in such a way that he could put it "all the way up" in the No. 2 reef position – a bit over one-half normal sail size, or eased to the No. 3 reef position, making it about a third normal size.

Despite those major efforts to reduce sail stress, about 3 weeks out from Hawaii on Day 988, a main sail seam did in fact give way. Saito-san announced: "I have a rip in the main sail … not bad – it stopped, I think." So from then on the sail stayed at the third reef point.

Thanks to Iizuka-san, we finally could have a look at the sail. Dave Cooper in Hawaii, on seeing the image, noted dryly that the tear "lets the sky show through."

Here's a blow-up. That tear runs vertically a good 4 feet from one panel seam to the next.

 He's got a patch kit, sail thread and needles, and a nicely steady boat to work on it. Then there's that other rip in the genoa...

Day 1011 [July 10/11 JST] – A Cold Beer, A Hot Bath, and a Good Sleep (We Think…!)

Today's Report
July 10/11 1800 JST 

Position:  27°03'N, 142°11'E (Ogasawara, Chichijima Island, Japan)
Remaining to Yokohama:  502 nm (ETA: ? days)

Apologies for the suspense, but we've been waiting as well to get details from Saito-san. And waiting. Anyway, here it goes.

He called at 1630 yesterday to say that he had just arrived, towed in through arrangement with the Fishermen's Association, who recruited a very helpful fishing boat captain by the name of Takakura-san.

Takakura-san also had called us several times to report on progress before the two boats met near or at the rendezvous coordinates we supplied to him. "Are you sure?" we were asked at one point. Well, yes -- as best you can be estimating two converging (and different) boat speeds, and winds that might change during the next several hours. 

There was never any safety concern as the weather was about as perfect as you can get – moderate winds and a flat sea – but the schedule called for them to be in port by 1600.

So just 30 minutes later for a 1630 arrival in Ogasawara is quite excellent on clocks set by "sailboat time" where minutes can become hours; hours can become days; and days … well, fortunately it never got to that!

Estimated positions throughout the day.
[Click to enlarge]

 Then it was time for the Customs clearance for a vessel that has been through 10 different ports in the past 3 years. 

Last week while Hide Katada was busily gathering the information for this, our phone chimed. "Can you provide the names of the last 10 ports he was in, including both the entry and exit dates?" Hide-san blithely asked us. Fortunately, every mile and day is plotted on Google Earth, so coming up with that information was relatively easy.

But then Saito-san called from the Customs office to ask about the "registration certificate" for the boat.


While the boat IS registered in Hawaii, where we purchased it, there's no official certificate as such, just the silver registration decals Saito-san dutifully affixed. So unless the Japanese Coast Guard -- who have been quite helpful so far -- can accept that, then we have one more bureaucratic hoop to jump through.

Interestingly, the registration issue never came up when Saito-san single-handed NBSDIII from New Zealand, arriving in Yokohama the summer of 2008.

No calls have come from Saito-san since, so will surmise the following, if we may:

1730 hrsHe clears Customs and Quarantine, hastened along by the detailed paperwork already submitted by Hide-san.

1745 hrsHe locates a beer machine and has his first cold beer in 2 weeks.

1750 hrsHe finds the nearest sashimi restaurant.

1900 hrsHe makes his way to the nearest ofuro hot springs bath.

2100 hrsHe is back on NBSDIII, dead to the world.

And snoring blissfully!

Yesterday so much was going on that we passed over another amazing milestone -- the last of the thousand-milers when he cleared 28. To be exact, 28,074 nm as of yesterday's arrival in Ogasawara.

To be even more exact, this calculation begs at least three refinements:

No. 1. These are nautical miles. In terms of street miles (statute), it's actually 32,306 miles or 51,933 kilometers.

No. 2. These are the miles traveled we actually KNOW.

Between the satellite beacon report (every 6 hours) and Saito-san's called-in positions (every 12 hours) there can be frequent tacking and jibing that we can never know about in our Tokyo-based armchair nav station. (Believe us, though, Saito-san knows!)  

Those wind-decided jig-jags in a sailboat are where a considerable difference can sneak in between DMG (distance made good) and DOG (distance over ground). Out of curiosity, we measured the DOG again (covering roughly 5,000 individual plots) and found it to be:

DMG: 28,074 nm     DOG: 31,543 nm

Either way you figure it, that's definitely no walk in the park!

No. 3. We STILL have to add up the three separate attempts to round Cape Horn. We'll save that for another time.

Distance in last 12 hours: 37 nm DOG / 37 nm DMG
Total distance completed: 28,074 nm
To Yokohama: 502 nm (measured)
To Ogasawara: 0 nm (measured)

Average daily DMG over last 4 days of sailing: 34.0 nm (measured) 
ETA, Ogasawara: in port
ETA, Yokohama: ? days

Heading: 330° changing to 040°
Reported boat speed: 3.5 kt
Average boat speed: 3.0 kt
Weather: Broken clouds, warm
Temperature: 28.0° C
Barometer: 1011 hPa 
Wind (from): 7-9 kts E & ESE
Waves: 0.5 m
Sails: Genoa 90%, staysail 0%, mainsail 3pt reef
Engine: 0 hrs
Generator: 0 hrs

[Weather and wind forecasts are from ClearPoint Weather, a Saito 8 Supporting Sponsor.]