Day 1030 [July 29/11 JST] – Typhoon 3, 4 …and 5?

Today's Report
July 29/11 0800 JST 

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

As Saito-san awaits further repairs in Ogasawara, Mother Nature is reminding him of why he should stay right where he is until he has a working engine, and as it is becoming apparent, a reliable propulsion system.

We've been watching the advance of a tropical depression that formed soon after he returned to port. As of two days ago it had turned into a Category 1 typhoon ("Category 5" being the worst) and was projected to hit Chichijima squarely in 4 or 5 days carrying 60-kt winds.

Hand marks Chichijima in this earlier projection of typhoon No. 10's route

 This morning, though, ClearPoint indicated it was likely to largely miss the island to the west. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it has now been joined by the season's 11th typhoon, and to their east, still another typhoon is apparently brewing.

New projection shows 3 storms 4 days from today. Cross marks Chichijima.

So that's four (or five) typhoons Saito-san will have dodged in the short three weeks he's been in port on Chichijima. (That does not include several other typhoons that formed well to the west toward the Philippines and never became a risk to him.) All told there have been 11 typhoons this season plus that newly forming one. 

Since the current typhoon season is less than half over, this may be shaping up to be a record year for the North Pacific. In comparison, in 2009 there were 13 official typhoons (and 2 unofficial), while in 2010 there were just 7 official typhoons (and 1 unofficial).

Fortunately, if the projections are correct for these three storms they will all narrowly miss Chichijima.

Meanwhile, the mechanic, Mr. Tamura, has been back on board and reports that there is evidence of the possibility that the clutch in NBSDIII's propulsion system may have burned out, citing melted and scorched parts.

If so, either a rebuilt or new gearbox may need to be shipped in. Saito 8 safety officer Mike Seymour is assisting, along with Dave Cooper of Team Hawaii, in long-range troubleshooting and parts logistics. Mike has been in touch with Whiting Power, the Auckland NZ company that installed the engine and gearbox. Mike reports that Whiting's engineers have been cooperative, for which we thank them.

All of this – serial typhoons, ailing engine, and now a questionable propulsion system – suggest it will be several more weeks before Saito-san will be able to get under way again.

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

Day 1025 [July 24/11 JST] – The Reason for Sea Trials

Today's Report
July 24/11 0800 JST 

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

Whatever was ailing the engine two weeks out of Hawaii returned yesterday as Saito-san turned into the wind while motoring from the harbor in Ogasawara. Facing moderately strong headwinds he suddenly found he had no engine power and was forced to abandon his attempt to leave.

Back at the pier with the quick assistance of the locally based Coast Guard, a mechanic assessed the problem as involving the "clutch" that becomes engaged as engine rpms are increased. This is something not easily determined at the dock, so what seemed to be a working engine – one that had been tested at various times over the past week – turned out not to be. 

Lesson learned (again) that the only true test of a boat's operability is a sea trial, and that will certainly be done before he leaves again.

NBSDIII as Saito-san was leaving Ogasawara yesterday about noon. 
(Photo supplied by Nobutoshi Kasai, a friend of David Devlin, Saito 8 committee member)

Meanwhile, the weather prospects are not good for 500 nm with no engine backup.

Here's how it looks on ClearPoint.

This morning: 
Lots of dead air, resembling the doldrums he encountered not far from Hawaii as Typhoon Ma-On leaves a swath of white area in her path as shown in the CP image.

Pale areas indicate wind strengths from 0 to 4 kts. Tropical storm Ma-On is in upper right.

In 16 hours: 
A warm front will cross north of Chichijima, bringing with it severe local turbulence and a squall line of thunderstorms.

Warm front crossing tomorrow

In 3-4 days: 
The possibility of another typhoon, as shown on the 4-day projection as 2 tight cyclonic lows moving to the NNW. (The one most likely to catch Saito-san out is the one on the right, as it grows in size and intensity.) Winds currently are expected to be near 50 kts at their centers, which respectively show atmospheric pressures of 984 and 992 mb. This was how Ma-On started out 11 days ago, as 2 cyclonic lows, and from the same general vicinity.

Not yet typhoons, as shown in this 4-day projection, these
2 tropical lows could spell trouble [click to enlarge]

Last night Saito-san was decidedly not happy with the prospect of staying in Ogasawara even a day longer, but prudence calls for him to wait until he has a reliably working engine before he sets out in the middle of the North Pacific typhoon season. A lot can happen in 500 nm of ship traffic and potentially severe weather.

Sailboat or not, there are times when a timely assist by the "iron jib" could mean the difference between a close call and disaster.