Day 1065 [Sep. 2/11 JST] – Typhoon Talas Update – Day 7 and Gone

 Today's Report
Sep. 2/11 JST 

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

NBSDIII was back at the jetty by 1500 today, motored there by Saito-san and assisted at the tie-up by several people from the Ogasawara Fishing Association. The skipper said he was ready for a good meal and a hot bath, not necessarily in that order, after a full week doing typhoon duty aboard his yacht.

Other than a little damage to the top of the mainsail, which he expected to fix tomorrow, he said NBSDIII appears to have come through Typhoon Talas virtually unscathed. In fact, the earlier motor repairs were given a bit of a test both going to, and returning from, the big ship mooring several hundred meters out into the harbor.

He said that other than a bit of smoke -- "it was not so much" -- the motor and newly installed replacement gearbox worked with no problems.

He said that following more trials after the waves reduce he will begin preparations for departure from Ogasawara, which he expected to occur either Monday or Tuesday. He expects to proceed to Hachijojima, an island 360 nm closer to Yokohama.

As of this morning the waves outside the harbor were 5 meters as shown on ClearPoint, reducing to 3.7-4.0 meters tomorrow as the effects of Talas begin to dissipate. By Monday sea conditions should return to normal where he is, and after a few more days ease as well along his route to Hachijojima. 

No other threatening weather is shown for at least the next 5 to 7 days on ClearPoint.

Day 1064 [Sep. 1/11 JST] – Typhoon Talas Update – Day 6

Today's Report
Sep. 1/11 JST 

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

It's 8 pm. Then 8:04.

At 8:30, a half-hour later than his usual evening check-in time during Talas, we called the Coast Guard station at Ogasawara to find out whether they had any news on Saito-san. "He's never this late, rarely misses his call time more than a minute or two, so we're a bit concerned," we explained to the duty officer.

He seems OK, we were told. Anyway, they could just barely see the boat far out in the roiling darkness of the harbor. She looked unchanged as best they could tell, still at the big ship mooring at the close of the 5th day riding out Typhoon Talas.

11:30 pm came and bed called, but still not Saito-san.

We knew he was OK, despite the typhoon that was supposed to become a Category 3 but instead had meekly morphed back into a tropical storm, playing for a while as a mildly dangerous Category 1 with winds predicted to climb over 60 knots and gusts into the 70s.  Instead, Talas was easing by Chichijima at a very slow 6 knots, with sustained winds rarely hitting 40 knots. And while wind-waves were 1½ to 2 meters in the harbor, they were nothing the size they might have been had Talas reached her full potential.

Saito-san had made a judgment call, that the typhoon might potentially destroy NBSDIII, but not if he were on board tending her lines and fittings, tightening the running rigging, pumping out the bilge, and making sure that a human would be ready to come to her aid if the threat ever came close to being overwhelming.

Yet this wasn't just a typhoon and a very tired boat that's done a "wrong-way" circumnavigation these past three long years. This was also about a fearless man in a 77-year-old body with a heart condition, a newly surgically repaired knee, a scar from emergency abdominal surgery, and both wrists and an arm sprained and bloodied, in far less exhausting conditions. All on this one trip alone.

Meanwhile, the northern edge of Talas had already reached Tokyo and we could see the gray beginnings of what Saito-san had so far weathered on his boat alone, while on shore, as we heard yesterday from the Coast Guard, a good many island people have been anxiously watching to see if the battered yacht and her captain would be able to last still another day of what's become a very, very long storm. Talas is expected to be gone in 2 more days which is 3 more than had been expected.

We slept fitfully, waking at dawn and again calling the Coast Guard.

No, they said, still no word, "but we can see his boat and it looks fine." A few minutes the officer called back and informed us that a watchman on the big inter-island cruise ship that is also waiting out the storm reported seeing Saito-san puttering about the deck of NBSDIII. "He looks ginky," we were told. In good health and happy.


It's exactly 8 am, and our phone's ringtone announces he's on the other end.

"Good morning, Saito-san! Is everything OK? What happened? Why didn't you call last night?"

A moment's pause, and his voice comes through, uncharacteristically sheepish.

"Oh, uh, sorry … I forgot."

Typhoon-cum-tropical-storm Talas at 0800 this morning

Day 1063 [Aug. 31/11 JST] – Typhoon Talas Update – Day 5

 Today's Report
Aug. 31/11 JST 

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

Other than the passage of another tiring, bouncy day, nothing of much note to report onboard NBSDIII as Saito-san entered Day 5 of his solo Typhoon Talas soujourne. That's the good news. Happily, there continues to be no bad.

The second bit of welcome news is that Talas continues to moderate and by 1700 this afternoon had still not passed Chichijima, while maintaining sustained winds at under 36 kts. 

At mid-afternoon ClearPoint showed the center of the eye to be 275 nm due west of the harbor and continuing to move sharply away to the west. Moreover, from the trend of the last 48 hours it looks like Talas may even lose her official status as a typhoon and become a tropical storm. It will still be immense, just not as powerful as originally forecast.

Talas as of 1700 today
If projections hold, Saito-san will be enjoying clear skies in 2 days. By then much of central and northern Japan will be suffering through what is forecast to be a solid week of heavy rain. Tokyo is already muggily overcast.

Since Talas will still be directly in his path he will have to delay departure a few days until the heavy weather has largely cleared to the north up to at least the island of Hachijojima.

Saito-san reported that his morning close visual inspection showed no cracks in the standing rigging, but that several stanchion post bolts of the aft liferail had failed due, he said, to corrosion and movement. He confirmed he was able to replace the damaged bolts and does not consider it a problem. He said the mooring lines were all ok.

Projected course of Talas from the US Navy (click to enlarge)

Day 1062 [Aug. 30/11 JST] – Typhoon Talas Update – Day 4

Today's Report
Aug. 30/11 JST 

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

Last night was the hardest yet in terms of sustained wind yet Saito-san sounded surprisingly upbeat this morning as he entered the 4th day of his solitary storm watch. The 80nm-wide eye of Talas had moved to within 119 nm SSW of his position as of 0800, and, while slowing, should pass during the next 48 hours. The storm will begin to gradually taper off at his location after tomorrow and should be completely north in 3 or 4 days.

He reported sustained winds in the high 30s with occasional gusts hitting 45 knots on NBSDIII's wind gauge.

The rain band that was strongly pummeling NBSDIII yesterday morning has passed, leaving Saito-san decidedly more cheery this morning, especially after he learned that winds were expected to be less than had been previously forecast for today. Where before we were seeing winds in the low 50s forecast for his position, our ClearPoint weather program is now showing 10 to 15 knots less sustained winds over the next 24 hours.

Saito-san reported that his regular early-morning close visual inspection of the standing rigging showed no sign of wear or cracks along the lower attachment points. He said he cannot know what's happening overhead at the mast connections, but believes them to be ok. He said the mooring lines all looked fine as well.

Talas's eye 119 nm SSW of Chichijima at 0800 today

To understand the sheer immensity of Talas in length and breadth, consider this:

The eye, when it passes west of Saito-san's position beginning tomorrow, will be 500 nm south of Yokohama.  At the same time, the first winds along its northern-most edge will start to be felt in Yokohama and Tokyo.

Our own measurements show Talas to be 1,200 nm from top to bottom and about 1,100 nm from west to east, giving it roughly the shape of an upside-down egg. That's 1.2 million sq. nm (up from the 800,000 sq. nm we measured on Sunday).

That means Talas is three times the size of Texas, give or take Delaware.

Hand points at Tokyo 500 nm to the north in this 37-hour projection

Day 1061 [Aug. 29/11 JST] – Typhoon Talas Update – Day 3

Today's Report
Aug. 29/11 JST 

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

Saito-san, now into his third day as he awaits the snail-slow approach of Talas, is so used to complaining about the wind that he started yesterday evening's call this way:

"It's no good."

"What?" we asked, suddenly all ears. "What?!"

"The wind. The wind. It's only 9 knots."


What he was feeling was something we had noticed on ClearPoint earlier -- a sharp contraction in the otherwise nearly spherical shape of Talas, showing the green and yellow of relatively lighter breezes where before had been the coppers and purples of storm-force winds. Meanwhile Talas, while excruciatingly slow-moving, had altered course slightly westward and put him closer to the eastern edge of the vortex. Thus he was feeling a slow-down in the wind. But just temporarily.

Center of Talas was 202 nm distant as of 0800 this morning, and edging westward. Green patch near upper right quadrant is reduced-wind area. Arrow points at Chichijima. 

In fact, the wind dropped off so much that he had to cut the call short when the boat and mooring buoy briefly touched – a consequence of the heavy lines and the lack of sufficient wind to keep the two apart.

This morning, he was still complaining a bit, this time about the rain that had turned heavy during the night. "There's no problem [about the mooring] -- but it's really raining right now," he said, adding that the wind had indeed picked back up again. At the time of the call it was back up to about 30 knots.

The Coast Guard acknowledged he had called them this morning, at our request, and had told them everything was fine with NBSDIII, now 3 days into a storm that's expected to last 5.

So the wait continues. In the last 2 days the center of Talas had moved only about 20 miles closer. It should pass Saito-san's position, and at about the same time peak for him, in another 37-48 hours when sustained winds are expected to hit 55 knots.


As we have watched the approach of Talas we couldn't help but wonder how it compared to Hurricane Irene, the lady who has been scaring the bejesus out of the residents of the East Coast.

When Irene finally hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Friday, the storm had dropped from a Category 3 to a 2, then by Saturday to a 1. This morning New Yorkers were relieved to find just a tropical depression, rather than the "monster" storm that was widely predicted, leading to what has been called the greatest evacuation in American history.

So we became curious about the differences between the two storms.

The rating scales used for Atlantic hurricanes and northwest Pacific typhoons are rather different. Still, it is possible to make certain comparisons of magnitude as seen on ClearPoint Weather.

As of Sunday 1600 JST:

Hurricane Irene

Typhoon Talas
1 on U.S. scale
1 on Japan scale
Max est. sustained wind
73 kts
65 kts
Size horizontally
543 nm
1051 nm
Size vertically
835 nm
765 nm
Total area (approx.)
450,000 sq. nm
800,000 sq. nm

If anything, they are roughly the same, with Talas covering a wider area. So you can't help but ask:

What is it about the two countries in which the way the Japanese prepare for a Category 1 or 2 typhoon is to bring in the laundry from the balcony and take an umbrella to work, while in the U.S. they order mandatory evacuations, deploy the police to patrol neighborhoods, and advise 65 million people to stock up on food for "three days but five would be even better." Oh, and don't forget to board up ALL your windows so your roof doesn't blow off.

The short answer, of course, is Katrina.

The longer answer, going back decades, is the massive Japanese investment in infrastructure; more compact urban areas; greater experience with typhoons and other natural calamities; a sophisticated public address warning system tested loudly and daily; less crime when disaster strikes; massive seawalls and a networked canal system with drop-down barriers to block the rise of seawater; and a cooperative populace well-schooled about what to do. The list of what Japan has done right goes on. Even the trees are made to cooperate through regular pruning and removal by municipal workers.

In other words, prevention rather than panicked response.

To get back to Saito-san as he awaits Typhoon Talas on a storm mooring in a harbor on the tiny island of Chichijima, he can be seen to symbolize a certain aspect of the Japanese attitude toward nature. Love it, respect it, but be ready for the worst.

In his case, it means putting on a couple of extra mooring lines and constant vigilance. And for us landlubbers to his north, it will mean carrying an umbrella to work in roughly 10 days.

Day 1060 [Aug. 28/11 JST] – Typhoon Talas Update – Day 2

 Today's Report
Aug. 28/11 JST 

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

NBSDIII, tied to a mooring buoy by 4 lines (not the 3 we mentioned yesterday), spent an uneventful night as Typhoon Talas slowed to near-stationary speed and was expected to remain a Category 1 typhoon as it slowly passes Chichijima in 2 or 3 days.

Yesterday's projections indicated it would grow to the next category in the scale of 1-5 about the time it reaches Saito-san's position. That it will not is of course welcome news as we wait out the next few days.

Saito-san sounded rested and at ease during the call this morning, confirming that his boat was doing very well in the current conditions. He said that he thought the winds had reduced (which we could confirm, at a lower 27-30 kts) and that the waves are about "1½ to 2 meters, so not so bad," he reported. He said there were no swells coming in from the ocean.

We relayed the boat's status to the Coast Guard, where the officer on duty said his own visual inspection from shore showed her to be resting easily at the mooring. He thanked us for calling, since "it's best if we can hear from on-board as well" and asked that we continue to relay the information as we receive it from Saito-san.

We got some clarification on his mooring lines. Saito-san said he has three 2-inch lines and a fourth 1-inch line that so far show no signs of wear after more than a day of 30 kt-plus winds.

"I'm on a big ship mooring buoy and on the next one over is the Hahajima Maru," which he identified as a large inter-island cruise ship. He said there are three large mooring buoys in a line, outside the fishing harbor but inside the port, with both the leeward and the windward shores about 200 meters away. That gives plenty of room for NBSDIII to turn as the wind direction changes.

Even though Talas appears to have moderated somewhat, the Japan Meteorological Agency warns that winds near the center of the typhoon still have a 70% probability of reaching 65 knots (down from the 75 knots in the projection given yesterday). We told Saito-san that he can expect winds to slow a bit today, then strengthen in 2 days to 55 or 60 knots as the eye passes through. The center is currently 220 nm to his south-southwest.

Talas at 0800 this morning, 220 nm from Chichijima
At least at the moment he has no complaints and, if anything, seems to be rather enjoying this newest in a long and continuing list of reminders from Mother Nature that even when you're near finished, the circumnavigation really isn't over until you're back tied to the dock in your home port.