09 Mar Guam to Japan
Guam to Okinawa, Japan is a “short” 1200nm hop across the Philippine Sea—about six days at Starr speed. Unfortunately, the perfect trade wind conditions we’d enjoyed for most of the trip from Hawaii to Guam wouldn’t continue on this leg. Immediately after leaving the harbor in Guam, we were rolling around in beam seas to 15 feet with 30+ knots of wind on our starboard side. Not the most fun, but we were hoping that by suffering through the first day we’d be rewarded with improving conditions for the next five days to Japan (and no head seas).
Big swells crashing onto shore as we leave Guam
Bumpy ride leaving Guam
The forecast proved fairly accurate. By day two the wind was down to 15-20 knots with just 8-10 foot beam seas. The current varied between favorable and unfavorable and our speed varied between seven and nine knots, but we were much more comfortable.
Much better conditions!
One of the notable weather changes along this route is the temperature, both air and sea. It wasn’t noticeable during the first couple days, but on day three the temperature really started plunging. In just one day, the water temperature dropped by about six degrees. By day four, we could sleep without air conditioning. By day five, we had all the windows and doors closed and considered turning on the heat.
Grey skies, rain, and 65 degrees…this is different!
It wasn’t cold by Seattle or Alaska standards (mid-60s), but apparently we’ve become accustomed to the tropical heat! Looking ahead, we’ll be in Japan during the spring, when temperatures are quite mild—lows in the 50s and 60s, highs in the 70s. It will be nice to give the generators and air conditioners a break, and this weather should be perfect for exploring Japanese towns on foot.
The grey skies didn’t last long
Commercial traffic was heavier on this passage than it was between Hawaii and Guam. Not heavy, mind you, but at least a few boats a day popped up on the radar screen. Most seemed to be oil and cargo ships transiting between Japan and Australia. One of the cool things we discovered during this passage is PredictWind, our weather routing software, provides “satellite AIS” without having to pay yet another company like Marine Traffic. Combined with Starlink internet, this allows us to see ships and their information (name, destination, speed, heading, etc.) from hundreds of miles away instead of 10-30nm away with our boat-based AIS transceiver. The data from ships hundreds of miles away isn’t valuable for collision avoidance, but it’s very helpful in helping to plan sleep during periods of lower traffic.
To help with our Japanese cruising, particularly the bureaucracy of clearing in, we hired Kirk Patterson (https://www.konpira-consulting.com). He advised us to use Yonabaru Marina at the southeastern end of Okinawa, where one of his associates, Akiko, could help us out. When we were 48 hours out, we gave Kirk our ETA. He warned us that the Japanese are punctual, and when we said 1430 on March 7th, that didn’t mean 1400 or 1500. We adjusted the throttle as best we could, but still arrived about 15 minutes early. Good enough for the officials, and there were many officials—probably 20!
Despite the sheer number of officials, the process was reasonably efficient. Everyone was incredibly polite, but few spoke English. They had no qualms about taking their shoes off before boarding the boat, asked permission before taking a picture of anything, and laughed with us when we struggled through bits of paperwork. I think they could tell we were excited to be in their country and eager to follow the rules as best we could. The whole process took about an hour, they never made us leave the boat to visit government offices, no money changed hands, and none of our provisions were seized. Afterwards, we enjoyed a champagne toast with Akiko to celebrate our arrival.
Here are a few statistics of our voyage so far:
4005 gallons of diesel consumed (less than the cost of one business class ticket to Japan)
559.4 hours on main
480.2 genset hours (lots of air conditioning!)
7.2GPH total fuel burn
1.14nmpg fuel consumption average