Day 1059 [Aug. 27/11 JST] – Typhoon Talas Update – Day 1

Today's Report
Aug. 27/11 JST 

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

Slate-gray skies opened up with torrential rain and booming lightning across Tokyo yesterday, not part of the weather system Saito-san is facing, but giving a sense of foreboding as Talas, still this morning a Category 1 typhoon, closes in on his position.

When he called at 0900 today, he was at a big-ship mooring out into the harbor at Ogasawara. Yesterday afternoon the Coast Guard and several men from the Ogasawara Fishing Association assisted his move from a concrete pier out into a relatively safer area of the harbor where NBSDIII will be free in a bow-mooring to turn and face the wind while it intensifies and changes direction with the typhoon's passage. Sails, he said, have been well lashed down and all lines secured. 

Approximate location where NBSDIII is moored.
He confirmed he is securely tied with three different heavy mooring lines, and feels confident that he will be able to safely ride out the storm over the next several days. Winds are expected to be from the east from 35 to as much as 70 knots. This wind direction appears favorable, with land blocking the worst of it, as well as providing a barrier to sea surge, with the harbor entrance in the opposite direction.

As of this morning, ClearPoint was projecting the eye to pass directly over his position in about 50-55 hours. If that holds true it may spare him from being in the typhoon's upper right quadrant, where the winds, as they move counter-clockwise, are normally the strongest. ClearPoint projects them to be 55-60 knots sustained with the Japan Meteorological Agency indicating max winds of 75 knots at 70% probability.

Location of Typhoon Talas at 0900 this morning

Projected passage of eye in approx. 55 hours; cross is NBSDIII

It certainly could be worse, and IS just 1,000 nm to his southwest. There, a second, compact and slow-moving typhoon named Nanmadol has been officially declared a "super-typhoon." It is the season's 14th typhoon and has been in the area a few days longer than Talas.

Fortunately for Saito-san, Nanmadol is moving NNW away from Chichijima in the general direction of Korea. It carries sustained winds of 70 knots, and may hit 105 knots – in other words, about the same ferocity as Hurricane Irene that this weekend is causing major evacuations along low-lying areas of the US eastern seaboard.

Typhoon Talas (right) and super-typhoon Nanmadol (left) at 0900 this morning

Saito-san will call twice daily during the typhoon, which is expected to take about 5 days to clear the area. He will remain alone on board until then.

Day 1058 [Aug. 26/11 JST] – With the Yin Comes the Yang

Today's Report
Aug. 26/11 JST 

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

As Typhoon 15 looms over the horizon, now a Category 1 storm and gradually building, the great news is that some repair miracles occurred earlier this week.

First the repairs.

Obon, a week-long period in which much of Japan closes down along with local delivery service, delayed the arrival of the 100-kilo air cargo shipment containing the replacement gearbox. It took just 3 days to arrive from Auckland via Hong Kong, then another 10 days or so between Tokyo and Chichijima, thanks to the ferry's twice-weekly schedule, several area typhoons, and Obon.

And then we were faced with sending out a mechanic to the island to do the install. It was looking like that would take at least a week, plus the cost of ferry passage, travel time, and several nights in a local lodging facility along with the mechanic's actual labor charges. It was not going to be cheap. 

But after emailed schematics and some welcome reassurances from Scott, the chief engineer at Whiting Power in Auckland, doubts cleared so Saito-san and Tamura-san, the island's own marine mechanic (one of two there), decided to tackle the install themselves. Back here, we already knew that Tamura-san was a retired fisherman and rather up in age, a fact Saito-san described this way: "I think he's a few years older than I am."


We were therefore delighted and relieved to be told 2 days later that they had winched the heavy load down into the boat ("We used a block and tackle," Saito said, with obvious satisfaction), where they had already dismantled and cleared away the old gearbox. Wrestling it into position, the new gearbox lined up well and the connection was made to the engine coupling and to the propeller shaft. Gearbox oil was added, the engine was started, and tests at the pier were successful as the propeller responded to fore and aft movements of the shift lever.   

In the meantime, the replacement engine exhaust hose arrived on the next ferry, and that went on without a hitch. On Wednesday they took the vessel out in the harbor for a brief trial run. Other than some black smoke, everything performed well.

Of course, everything that goes well with sailing yin seems to have a counter-balancing yang, which is now approaching from the south in the form of Typhoon 15 (No. 12 by the Japanese count) that's been named "Talas." Yesterday a tropical depression, Talas is now a Category 1 that had been on a straight path to you-know-where. Later this afternoon it was projected to veer a bit west, and will turn into a Category 2 about the time it reaches Ogasawara, bringing 30-55 knot winds.

Talas in a 48-hour projection by ClearPoint Weather.
The arrow marks Chichijima.
No one is treating this lightly. Tamura-san visited the Coast Guard station yesterday afternoon to enlist the Coast Guard's help in getting NBSDIII off the concrete pier that would offer little safety with its exposed face to the approaching storm. Winds are known to reach 100 knots inside the harbor, Tamura-san told Saito-san, and if that happens the boat would be battered against the pier. As it now appears, Talas is bringing sustained winds of about half that or less.

This morning we were called by the Coast Guard station's chief officer who said they would help move the boat this afternoon to a big ship mooring buoy out in the harbor. Saito-san would remain on the boat to watch the lines. "He'll be there 5 days or so," we were told, with the peak of the typhoon expected to be in 3 days, on August 29. (The US Navy is saying Aug. 30.) Saito-san has heavy mooring lines and plenty of experience, but virtually anything can happen.

Including, we can hope, the typhoon taking an even greater turn away from its present course to the island.

Told by us what they have planned, Saito-san said he already knew and was ready. "I have plenty of food and water, so I'll be ok," he reassured us.