Our sailor friend asked me to post this blog for him:
[quote]- arrived in Fukuoka last night and had some trouble hooking up with crewchick. It turned out there were two hotels with the same name within a few hundred metres of each other, and naturally we were in different ones. Got it sorted eventually, with help from the miracles of modern technology, but couldn’t help wondering how on earth I ever managed to travel and meet up with people before we had internet and mobile phones.
Spent the morning finding the marina, and a shop catering for all the yachties where I bought a hundred metres of rope and miscellaneous other stuff for the boat. Then to the station and four hours by train to Nobeoka, where Yoshi was waiting to take us out for dinner, and finally to our temporary destination: a small farm on the edge of a small fishing town called Furue. No, it’s not in the Lonely Planet. Yeah!
Saturday - it looks like the typhoon is going to miss us, but we won’t be heading south for a few days until we’re sure it’s safe. Spent most of the day checking the boat’s equipment and stores, fixing things, and generally making sure all is OK for the big trip. I had crewchick lay all the sails out on shore, check for damage, and taught her how to fold them. All this attracted a lot of attention from the crowd of fishermen that seems to hang around gossiping all day, none of whom had ever seen a sailing boat before.
We got the first disaster over with today. Crewchick has yet to learn that all boat equipment has an affinity with the sea and will jump overboard as soon as you give it a chance. The battens, which serve to stiffen the main sail, enlightened her by finding their way out of the bag she had balanced precariously close to the water and disappearing under the boat. I went in after them, clothed, but to no avail. Bugger. No point getting upset, as it’s one of those experiences every new sailor has to go through as past of the learning process.
Today is the annual town festival to commemorate a young man who got himself beheaded during the Tokugawa era, for having the impertinence to ask the town’s feudal lord if it was possible to reduce their taxes a little. The high point of the festivities are performances by masked dancers who try to capture branches of green leaves from the audience, or open a door behind which the sun is sulking. The audience, kids, oppose all this very energetically and thrash the dancer with their branches whenever he comes close enough. It degenerated into absolute mayhem a couple of times and looked very painful. The struggle to open the door, made of rough-sawn wood, was a real tussle and got incredibly rough. I saw several kids being taken away in tears, and apparently splinters and broken fingers are considered to be risks of the game. Obviously the lawyers and insurance companies that are killing fun in the rest of the world haven’t made it to Japan yet. Took lots of photos!
Sunday - arrived at the harbour to find an elderly man in a wetsuit busy retrieving our battens. What a great country! Took a few fishermen sailing in the bay for a couple of hours, to give crewchick a bit more idea of what she’s in for, and spent the rest of the day kicking our heels. The boat’s ready, the crew is ready, and I’ve even read the manual for the GPS. Nothing else to do until the shops open in the morning and we can buy the last few bits of food.
Walked out into the countryside, followed an overgrown path up a hill, and found a small temple-shrine in the forest. Japan is full of cool little things like this. It was getting dark, and crewchick was a bit jumpy already, so when I disturbed a bat that was sleeping inside she would have run home screaming - except that she needed to stay close to me for reassurance. It all had a dreamy sort of feeling, like the calm before the storm, except that we’re actually waiting until after the storm. We’re just killing time, waiting until we can get on our way.
Monday - woke at 5 to the sound of torrential rain. The 'phoon was headed up the west coast of the island, so we were safe, but we still caught a little crappy weather as it passed. It only rained for a few hours, but the wind remained strong and I was reluctantly considering putting departure off until tomorrow. All the fishermen told us to stay another day, due to the big waves kicked up by the big wind, but what do they know about sailing? I was itching to get on our way, and by lunchtime we were creeping out of the bay to see how bad it really was out on the open water. Yoshi confidently predicted we would be back in an hour, crewchick looked a bit tense, and the fisherfolk were waving cans of beer, but, as suspected, it was fine.
In fact it was a perfect sailing day for a little boat with a reef in the main and #2 jib. It was plenty windy, but not excessive, and the waves were far enough apart that we just charged up one side and down the other, heeled over respectably but quite comfortably. The sun came out, our little boat performed superbly, and we flew south over sparkling blue water a couple of miles offshore. Beautiful!
We only sailed a few hours, as far as Hososhima, because the next harbour, Miyazaki, is too far for the short time remaining until nightfall. In any case, crewchick was starting to overload. Her total sailing experience before this was two day trips as one of many people on a larger boat. She’s learning quickly, and doing amazingly well, but there’s only so much you can take in at one time before you need to stop and let it all sink in. A mentally exhausted novice crew in rough weather at night sounds like an invitation to disaster, and we were both glad just to have got on the way. So, into port and overnight on the boat.
Tuesday - woke at 5am, and were motoring out of the harbour fifteen minutes later. The wind was unreliable for most of the morning, plus it was right on the nose the whole day and we were sailing against the prevailing current. It was quite a struggle to make any headway south for a while, and we didn’t pass Miyazaki until mid-afternoon, eventually holing up in a small harbour further south after more than twelve hours sailing.
I’m a little sunburned, not seriously, but enough to be a worry. The sun could well be the biggest danger we face, despite all the sunscreen and water on board. Lost my hat overboard, of course, already and am now sailing with a sarong wrapped around my head.
Crewchick did well, and can now be left to sail the boat singlehanded for hours at a time. (We both had long naps, keeping out of the sun during the afternoon.) It’s a very satisfying feeling to see someone grow in this way and we’re both pleased with progress so far. We’re more or less on schedule, despite the typhoon, and rewarded ourselves with a night in a good hotel and an amazing meal.
Wednesday - I’m writing this at 9am in our tatami room. We’ve decided not to make an early start, but to sail 24 hours or so without a break, so we’ll get going around lunchtime. There are harbours we can duck into along the coast if necessary, but it will be good practise for the longer inter-island stretches later. Crewchick is a little nervous, but there’ll be plenty of moonlight and as long as the weather holds it should be a lot of fun. Starlight and the open ocean is a great combination and our little boat seems ready for anything.
Off now in search of an internet connection to mail this to Dragonbones and check the weather.[/quote]