Japan is a difficult sailing destination, and couple of cruising seafarers make that there. There"s a brief sailing season, hard winds, and an constantly present hazard of foul weather. Most cruisers that go over there come up from the south, and also it"s a step-wise journey with the southern Pacific and also Southeast Asia.

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But if you to be leaving from phibìc America, exactly how long does it require to sail from California to Japan?

Sailing indigenous California come Japan will certainly take 25-60 days. The great Circle distance from mountain Diego to Osaka is a tiny over 5,100 miles. In ~ 6 knots, this would take around 36 days. The more common technique is to sail come Japan via Hawaii, which is a little over 6,000 miles and also nonstop would take around 42 days.

Average cruising time between California and also JapanAverage watercraft SpeedGreat circle DaysHawaii Route
4 Knots5463
5 Knots4350
6 Knots3642
7 Knots3136
8 Knots2732
10 Knots2225
15 Knots1517

These speeds do not account for weather routing, currents, or plan stops and layovers. The Hawaii route likewise does not encompass recommendations come sail southern for the trades, i m sorry adds an ext miles yet maybe not more time. For an ext on the ideal routes and also how to do the i better, review on.

In this article:

North Pacific Conditions and also the good Circle

Very few people take it the an excellent circle route from California come Japan. That is a lengthy and an overwhelming trip, and you sail quite far north and against prevailing s currents through some challenging and uncomfortable weather. You can do it, however there are great reasons world do not.

Great one Routes

On a sphere, the shortest distance between two points isn"t a directly line. Directly lines work for regional sailing and short passages, due to the fact that the curvature the the planet on a tiny scale doesn"t affect your navigation. Cruising from Newport, RI, come Nantucket, you"ll obtain pushed about much much more by tides and currents 보다 you will from cruising the not-quite-shortest course over a short distance ~ above a sphere.

Without getting into complicated trigonometry or head-spinning spherical geometry, on the surface of a sphere the shortest distance in between two clues is follow me a good Circle. A good Circle is a circle which passes through the route beginning and finishing points and through the facility of the sphere.

Lines the Longitude are an excellent circles, for example. Present of latitude are not, except for the equator, because only the equator passes with the center of the earth.

To find the shortest distance between two points on the earth"s surface, you attract a good circle i m sorry connects them. Cruising on that line will provide you the shortest route. However not the easiest, or the most pleasant.


In the northern hemisphere, great circle routes push north then south again. As you deserve to see native the chart, the dotted great circle path takes friend really far north - within 250 mile of the Aleutians. Mountain Diego and Osaka are on almost the very same line the latitude (33° North), however you need to sail to 48° north to follow the great Circle. The midpoint of that route is 900 miles north the both cities.

Sailing southern to Hawaii very first is longer, but it"s a lot of nicer.

North Pacific Currents, Wind, and Weather

The currents, wind and also weather trends work versus the great Circle route, make it also less favorable than just a pilgrimage to the Aleutians.

Northern Pacific Currents

The north Pacific Gyre currents are a large, clockwise rotation through North Pacific currents near Alaska advertise from West to East listed below the West to eastern Aleutian current. Listed below Hawaii, the north Equatorial currents press towards the West.


So if girlfriend sail the an excellent Circle Route, you"ll be sailing north and also west right into the teeth of the north Pacific and also Aleutian currents. Yet the southern course brings you to favorable current. The currents in the phibìc Pacific room complex, however wise sailors prevent bucking the larger, global patterns.

Trade Winds

South of latitudes 32°N, you"ll discover the Northeast Trades - reliable and consistent winds so continuous they were the backbone of profession patterns in the period of sail. Phibìc of 35°N, change winds are replaced by westerlies. So much of the straight route is upwind.

Tropical Storms

Cyclones and also Typhoons carry out not with the areas of the northern good circle route. However you will end up in Japan, and once friend get more south, you may be topic to storm risks. Cruising in winter avoids typhoons off Japan, yet will acquire you nasty problems in the phibìc Pacific.

Given the defect of weather, current, and also prevailing wind patterns, it would take a very compelling reason to choose the an excellent Circle path over the southern route by Hawaii.

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When to do the Passage

Timing this i is tricky. This is the allude where we discover one reason so few cruisers do it to Japan! You"ve gained to work about Typhoon season and winter storms, and also the north Pacific cyclone/hurricane season.

The best time to leaving Hawaii because that Japan is the end of March, in an extremely early spring, to arrive prior to the typhoons. Or in November, to on slide in between typhoon season and winter storm season.

Unfortunately, if you"re walk to leave Hawaii prior to the end of March, you"ve gained some cold spring sailing from California in early on March. You can leave at the finish of hurricane season in October for Hawaii, then leaving from Hawaii in November. Or you could even try it in one lengthy sail approximately Hawaii if non-stop cruising is her preference.

If friend don"t have actually a time crush, you can make a much more pleasant sail to Hawaii in May, invest the summer wearing leis and drinking from coconuts, climate strike out again in November. The choice is yours, however I think ns know just how I can do it.

What to intend Along the Way

Much of this article speaks the hard conditions you could face, but most that those room if you pick the north route. If you walk the far much more pleasant however longer route, you deserve to expect an excellent sailing conditions for much of the trip. Due to the fact that you"ve sensibly headed in the direction of the equator instead of away from it and also you"re following the favorable wind and currents and also timing roughly the storm seasons, you’ve collection yourself up for a much better voyage.

Stop Offs

The great circle course from the big Island of Hawaii take away you virtually straight out follow me the Hawaiian Island Chain towards Midway. However, it additionally puts several huge coral reefs and also shoals in her path. Midway Island and Laysan Island space two of the bigger landmasses along this route, however these are protected historical and also ecological sites. You could need to gain a allow to land and also may even get one, and you"ll have actually to check in v the authorities also if you simply pass as well close.

If friend don"t have plans to visit and also all required permits, you might do far better to plot your course more south to stop the assorted reefs and also atolls along the way.

Once you pass Midway, over there isn"t an extremely much to prevent on until you gain to the islands and archipelagos turn off the coastline of Japan.

Weather and also Conditions

If you"ve done her planning well and also you"ve avoided any significant weather systems, you deserve to expect a satisfied sail top top the southern path with great winds down in the trades and favorable current. It"s crucial to keep monitoring weather though, so girlfriend don"t acquire surprised by any storms or significant conditions. That doesn"t have to be a named cyclone to kick you around offshore.

What"s her Average?

When estimating trips favor this, it"s the median speed you have the right to sustain which an exact estimate. On mine boat, we arrangement trips at seven knots, i m sorry is 168 nautical miles every day. We"ve had actually days end 200 miles, but it"s not the norm. Among our faster trips - from the Galapagos to the Marquesas - was 3,000 miles in around sixteen days. But we still just averaged a small over eight knots; not lot over our planning rate on average.

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In the end, that"s why the northern great circle route will take longer. Maybe even a lot of longer. If you"ve got also a node of unfavorable present on a watercraft like ours, that would add five days to this trip. And a current behind us could shave 5 days turn off the trip.

That"s not also considering the extra sailing you"ll have to do upwind, tacking throughout unfavorable breeze and sailing off the rhumb heat for more favorable conditions. Or the slowdowns you"ll take it sailing into bigger waves and chop, and slowdowns for negative northern storms.