Japan is a difficult sailing destination, and couple of cruising sailors make that there. There"s a quick sailing season, difficult winds, and also an always present risk of foul weather. Many cruisers that go there come increase from the south, and also it"s a step-wise journey through the southern Pacific and Southeast Asia.

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But if you were leaving from north America, just how long does it take to sail native California come Japan?

Sailing indigenous California come Japan will certainly take 25-60 days. The an excellent Circle street from san Diego to Osaka is a tiny over 5,100 miles. At 6 knots, this would certainly take about 36 days. The an ext common approach is come sail come Japan via Hawaii, i beg your pardon is a small over 6,000 miles and nonstop would take around 42 days.

Average sailing time in between California and also JapanAverage boat SpeedGreat one 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 to plan stops and layovers. The Hawaii route also does not incorporate recommendations come sail southern for the trades, i beg your pardon adds much more miles yet maybe not an ext time. For more on the best routes and how to make the i better, review on.

In this article:

North Pacific Conditions and also the great Circle

Very couple of people take it the an excellent circle path from California come Japan. That is a lengthy and challenging trip, and you sail quite far north and against prevailing ocean currents through some daunting and unpleasant weather. You have the right to do it, but there are good reasons world do not.

Great circle Routes

On a sphere, the shortest distance in between two clues isn"t a directly line. Straight lines occupational for neighborhood sailing and short passages, because the curvature of the planet on a tiny scale doesn"t impact your navigation. Cruising from Newport, RI, come Nantucket, you"ll gain pushed about much much more by tides and also currents 보다 you will from cruising the not-quite-shortest path over a short distance on a sphere.

Without acquiring into complicated trigonometry or head-spinning spherical geometry, on the surface ar of a sphere the shortest distance in between two points is follow me a great Circle. A good Circle is a circle i beg your pardon passes v the route starting and finishing points and through the center of the sphere.

Lines of Longitude are an excellent circles, for example. Currently of latitude space not, except for the equator, due to the fact that only the equator passes through the facility of the earth.

To uncover the shortest distance between two point out on the earth"s surface, you attract a great circle i m sorry connects them. Cruising on that line will offer you the shortest route. However not the easiest, or the many pleasant.


In the north hemisphere, good circle routes push north then south again. Together you deserve to see indigenous the chart, the dotted great circle route takes girlfriend really much north - within 250 miles of the Aleutians. San Diego and also Osaka space on practically the very same line that latitude (33° North), however you have to sail come 48° phibìc to follow the good Circle. The midpoint the that path is 900 mile north the both cities.

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

North Pacific Currents, Wind, and Weather

The currents, wind and weather patterns work against the an excellent Circle route, make it even less favorable than just a trip 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 come East below the West to east Aleutian current. Below Hawaii, the north Equatorial currents push towards the West.


So if friend sail the good Circle Route, you"ll be sailing north and also west right into the teeth of the north Pacific and Aleutian currents. However the southern course brings you come favorable current. The currents in the north Pacific room complex, yet wise sailors protect against bucking the larger, global patterns.

Trade Winds

South the latitudes 32°N, you"ll find the Northeast Trades - reliable and consistent winds so continuous they were the backbone of trade patterns in the age of sail. North of 35°N, change winds are changed by westerlies. So much of the straight route is upwind.

Tropical Storms

Cyclones and Typhoons carry out not with the areas of the northern an excellent circle route. However you will end up in Japan, and once you get additional south, you might be subject to storm risks. Sailing in winter prevents typhoons turn off Japan, however will obtain you nasty problems in the north Pacific.

Given the disadvantages of weather, current, and prevailing wind patterns, it would certainly take a an extremely compelling factor to choose the good Circle route over the southern course by Hawaii.

Itsukushima shinto Shrine

When to do the Passage

Timing this i is tricky. This is the suggest where we find out one factor so few cruisers make it to Japan! You"ve got to work about Typhoon season and winter storms, and the phibìc Pacific cyclone/hurricane season.

The best time to leaving Hawaii because that Japan is the finish of March, in very early spring, come arrive before the typhoons. Or in November, to on slide in in between typhoon season and also winter storm season.

Unfortunately, if you"re going to leave Hawaii before the finish of March, you"ve acquired some cold spring sailing from California in beforehand March. You might leave at the end of hurricane season in October because that Hawaii, then leave from Hawaii in November. Or you could even try it in one long sail roughly Hawaii if non-stop cruising is your preference.

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

What to mean Along the Way

Much of this article speaks of hard problems you could face, however most of those space if you pick the north route. If you go the far much more pleasant yet longer route, you deserve to expect great sailing conditions for lot of the trip. Because you"ve sensibly headed in the direction of the equator instead of far from it and also you"re complying with the favorable wind and currents and timing around the storm seasons, you’ve set yourself up for a better voyage.

Stop Offs

The good circle route from the huge Island of Hawaii take away you practically straight out along the Hawaiian Island Chain towards Midway. However, it also puts several huge coral reefs and shoals in your path. Midway Island and Laysan Island are two of the larger landmasses follow me this route, however these are safeguarded historical and also ecological sites. You might need to obtain a permit to land and may also get one, and you"ll have to check in with the authorities also if you just pass too close.

If girlfriend don"t have plans to visit and also all compelled permits, you might do far better to plot her course further south to avoid the miscellaneous reefs and atolls along the way.

Once you happen Midway, there isn"t very much to prevent on till you obtain to the islands and archipelagos turn off the coast of Japan.

Weather and also Conditions

If you"ve done your planning well and also you"ve avoided any major weather systems, you can expect a pleasant sail ~ above the southern route with an excellent winds down in the trades and also favorable current. It"s crucial to store monitoring weather though, so you don"t obtain surprised by any kind of storms or serious conditions. That doesn"t need to be a called cyclone to kick you around offshore.

What"s your Average?

When estimating trips prefer this, it"s the median speed you deserve to sustain which an accurate estimate. On my boat, we setup trips at 7 knots, i m sorry is 168 nautical miles per day. We"ve had days end 200 miles, but it"s no the norm. Among our more quickly trips - indigenous the Galapagos come the Marquesas - to be 3,000 miles in around sixteen days. But we still only averaged a tiny over eight knots; not much over our planning speed on average.

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

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