PN Hawaii to Japan

Best time:

April to May, November

Tropical storms:

May to December




BA: 42A, 42B. 62

US: 152, 158,159

Departure Intermediate Landfall Destination Distance (M)

PN371 Oahu S PN372 21'16'N. 157*51'W 18'00'N, 160'00'E

PN374 PN375 Shikoku Osaka 4090

30'00'N, 143D00'E 33'30'N, 135'00'E 34'39'N, 135'24'E

Favourable winds prevail along most of this route throughout the year, although the time of arrival in Japan must take into account the typhoon season in that part of the world. A passage in winter, when there is little or no danger of typhoons, is not recommended as the weather can be cold and stormy in Japan. A better time is late spring towards the end of the NE monsoon and before the start of the typhoon season. If planning to cruise in Japan, the best time to leave Hawaii is towards the end of March so as to arrive in Japan by late April or early May. Another alternative is to make the passage just before the onset of winter, late October or November being a good time in which both winds and current are favourable.

On leaving Hawaii the route runs due west along the Tropic of Cancer if the passage is made between April and September. Although conditions for a westbound passage appear to be the best in summer, the risk of encountering a typhoon in the Western Pacific makes summer passages far less attractive. Later in the year and during winter, the NE trades are steadier further south which makes it necessary to possibly go as far south as 16°N to be sure of favourable winds. The recommended route for November runs along latitude 18°N, although better winds might be found even further south. The North Equatorial Current sets west along this route throughout the year. The routes recommended for various times of the year start curving NW after meridian 160 eE has been crossed. It is at that point that a decision has to be made whether to pass to the east or west of Ogasawara Gunto, the chain of islands stretching south of Japan. The recommended route for boats bound for ports east of Tokyo stays east of these islands. For ports in the west of Japan, better conditions will be found if the route passes to the west of the islands in Ogasawara Gunto. An interesting and convenient island in the latter group, in which an emergency stop can be made, is Chichishima (27'05'N, 142°11'E). The main settlement Omura is in the well sheltered Futami Ko Bay, which may become untenable in strong SW winds.

Leaving from Honolulu and WP PN371, depending on the time of year, the route will pass either south or north of Johnston Atoll. The route will have to avoid a number of dangers west of that atoll before passing through WP PN372. From there, the route turns NW towards WP PN373. It then carries on to WP PN374 from where it passes between the islands of Hahashima and Chichishima to make landfall at WP PN375, in the approaches to Osaka. Visiting yachts must clear in at one of the official ports of entry. One of the most conveniently located is Osaka, especially for those planning to cruise the Inland Sea.

routes in the far east

Compared to other parts of the world, cruising routes in the Far East do not fall into a logical pattern, because the area is off the beaten track and the weather is unpredictable. The western part of the North Pacific is far from major cruising routes and Far Eastern countries can only by reached by a lengthy detour. However, many more cruising boats might venture to explore its remoteness were it not for the often appalling weather. Virtually the entire area is subject to violent typhoons, which limit the safe sailing season to only a few months per year. As most distances involved are very long, it usually means that one must be prepared to remain there between seasons and spend the typhoon season in or near a safe anchorage, of which fortunately there are many. Although tropical storms have been recorded in every month of the year, May to December is regarded as the typhoon season.

The three main cruising areas are the Philippines, Japan, and Micronesia. The attraction of the Philippines is the generally pleasant climate and the great number of islands, inlets, and bays to explore. Although typhoons strike the archipelago with regularity, there are many good anchorages where shelter can be sought. The Inland Sea of Japan and the great number of small fishing harbours make Japan an attractive cruising destination, although the safe sailing season is very short. The scattered islands of Micronesia are much closer in character to the islands of the South Pacific and are in fact convenient stepping stones between the South Pacific and the Far East.

The main drawback of the Far East remains, however, the difficulty of getting there. In spite of the favourable NE trade winds that blow across the North Pacific ensuring a fast and pleasant sail from the west coast of America, the number of North American yachts that embark on such a transpacific voyage is very small. They are much more likely to be tempted by the lure of the South Seas and sail to the South Pacific instead, although some venture into the North West Pacific at a later stage, most reaching the Far East via Papua New Guinea and Micronesia. Another route sailed by cruising boats to reach the Far East through the Philippines and Hong Kong is the route originating in Singapore. The reports of piracy in the South China Sea in the 1980s had dissuaded many sailors from using that route. The situation has greatly improved as a result of the gradual liberalisation of Vietnam and the region surrounding it may soon become an attractive cruising destination. For the time being, the best solution for boats starting off from Singapore is to follow the north coast of Borneo, where stops can be made in the small states of Sarawak, Brunei, or Sabah. The other alternative is to arrive in the Far East via Papua New Guinea at the end of a cruise in the South Pacific. Yet another possibility is to sail nonstop to Japan from the west coast of North America or Hawaii and either continue the voyage towards Singapore and the Indian Ocean, or sail south through Papua New Guinea to Australia, across to New Zealand and along the southern route to Tahiti.

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