Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Exploring Honshu, Japan

Wendy and Garth

We headed for Wakayama Marina City in the Inland Sea,
knowing that here was a decent marina where we could
leave the boat for an overnight visit to Kyoto by
train, while avoiding the additional roundtrip sailing
required to go all the way into Osaka or Kobe. Our
detailed charts are older and when I plotted the
location of the marina and the coordinates placed the
marina deep into the bay south of Wakayama city, I
concluded that either the GPS coordinates were
inaccurate or that significant building had occured
since our charts were printed. With the help of a
brochure of the marinas of Japan we cross checked the
GPS coordinates, and an aerial photograph helped us
locate the entrance outside a newly created island.
We made our way in and tied alongside.Wakayama Marina City

Our first day there was gorgeous and sunny. We had
great facilities there, so were easily able to do our
laundry, enjoy long hot showers and fill our water
tanks. And we contacted people in the area that we
knew. Japanese cruisers who we first met in New
Zealand had settled here after they finished their
circumnavigation of the Pacific, and we thought it
would be fun to see them again if we could arrange it.
We were able to reach Yuki immediately on the weekend
and she visited the boat, bringing fresh vegetables
from her garden. We spent some time aboard catching
up with what we'd been doing since we last saw each
other. Then she took us to see the Wakayama Castle,
which I'd really been wanting to see. The castle
towered over the city behind a fortress of stone
walls, yet inside, the building seemed far less
imposing. Wakayama Castle

I had been completely enthralled with James Clavell's
book Shogun and subsequent miniseries as a child, and
I really loved being able to see various types of
traditional warrior dress on display inside. Ancient warrior dress
The view
from the castle peak overlooking the city and marina
was excellent and the weather was clear. After
touring the castle and gardens, we headed for a
grocery store where Yuki helped us to provision for
our upcoming passage. Yuki's help was invaluable: We
appreciated having her tell us what things were and to
suggest ingredients that could last for months without
refridgeration for easy to cook meals while underway.
We got so absorbed in provision shopping, we nearly
forgot to buy the octopus for the evening's meal!
Then we headed for her house, where we met up with her
husband, Tomi, a talented artist and musician. We
were amazed by Tomi's watercolors and sketches of so
many places we've cruised and loved thumbing through
his sketchbook and their book of cruising friends,
many of whom we had met while crossing the Pacific.
We had a great time with them, reminiscing about
boats, people and places we knew in common. Yuki and
Tomi told us that a Japanese singlehander that we met
in Saipan last April failed to arrive in Japan: About
a month after we saw him depart, his boat was found
adrift off the coast of Japan with no one on board and
we realize that we might have been the last people who
saw him. A circumnavigator friend of theirs also
joined us and we were amazed to hear of his passages
around cape horn and across the Atlantic and Pacific. Feasting with Yuki, Tomi and friends

For dinner we had takoyaki, a specialty of the area,
which are tiny round balls of soft doughy like mixture
of octopus, flour and a mild cheese, which were
absolutely delicious! We also had a great salad and
pot stickers to round out a fantastic evening.

Early the next morning, Yuki and Tomi generously took
us to the train station and helped us get our tickets
for Kyoto. It was raining pretty steadily so we were
suited up in our rain gear along with umbrellas hoping
the trip wouldn't be a total washout. The train took
about an hour and a half and after we arrived we
immediately headed for the tourist office to find a
place to stay for the night. We identified a Japanese
traditional inn, a Ryukan, that suited our needs in
the area of Gion, where the old teahouses and geisha
are concentrated. Then we found a restaurant in the
impressively huge modern Kyoto station that looked
appealing and affordable and joined the queue outside
on the bench. An engaging waiter/host took everyone's
order while we waited. As the only Gaijin, we went
through the pantomime, trundled over to the window
display and pointed at the meals we wanted. And
shortly after we were seated our meals arrived, a
combination of noodle soup, rice, tempura, salad and
pickled vegetables and seaweed, served along with
plenty of hot green tea. After lunch we wandered
amidst the steady drizzle over to a temple near the
station then made our way to the Ryukan to check into
our (hotel) room. Ryukan room
Our room featured traditional
features of a Japanese home: the step up from the
entryway into the main living area, with tatami mats
covering the floors. The room was sparsely decorated
with just a low table in the center of the room and
low flat cushions placed around it, and a television
an alcove in the far corner. We snacked for dinner
while hotel staff came in to make up our bed: They
slid the shoju screen doors open and pulled four
single futons out of the closet and laid them out in 2
layers side by side. Then they covered the top two
futons with flat sheets tucked between the futon
layers and on top they laid a covered duvet and
pillows. We found the futons to be very comfortable
after we wandered the streets of Gion a bit during a
break in the heavy rain.

In the morning with better weather, we again wandered
the cobblestone streets of Gion, lined with charming
wooden tea houses and weeping willows. Tea house in the Gion area of Kyoto
As we stopped
to buy a drink from a vending machine, a woman asked
us where we were from and how long we were staying.
When we indicated we were heading towards a temple,
she indicated she'd show us the way. Soon she was
pointing out famous tea houses in her limited English
and patiently waiting while we took photos of the
kimono clad women and interesting scenes we
encountered along the way. When we arrived at the
temple she hurried up the steps and bought 3 tickets
and ushered us inside refusing to hear our
protestations as we tried to pay our own way. We
looked around the temple briefly then she invited us
to sit with her in a peaceful spot overlooking the
gardens. We were impressed with the beauty and
peacefulness of the temple and talked for a short
while as best we could given our language challenges. Kenninji temple

She began pulling items out of her bag and handing
them to us, saying "gift for you": first a book
showing her company that supplies very high quality
miso to fine restaurants, a temple book, a cell phone
charm, a special temple cloth, then beautiful photos
of geisha in training, called maiko, and full fledged
geisha, (called geiko in Kyoto). In her limited
English, she explained a little about the geisha
training using the photos to point out what she meant.
I was keenly interested in learning more about this
uniquely Japanese tradition that I read about in the
book "Memoirs of a Geisha". She promised she'd take
us to see the geishas after the temple. Then we
continued to explore the temple and its lovely
gardens. The presence and manner of our self
appointed host made us stop and really immerse
ourselves in the serene beauty of the temple in a way
that we might not have otherwise. Peaceful Temple Gardens
And when we
finished, we all made our way back through the cobbled
streets. Geisha house and geisha in the tiny streets of Gion

As we rounded one corner, we saw a large group of
photographers hovering outside a doorway, clearly
waiting for something. Our host greeted friends in the
crowd and then asked if we liked noodles, whisked us
into a noodle shop and promptly ordered. When the
shopowner placed in front of each of us a bowl of cold
noodles, a bowl with small bits of raw seaweed, a bowl
of brown sauce, and a bowl with a white gruel topped
with a raw egg. We watched her mix everything else
together and then pour the mixture over the cold soba
(buckwheat) noodles and start eating. So we both took
a big breath and followed suit, trying to forget that
we were eating raw eggs and we weren't sure what else.
Surprisingly enough we found the combintation quite
filling and not revolting. (We've noticed that eggs
are a common feature in Japanese meals, though usually
cooked.) We were able to treat our host to lunch and
then we joined the crowd of paparazzi outside. The paparazzi awaiting a Geisha's debut

As we awaited the debut of a newly graduated geisha we
learned from an American gal with a good understanding
of Japanese a bit more about geisha traditions: A
maiko begins her training at 15, mostly running
errands and observing in plain dress, then at 16 the
maiko begins to dress in elaborate kimono and
hairstyles and ornaments, studying the traditional
arts - singing, dancing, shamisen playing, flower
arranging, etc. Maiko
When a maiko reaches the age of 20,
she becomes a full fledged Geisha, assuming the full
duties of a geisha, keeping the lion's share of the
income that she generates and usually moving out of
the shared geisha house and into her own quarters.
The geisha, being more skilled in the fine arts than
the maiko, tend to dress more plainly once they make
the transition, with less brightly colored kimono and
less flashy hairstyles (usually wigs) and ornaments.
She is considered an artist and not a prostitute. On
this lucky day, we saw the debut of a new geisha as
she emerged from her geisha house to begin her career
as a full fledged geisha. Geiko Debut
When she came out in her
formal black kimono, white face and elaborate
hairstyle, the photographers went wild, taking
photographs of her from every angle. They paid
special attention to the 3 (makeup-less) stripes of
bare skin on the back of her neck, considered very
sexy as they suggestively disappear into her kimono.Notice the 3 makeup-less stripes on her neck

On this day, the geisha makes her rounds to all the
tea houses for the first time as a full fledge geisha.
As she began her tour, the photographers followed in
a pack. We took this opportunity to say goodbyes to
our host and thank her for her incredible generosity.

Though we only had a couple of hours until our train
returned to Wakayama, we wanted to fit in a quick tour
of Naji-ji, the castle of the first Tokugawa
Shogunate. Its ostentatious style signalled the
decline of the power of the emperor and the rise in
that of the shogun. To protect the shogun against
treachery, the castle featured hidden compartments for
bodyguards to keep watch and nightingale floors that
sang pleasantly when someone approached. Nijo-jo Castle moat
The castle
was surrounded by a moat and high stone walls and
beautiful gardens filled with ponds and waterfalls
amidst lush flowers and trees. The castle interior,
while filled with finely carved shoji screen doors and
paintings is surprisingly sparse and plain: similar in
appearance to typical tatami rooms, yet made with much
higher quality materials. The elaborate entrance
gates and gardens were the most impressive features,
as well as the clever chirping floors. I could have
definitely been comfortable living there, just with a
bit more furniture!Castle grounds

With so much still to see in Kyoto, the rapidly
approaching typhoon season forced us to press on with
our sailing journey, and we returned to the boat in

The day after we returned from Kyoto, we carried on
with our sailing. We've been moving at a pretty quick
pace, rarely stopping to do more than sleep and
sightsee. We headed out in foggy light wind
conditions amidst busy shipping traffic yet again.
With so much practice, we're quite adept at
recognizing all the various lighting combinations from
every angle for all types of ships - vessel on port or
starboard, LPG carrier, vessel restricted in its
ability to maneuver, vessel not under command,
submarine, etc. and determining the location of a ship
based on its engine noise or fog horn when visibility
is poor. Our next intended port was Japan's largest
tuna fishing port and whaling center on the southern
coast of Honshu, where natural hot springs or onsen
are common due to the volcanic activity in the area.

We pulled into this shipping port and tied alongside a
fishing pier, just behind a brand new local sailboat.
We were looking forward to spending time with them but
they were gone within a couple of hours. We ate a
quick lunch and took a nap, then in the evening we
wandered about, spotting an onsen for bathing our
feet, where a small group of Japanese were gathered.
To our delight, we noticed foot baths sprinkled around
town and made a point of soaking our feet as often as

In the morning we went to see the tallest waterfall in
Japan, nestled up in the mountains nearby. We caught
a train and bus up the winding mountain roads to the
spectacular shrine complex and waterfall. Shrine and waterfall
We had a
delightful day hiking along the ancient moss covered
stone trails through the deep woods to the waterfall
and back down again. Forest path
In the late afternoon, hot and
sweaty, we headed for an onsen in the nearby Ryukyan.
After a thorough scrub, we each soaked in the hot tub
outside in the garden - Garth with a couple of
Japanese guys in the men's Onsen while Wendy enjoyed
the solitude of an empty ladies Onsen. We finished
our brief visit with a fine sushi dinner at the local
sushi hangout, with plenty of maguro (tuna) from the
local catch. We would have loved to have paid a visit
to the whaling center and museum, but again the coming
typhoon season urged us on. We noted with interest
all the important Japanese whaling research that we've
witnessed: the parts of the whale depicted in several
butcher's shops. We would have loved to have seen a
nearby whale museum and whaling ship, as well as
sample a few more onsen, one of which was outside
overlooking a gorgeous view and closed when we wanted
to go. But the seasons forced us to press on.

So we sailed eastward towards Tokyo, more drifting in
fog and heavy shipping traffic. We'd planned to stop
one more place along the southern Japanese coast, but
for several hours we had ideal winds that were
starting to build and we though that with this
favorable wind we could easily make good progress and
that we ought to take this rare opportunity. But the
wind was just a tease. Within an hour of double
reefing the main, we instantly had not a breath of
air, too late of course to change our course for the
anchorage we had mistakenly passed up, where we could
have relaxed for the night and done a little more
sightseeing. Instead, the next 18 hours were
painfully slow until we finally motored our way out of
the busy shipping area in poor visibility. Again our
brochures with the marina overviews came in handy to
navigate into another brand new marina in Yokohama,
just south of Tokyo. By the time we arrived our
Japanese flags was in tatters, though I can hardly
remember wind that might have caused that!

We again splurged to stay in a fancy marina, though we
paid a small fraction of what Japanese boaters might
pay. We wouldn't be able to afford to visit Japan
otherwise, as we typically don't stay in marinas but
often must here. In Tokyo, free anchorages are
nonexistent and we wanted to be able to top up our
water tanks, wash the boat, and have a place where we
could leave the boat and take advantage of easy
transportation to sightsee and meet up with friends in
the area. During our first couple of days in the
marina we'd worked hard to complete the projects on
our list so that we could then enjoy the company of
friends. For years we've stayed in touch with Tomoko,
a freelancer with a Japanese glossy sailing magazine
after she interviewed us in New Zealand, did a 6 page
piece on us years ago and generously enabled us to
participate more fully in the America's Cup by hosting
us aboard the press boat several times, as well as
gave us the opportunity to watch races and press
conferences anytime in the media center. We were
looking forward to seeing her and her husband,
Yuichiro, again and the magazine (Kazi) wanted to do
another interview with us so we arranged a time to
meet just before we planned to depart. In the
interim, we contacted a couple of other folks and made
arrangements to meet up. We misunderstood an
invitation for the weekend to be just an invitation
for dinner and accidentally double booked ourselves.
Unfortunately this misunderstanding messed up our only
opportunity to see Tanaka-san again before he headed
to the Pacific NW to cruise the Queen Charlotte
Islands and we were disappointed to miss him. We hope
we'll have the opportunity to host him in the Pacific
NW sometime.

So we headed downtown Tokyo on the train to meet up
with our friend Mitch, and he generously offered us
the chance to enjoy a few days away from the worries
of the boat, enjoy his huge house in downtown Tokyo,
relax and sightsee with his family for the weekend.
We began our evening in a busy, stand up style food
bar, where we could sample a wide variety of Japanese
delicacies, in the tapas style. In the company of
Mitch, another American and a South African who were
also longtime residents of Japan, we chatted about all
kinds of things while we tried a number of interesting
dishes. We started out snacking on soy beans fresh
out of the pod while we drank beers. Then we moved
inside to the bar and sampled a couple platters of
maguro sashimi (raw tuna) rolled in black sesame seeds
and chicken skewers with a delicious spicy pepper
relish. Then we were served a large bowl of ice, on
which sat juicy slices of fresh beefsteak tomatoes and
the largest asapargus speers that I've seen,
accompanied by a soy bean mixture and mayonnaise which
made for a surprisingly delicious compliment. Then we
tried horse sashimi (yes raw horse!), unusual to try
but not especially interesting. After we polished off
a few beers, Mitch opened up a bottle of shojyu (a
smooth sake like drink of much higher proof) that the
restaurant had given him to congratulate him on his
new promotion. Mitch opening a bottle of Shochu
We poured the shojyu over a carefully
hand carved large round ice cube. (Garth really
enjoyed the the shojyu, perhaps a little too much, as
the next morning he was a hurting pup.) Following our
food sampling, we toured a couple bars housing an
incredible collection of LP record albums of old
favorites and rarities. Soon it was four in the
morning and we took a taxi home to Mitch's nice house
for some sleep.

In the morning when we finally got moving, after a
long hot bath, we headed out for a bit of sightseeing
around Tokyo. Weddings
Mitch, his wife Yoshiko and his two
boys, Cody and Kinan, took us to a beautiful garden
where we saw numerous weddings in process - lots of
formal black kimonos - and to a tea ceremony where we
sampled bitter thick green tea and several sweets
designed to complement the tea, one a chalky pink, one
translucent gelatinous pale blue-green and a white
cake filled with a bean paste, all served by a
graceful, kimono-clad older woman. Tea ceremony
We marvelled at
numerous carefully cultivated bonsai trees that were
only a few feet tall despite being hundreds of years
old. Ah, the history they must have witnessed. We
carried on to see the Tokyo tower, where countless
people wore kimonos or the more casual, thinner cotton
version - yukata, since those wearing kimono get in
free, but the hazy weather discouraged us from going
to the top. We walked a short distance to Zojo-ji,
the former family temple of the Tokugawas. There we
watched the monks conduct a service in the temple. In
a larger temple opera music was audible and we went
over to watch and listen as performers practiced for
an evening performance. We wrote our wishes on a
bright green tag to post on a weeping willow tree, in
keeping with temple tradition. In the evening we went
to an all you can eat restaurant where we cooked our
own meat, seafood and vegetables in a deep fryer.
After dinner we walked around the busiest intersection
in the world, where nearly 400,000 people a day cross
the street - that's about 1000 people each light cycle
and about how many people we crossed the street with.
There lies a famous statue of Hachiko, in honor of a
famous dog who loyally awaited his masters return
every day at the railway station for 10 years after
his master died in his office. The next day we had a
full day of exploring Enoshima island, shrine and
gardens, a great beach town and day trip from Tokyo,
where we had the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and
sample more Japanese delicacies. (My favorite was a
deep fried bread with a light cheese and fish filling,
slightly similar to takoyaki, but not quite the same.
I can't remember what it was called, though.) Mitch, Yoshiko, Cody and Kinan
finished the day touring Velella and the marina.

After interviewing with Kazi magazine, Tomoko and
Yuichiro took us sightseeing. We drove down to
Kamakura, once the Japanese capital and a charming
town of notable Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines,
and picturesque gardens. We visited an ancient giant
Buddha, built in 1252. The statue sits over 36 feet
tall out in a courtyard after the huge hall that once
housed it was washed away in a typhoon in 1495. We
ventured inside the bronze Buddha and immediately
understood the need for the ventilation provided by
the amusingly large doors cut into his back. A short
distance away, we visited a temple and gardens filled
with blue and pink hydrangea blossoms. We toured
through a cave that resembled an ancient Christian
grotto, with carved statues of gods and goddesses. We
stopped for afternoon tea and Tomoko and Yuichi
treated us to some new Japanese snacks, which Yuichi
ordered and paid for through a vending machine before
handing the receipts to a waiter. Our first snack was
skewers of small white rice balls coated with a mildly
sweet and sticky brown sauce with a vaguely soy flavor
- chewey but delicious. Our second snack was a bowl
of watery gelatin with wide translucent noodles made
of a root vegetable that tested our ability to use
chopsticks as we tried to fish them out of the bowl to
dip into a bowl of molasses sauce. Another one of the
interesting but unusual snacks we've tried here in
Japan. Yuichi then took us to his parents home, where
we got to meet his parents and see their finely
sculpted garden and collection of antiques. They
showed us these amazing cloth figurines that his
mother makes by hand with incredibly fine skill. They
generously sent us away with some impressive gifts
that we will treasure for years. The generosity of
the Japanese people has truly amazed us. I can't
think of a country in our travels where we have been
better welcomed and hosted. The tradition of gift
giving is a natural part of life in Japan and has so
enriched our cruising experience, enabling us to meet
people, sample many things and return with more
souvenirs than we might otherwise be able to. We
finished the day with a sushi feast, tasting a variety
of new types. Japan has truly been a favorite
cruising spot for us and we wish that the season
wasn't such a short one. But typhoon season is here
and it's time to find get out of their path.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Rich Experiences in Kyushu, Japan

Overview of Nagasaki harbour and the marina

We were pretty excited to see the northwestern side of Kyushu, the westernmost Japanese Island nearest Korea. The area is sprinkled with islands and reputed to be some of the best cruising in Japan. Nagasaki provides a perfect jumping off point for cruising the area in addition to being a city we were interested to visit for its own rich history. A route that allowed us to logically visit the area during such a short visit to Japan, we knew would involve some challenging sailing and it sure did, though we had some delightful sails as well. And we had some great experiences along the way.


We had a very pleasant three day sail to Nagasaki with light winds and sunny skies. Coming into the scenic port surrounded by mountains on 3 sides, we tacked our way up the channel in mild conditions, trying to avoid shipping traffic. We cut inside an island to get out of the channel and bypass a slow tug and barge, but as we came back out, the tug and barge turned into where we were coming out and and we had to sail back the way we came - so much for taking a short cut! The natural shelter offered by outlying islands and the hills on either side of a narrow channel made an ideal environment for building ships and the Mitsubishi Shipyard, a key bombing target during WWII still is active today, with a number of ships visible under construction as we sailed past. The harbor narrowed and we reached a small but empty Deijima Marina, where we were greeted by a friendly harbourmaster who informed us that we could stay for a week for no charge. Boy were we glad to hear that and also pleased to note that the slips were right next to the conveniences of town and a lovely park along the waterfront.

Nagasaki is well known as the second bomb site for the Atomic Bomb, but its history is much richer. For over 200 hundred years, Nagasaki functioned as the only open port to the world outside Japan. A wayward Portugese ship initiated Japan's contact with the west, introducing guns which revolutionized warfare in Japan. Soon other Portugese trading ships followed, making Nagasaki a profitable trading port. Missionaries arrived bringing their teachings and christianity spread rapidly, earning several hundred thousand converts. In 1587, the shogun considered the strong influence of Christianity to be a threat, and expelled foreigners, beginning a period of national seclusion. Only Dutch, Chinese and Koreans, who were perceived to be more interested in trade than in religion were allowed to remain under strict rules. From the mid 1600's to 1855, all trade, western technology and culture passed through Deijima Island off the shores of Nagasaki and subsequently Nagasaki evolved into an important scientific and cultural center where people flocked to study. Dutch Trading Island of Deijima
As we walked around Nagasaki, we saw signs of this European influence, including an old catholic church, as well as houses and gardens of historically prominent Europeans along an area called "Dutch Slopes". We visited the prefectural museum which detailed the rich history of Nagasaki and its role as a key trading and intellectual center. We slipped off our shoes before entering another area of the Museum, which was a reproduction of a Magistrates house, complete with tatami mats and shoji screens, plus trade goods laid out for inspection by the magistrate and figures in the traditional attire of the day to give us a glimpse of life in those times of restricted trade with the West. We appreciated the clean graceful architecture and fine Japanese woodworking which we so love in the company of a historian who supplemented the fine English audio tour and English placards with stories and answered our questions about Japanese culture and history.Wendy and Garth at The Magistrate's

Nagasaki featured a number of other interesting cultural sites which we explored for another couple days. A collection of bridges stretched across the river running through the city, many of which were attractive stone constructions that were many centuries old. The picturesque Spectacles Bridge derived its name from the way that light reflects off the water to form spectacles. Wendy at the Spectacles Bridge
In the river water under the bridges, the largest colorful koi I've ever seen were swimming around and flowers filled the narrow park along the riverbank. Street arcades filled with Japanese antiques, fine paper goods and kimonos caught our attention. A street lined with temples provided us with an enjoyable day of exploring. The shogun ordered that temples be built by all the major religious orders and along this street we saw as many as 20 temples, with their beautiful chinese roof lines and peaceful gardens populated with buddhist deities. Sogukuji Temple
The most notable temple we visited was the famous Fukasai-ji Zen temple, which was one of the oldest temples in Japan and an active cultural center that hosted visiting leaders and dignitaries, including US President Grant. The temple, formerly a large complex, burned down completely following the A bomb explosion. The temple that was built in its place is completely unlike the original, emulating the shape of a lucky turtle in a fascinatingly garish fashion. Lurking above the turtle shaped building is a 18 meter high figure of the Goddess Kannon from which hangs a Foucault Pendulum, demonstrating the rotation of the earth, and is the largest such example outside of Paris and Leningrad. Inside the temple are a number of memorials to the victims of the A bomb blast and fallen WWII soldiers, as well as photos of Nagasaki before and after the blast. A bell chimes every day at 11:02am to mark the exact time of the A bomb explosion.Fukusa-ji Tortoise shaped temple

During World War II, where nearly every man, woman and child was fully engaged in the war effort, Nagasaki was busy constructing arms and building ships at the Mitsubishi shipyards. Two books about World War II have enriched our understanding of Japan. "Enola Gay" describes the development and the days leading up to the explosion of 2 atomis bombs on Japan to end the war by detailing the sequence of events from both a US and Japanese perspective. "Embracing Defeat" examines the aftermath of the war and rebuilding Japan politically, socially, and economically. While I have long been skeptical about the arguments for dropping the A bombs and horrified by their devastation, the more I have read, the more I have come to the conclusion that the ravages of war might have been far worse had the war continued without this change in strategy. I was shocked to realize the extent to which Japan was entrenched in pursuing this hopeless conflict like a freight train out of control. These books and other materials described the preparations for a fight to the death if the Americans landed on the main islands of Japan: the children working in arms factories and volunteering for Kamikaze air and sea human torpedo suicide missions, women being trained to use sharpened sticks as spears to kill or maim as many of the enemy as possible, the rampant malnutrition and shortages; and the denial of the hopelessness of the situation and the endless debate in government about whether to negotiate a peace on any terms.

While Hiroshima was selected as the number one target for bombing, Nagasaki was not one of the originally selected targets, and only after months of debate, the target list shifted to include Nagasaki. The primary target for the second bomb was the industrial city of Kokura, but smoke obscured the city on the morning of the bombing and the B-29 "Bock's Car" with its deadly cargo, Fat Man, the plutonium bomb named in honor of Churchill, headed for the secondary target, Nagasaki. Visibility over Nagasaki was also obscured by clouds, but a gap in the cloud cover encouraged the bomber to proceed with its mission. We found it amazing to realize how close Nagasaki was to escaping this devastation with a small shift in the weather. Nagasaki's topography limited the destruction of the powerful bomb, but the impact was still dumbfounding. Hypocenter
Our visit to the A bomb museum was sobering. Everything within 6.5 miles was reduced to ashes, including pretty substantial buildings. A third of the city was wiped out almost instantly or in the firestorm that followed. A wall of hot air more fierce than a typhoon travelled at the speed of sound reaching 11km in 30 seconds. Everyone within 1000 meters died immediately. People died from the intense heat, dramatic pressure differences, being crushed or impaled by flying glass and debris, inhaling or ingesting particles and debris, and fires or later from radiation explosure without any visible injuries. The death toll was 75,000 immediately with another 75,000 injured. Listening to eye witness accounts from survivors who struggled to free their crushed limbs, locate their families, treat the injured and sick, and deal with the lack of resources or housing brought the history close to home. Rescue operations were hampered by the problem of few surviving medically skilled people and medical supplies. 120,000 people were homeless in the aftermath. Photos of the devastation
While people in Nagasaki struggled for their lives and dealt with the horrible aftermath, Bock's Car landed on the island of Okinawa with barely enough fuel to land. Through the course of our voyage I have had the opportunity to see Tinian where that B-29 began its journey, Okinawa, where it landed upon completion of its deadly mission and Nagasaki, the victim of its deadly cargo. While we never set out to tour World War II battle sites, our voyage through the Pacific has been an interesting journey through WWII history.

As we toured the Hypocenter, the area under which the A bomb had exploded, we were struck by the paper cranes, a flash of hopeful color in a stark, dreary setting, save for a black marble tomb and the remainder of a wall of a destroyed Catholic church. Brightly colored origami cranes made of folded paper were inspired by the story of a girl who had Leukemia tried to fold 10000 cranes, the symbol of longevity and happiness in Japan. (A statue of the girl that inspired this movement stands in Seattle near the University Bridge.) Millions of paper cranes were sprinkled throughout Peace Park, along with monuments from countries around the world expressing their hope that for peace. Origami Peace cranes
As we wandered through Nagasaki, we encountered school students, also visiting Nagasaki, who interviewed us and then, in a beautiful gesture, left us with a number of folded cranes and messages of peace. The book "Embracing Defeat" by John Dower described a policy of strict censorship immediately following the war, which meant that initially few knew about the atomic bomb blasts outside the immediately affected areas besides those responsible for aiding the injured and rebuilding the cities. Vast numbers of school children were visiting the museum and other A bomb sites along with us, clearly indicating that this history is not forgotten. Also evident is that opinions about the war remain divided. Around the same time, we heard a BBC report on the radio that Okinawan citizens were protesting the removal of statements in history books that Okinawans were encouraged to commit suicide by military leaders rather than surrender to US forces. And we heard in another report later that a defense minister was forced to resign after making a statement to the effect that the A bombs were necessary to end the war. While visiting Nagasaki and the bomb museum and sites, we were keenly aware that we were Americans whose government had let loose the forces that caused all this devastation, but we encountered no animosity towards us as Americans at all. Instead, we were warmly welcomed. While visiting these historical monuments was very tough, we were really glad to be able to see them. We can only hope we find some way to resolve things peacefully in the future so we never have to revisit this kind of devastation again.

The night before we left we were coming home with an armload of groceries and a couple of Japanese guys were heading down the dock towards a fancy cruising boat named Happiness that had pulled in. We got to talking and invited them over to our boat. We spent a delightful evening in the company of these two, one of whom spoke perfect English and had spent a year working in finance in New York City. We gained valuable information about ports and hazards from them, and they suggested routes for the remainder of our time sailing through Japan. They were off in the morning, as we were and Tanaka-san encouraged us to contact him when we neared Tokyo.

*Huis Ten Bosch:*

We were next headed for Huis Ten Bosch, which other cruisers had raved about. Huis Ten Bosch, named for the dutch royal residence - house in the woods, is a model Dutch city inspired by the long historical bond between Japan and Holland. Located in a huge saltwater lake, only reachable through a narrow winding river of current under several bridges. Currents were so strong in the area that our boat was incapable of bucking them even under power; So we needed to time our arrival at the narrows within a short window of slack water when we could get a slight push from water heading the same direction, yet avoid the strongest tide when whirlpools there would make maintaining control difficult. Coming around the corner into the narrows, we were surprised to encounter a ship in this narrow channel. He was just as surprised to see us, and honked once to indicate that he'd pass us on the starboard side, which forced us to alter course. After he passed we noticed that he got swept to the edges of the channel since he'd waited too long to make his next turn. We were under sail tacking our way up the narrow channel and enjoying the challenge of the tight maneuvering and the delightful sailing conditions. The total bridge span was about 900 feet across, but only the center third was navigable for the height of our mast. And unfortunately we had to turn on the engine for about a minute to maintain our position under the center span of the bridge dead into the wind, since the sides were too low for us to tack under. As we sailed out after our visit, we again enjoyed the challenge of manuevering in these tight conditions, but that time we had a favorable wind shift that, while still a beat, allowed us to sail under the center of the bridge without the motor. Sailing in these kinds of conditions is such a charge and can be as enjoyable as many of our destinations. If only all our sails were like this! Canal with boat and Tower in the background

We had heard what a great place Huis Ten Bosch was from a number of cruisers and this destination did not disappoint. As we exited the narrow pass, we were impressed at the expanse of this lake. We could have surely spent a few weeks exploring its many tiny islands and inlets. When we came into Huis Ten Bosch (pronounced house ten bosh) we marveled at the northern european architecture. Only the mountains in the background reminded us that we weren't in the low tidal areas of the Netherlands. We pulled into a modern marina that sat in front of this beautiful backdrop. While we had to pay about $10 per day for putting the boat in the marina, our entry into the park was gratis and offered plenty of things to see. After nice, long hot showers, we began to explore the huge park. The scenery so closely resembled the the Netherlands we were amazed. Bridge next to the marina, marina in the background
The building reproductions were so authentic, that we actually mistook a photo in a picture book for one of Huis Ten Bosch in Japan. Hotels were constructed to resemble the townhouses of Amsterdam. The park featured canals and functioning locks through which we saw charming launches pass. Locks with ship in the background
Authentic reproductions of several styles of traditional Dutch windmills were nestled between huge flower beds full of blooms. Restaurants and shops offered samples of cheese and various flavors of delicious cheesecake to my delight, and we got to learn about the cheesemaking process. Wooden clogs perched outside doorways and Dutch products were available for purchase. Everywhere was a celebration of of the contributions of Dutch inventors, musicians and artists, with a number of art and history museums. An old sailing ship took people out for a spin around the lake. And we had the park nearly to ourselves. Each evening we were treated to an impressive display of fireworks complete with musical accompaniment if you were close enough to the speakers. Everything was so tastefully done that it all felt quite authentic and charming. And we've both been to the Netherlands, so we had fairly high expectations. Locks in action
As we were wandering around we noticed some pretty interesting recumbant bicycles. An energetic Dutchman, Hank, that ran the bicycle shop noticed our interest and came to chat. He showed us a wide variety of home made recumbants that he had cleverly built and let Garth try them out. We had a great time talking with him and he later visited us on the boat a couple of times. His job at Huis Ten Bosch also includes being an ambassador for visitors, and his language skills have come in handy as he's played host to Michael Jackson and Jackie Chan, as well as royalty from Thailand, and King Philip of Spain.

In addition to the park, we had the opportunity to enjoy the company of a number of neat people that were based there. We met some great people working for the US government at the military base in nearby Sasebo. Within a half hour of arriving, we met Kevin and his son Sean, who had sailed over for the day. They invited us to join them for steaks with the rest of the family - Kevin's wife Beth and daughter Sharon. Their home featured all the best aspects of Japanese architecture, with tatami mats and sliding shoji screens dividing the large first floor area into separate rooms: livingroom and diningroom, with western conveniences and furniture. We had probably the best steaks ever in front of a gorgeous waterfront view of the bay and great conversation. We also met Debbie and Tom, who treated us to good company and margaritas over the course of several evenings, and a fine meal aboard their large motorsailer that they sailed from California. And they helped us in a number of ways with information and supplies and we enjoyed swapping sailing stories with them.

As we walked the docks, we noticed a Hood 38 built by Wauquiez named Albatross that looked familiar, except the canvaswork and boat stripe were different. We debated whether the boat was the same one we met in Tanna, Vanuatu in the South Pacific. As we continued our dock walk, Shaun Weng, came and found us and invited us over to Albatross to catch up. We recalled that when we first met him he'd recently finished circumnavigating singlehanded around the capes and as the first Chinese to accomplish such a feat, he'd told us he was on his way to Hong Kong to become famous. While his remark caught us by surprise, he wasn't boasting, but merely stating a fact. His accomplishments captured the attention of the Chinese people. His fame evolved into a TV program which covered a voyage through Asia to Africa and included a refit of the boat including the modifications that we'd noticed along with a huge satellite communications system. He filled us in on his adventures since we were last together in the Solomon Islands: He was dismasted just north of Mindanao in the Philippines when he hit a trawler during one of his short catnaps. The challenge of singlehanding is finding time to sleep while keeping an adequate watch. He jury rigged a sail combination and finished his sail into Hong Kong. Why was he living on his boat in Japan, you might wonder? Like Moistessier, he found the publicity in China overwhelming. Following his filmed voyage to Africa, he shipped his boat back to the nearest available port call at the time - Yokohama, Japan and planned to sail it on to China. The tight schedule his TV contractors tried to hold him to was uncomfortably tight and he wasn't keen to rush back to China. Shaun Weng
When we saw him again in Japan, he'd recently sailed with British sailing legend Ellen MacArthur in Asia on her B & Q (high performance trimaran) tour and said he really enjoyed sharing watches with her. We've since seen photos of him and the rest of Ellen's crew in a magazine. He had also just completed writing his book about his voyage and was heading to China to meet his publisher and his Chinese TV producers about future programs the day after we arrived. We so wish we could have had more time with him to share stories, but his flight was early the next day.

The day before we left, a cruising boat pulled in: Shadow of Lorelei, with Australians Mauro and Pauline aboard. When we stopped by to say hello, we found we had a great deal in common. They'd been out sailing for years and were on their third boat. They spent a bit of time in Hong Kong working, as well as in the US and we had traveled many other places in common. We talked a lot about life after cruising, as they'd returned to the regular world a number of times after cruising for years and we have been thinking a lot about bringing our own voyage to a close. While our time together was very short, we really hit it off and really hope to cross paths again somehow. They generously gave Garth a watch after we'd admired it, told them that we'd been shopping for one without success for some time and joked about buying his watch off him. All our watches disappeared with a backpack that got stolen from the yacht club in Hong Kong before I could replace the bands and batteries. Standing watches without a good alarm for the watch changes was proving difficult and we'd been searching for replacements for ages. Mauro and Pauline were flying back to Australia in a few weeks and explained they could easily buy another. Huis Ten Bosch was a fascinating destination filled with great people. We left in high spirits to continue our quest eastwards through Japan towards Tokyo.


Along our way we'd planned to stop at Takashima, and we'd discovered there were two. We decided that since we had permission, we'd stop at both since they were well placed for our route in light winds. We pulled into a little bite inside a larger bay that housed some pearl farms and fish farms. While we were at anchor and I was cooking pasta for an early dinner, I watched fishermen ply their trade next to our boat from the porthole over the stove. The fishing boat dropped a net hung from floats and then steered in a circle back to the first float. The fishermen then began drawing the net closed; One of them gunned the engine and steered away from the net enclosure while the other pulled the net closed, tightening the purse strings around the catch in the center. As we sat down to dinner, the fishermen pulled alongside and offered us one of the fresh squid they had just caught. As the fisherman held the squid in the air to offer it to us, the squid seemed to wheeze or sneeze as it flexed its muscles now useless for propulsion in the air. We did our best to thank the fisherman in our surprise, despite our poor language skills. And in a flash, the fisherman was gone. Fisherman giving us a freshly caught squid
We put our 8 inch long friend into a bucket of saltwater until we were prepared to clean him for a post dinner snack. First Garth changed into dark blue swim trunks for the operation - just in case he accidentally punctured the ink sac - then he pulled the head off, carefully putting the head into the bucket before the ink could ooze out all over the boat. Next he pulled out the guts and "the pen", which since squid are actually molluscs, is its shell even though it is on the inside. The quill looks just like a feather quill pen made of clear light plastic. Lastly, Garth pulled off the skin and fins. Finally he cut the squid into 1/2" rings and I fried it up in a little bit of olive oil - 4 minutes being just the right amount of time for the most tender calimari. Delicious! Could hardly be more fresh - from the wild to dinner plate in about a half hour.

In the second Takashima, a small fishing port, we tied alongside a concrete wall and were glad that we'd salvaged a huge styrofoam typhoon fender from a beach for just such a purpose. (We were shocked to note that the cost of these fenders was $80 each in the hardware store and were soon beachcombing; The bug spray to stem the tide of ants that crawled out from the fender cost only a tiny fraction of that!) Velella tied alongside in Takeshima So while we perched against this wall, people stopped by to visit, bearing gifts of food snacks. We shared some of the snacks we had aboard with them and tasted the ones they brought. We showed them our route on the tiny map in the back of the dictionary and did our best to bridge the language barrier. When one fellow learned that we had crossed the Pacific and planned to cross it again, he bowed very low - nearly prostrate to the ground, showing great respect for our adventure and leaving us somewhat awestruck. As the tide fell, inviting people aboard became impractical as did getting on or off the boat. Fortunately, the tide level was decent when we took off at dawn, so I didn't have to scale 2 meters up a vertical wall and drop down again just to untie our lines.

Under sail, we have encountered countless fishing boats and have been often perplexed by their erratic behavior. Figuring out whether to pass in front of them or behind them is a perpetual struggle, since we often need to make these decisions long before we get close enough to see what they are doing. Sometimes they are anchored or just drifting and we never know when they might spring into gear to cross our bow. Other times they are towing nets of lines which require giving them a wide berth. One time when we saw one anchored we relaxed, thinking we'd at least see him pull up his anchor before we needed to worry about trying to manuever around him. Bad assumption! He suddenly was in full forward gear doing large circles around his anchor line. I'm sure fishermen are often perplexed by a sailors strange maneuvers as well. But needing to maneuver a sailboat around something like that can often mean the difference between easily sailing past a point or having to do a couple more tacks and possibly even making it into port before dark. When there are so many of them, each thinking we should go around them, sailing becomes much more complicated and sometimes quite frustrating.


We debated whether to stop in Fukuoka, a medium sized city that was not noted for any particular siteseeing. Yet we'd heard from yachties that foreign yachts could stay in the marina for 2 weeks free of charge and that an excellent grocery store was nearly across the street. Sometimes features as simple as that are what make a place a good stop. And we'd heard that other cruisers might be there that we'd enjoyed meeting in Hong Kong and we were hoping to cross paths again. Velella under spinnaker
We had a delightful spinnaker run down into the well protected bay that makes Fukuoka an excellent natural harbor. On that gorgeous sunny afternoon, we were impressed by the active dingy sailing we saw as we sailed in as well as the caliber of racing boats moored there. And a pretty beach park that stretched along a smaller inner bay outside the marina pontoons. Fukuoka Marina

As soon as we tied up, we set off to stretch our legs, get money and explore a little, and almost immediately encountered a cruiser from Finland who was just about to depart. But in typical cruiser fashion, despite his hurry to get going, he gave us a quick rundown of the town and its facilities. Laundry, groceries and email access were high on our list of errands, as was procuring propane (LPG) for our stove. We tackled our chores and projects, making excellent progress. Getting propane was one we knew might be challenging, but was absolutely essential. When Garth asked in the marina office, a fellow standing nearby offered to help him as soon as he finished putting bottom paint on his J-24 and said he'd stop by our boat after lunch. Sure enough, Mr. Tasaki (Tasaki-san) and one of his coworkers and crew, Mr. Sunada (Sunada-san) stopped by to see if they could help. They and Garth set off to see if they could find a propane shop open on a Sunday. No such luck. But, another fellow knew someone and he called to make arrangements for them to open the shop especially for us later that afternoon. Since Japanese regulations require that tanks be certified in Japan, renting an approved tank and then transferring LPG from that to our tanks was the best option. The pigtail that we'd made our first few months of cruising went unused for years, but has gotten significant use in the last few years for tank to tank transfers. So Tasaki-san and Sunada-san returned a little later, freshly showered and ready to go. Garth and Tasaki-san went to get the tank, while Sunada-san and I snacked in the cockpit. All watched closely as Garth carefully hoisted the rented tank from our boom then connected that tank to our tank with the pigtail and proceeded to use gravity to transfer LPG from one tank to the other, taking extra care to bleed the tank to maxmimize the amount of LPG he could fit into the tank. (Cooling the tank before transfer is another technique that helps as well but is rarely practical and in this case not necessary since the weather was not hot.) (Cruising is not all cocktails in the cockpit.)

Once we finished transfering the propane, Tasaki-san invited us out for sushi. We were very excited since we love sushi and had not yet visited a proper sushi bar in Japan. We quickly stopped by his house to drop off the tank and his Miata so we could all fit in a single car for the evening. We got the opportunity to see his nice house and briefly meet his wife and son before heading off for a late dinner. Seeing the town by car was a treat and they pointed out a few of the sites, including a retractable roof stadium like Safeco Field and a 3 meter high wall built to defend against Mongol invasions that ultimately proved unecessary after a momentous typhoon in 1281 wiped out the invader's fleet, inspiring the name "Divine Wind" which was transliterated to become "Kamikaze" and associated with the Japanese suicide pilots of WWII. In the ride over, Garth discovered that Tasaki-san grew up in Nagasaki and that his parents survived the A bomb. We had so many questions we wanted to ask him about that but were hesitant to ask. Tasaki-san had shared with us a small photo album including photos earlier, so I grabbed a copy of the Kazi Japanese mailing magazine article about us, photos of the boat construction and a photo album and postcards we carried aboard (for when I get homesick) to share with them. Tasaki-san generously hosted us to the finest of Sushi feasts and plenty of beer and delicious warm sake. Shushi Dinner with Tasaki-san and Surida-san
And all this on top of running us around town to get propane. We were so overwhelmed by his generosity and didn't even come close to properly thanking him. We hope that we will have the opportunity to host him in Seattle - take him to see Ichiro and the Mariners play in Seattle's retractable roof stadium and get him out racing on a J24 with the competitive one design fleet on a Tuesday night.

We invited Mr. Sunao OHara, the fellow that had arranged for the propane shop to reopen especially for us, to come by the boat for a beer and the next evening he did. As we got talking we learned that he had been a merchant seaman traveling to many places. He had some great sea stories and reminisced about his visits to Seattle, Tacoma and a number of other places we've both visited. The more we talked the more we discovered we had in common. He runs the Opti junior sailing program in Fukuoka. And as we asked him about the program and discovered that he travels to Opti regattas around Asia and knows a friend of ours, Akira, a boy from Hong Kong who races Optis, and whose Japanese father, Tets, was one of our closest friends in Hong Kong. Ohara-san remembers when the Sakai family sailed in from Hong Kong, delivering a J120, and marveled that the kids that were of Japanese decent could not speak Japanese. Yet, their mother is British and they live in Hong Kong, so have as much or more reason to speak Cantonese. We were pleased yet again to discover how small the world is and told Ohara-san to say hello to Akira for us when they meet again at a regatta next month. Ohara-san
Next thing we knew, Ohara-san was calling his friend Linda, who was originally from New York and put her on the phone. We invited her to come by the boat and she said she'd promised her daughter they'd take a run to Costco that evening, but then thought she could finagle a stop by with the excuse that she was buying some things for us. So over the phone we quickly came up with a wishlist and next thing I know, Linda is calling to clarify options while she's standing in Costco's aisles. What an incredible offer! We were so grateful to be able to stock up on some passage food. When Linda and her daughter Ann came by with the goods, we had a great time talking. She's married to a Japanese man, has lived in Japan for 30 years, and speaks and reads Japanese fluently. She loved reading the article and we enjoyed finally learning what it said.

Fukuoka was a pleasant place to visit mostly because of the great people that we met here. What has become so clear is that the scenery, the history and the culture are just a small fraction of our adventure and it is the people that we get to meet that make cruising so interesting and make us love a place or not. And as ever we needed to press on.

*Sailing into the Inland Sea via Kanmon Kaikyo:*

Our route took us through the narrow cut between the islands of Kyushu and Honshu where the currents can be very strong (13 knots!). We sailed north through the night from Fukuoka towards the pass, noting that we could arrive at the ideal time for transiting through if conditions held. We figured we get as close as we could to the pass, and then gauge the weather and currents to go through at the most opportune time. The began to build and shift as we approached the busy shipping lanes and when we arrived just outside the cut into the narrow channel we realized that we could not fight the strong winds and waves compounded by an adverse current in a busy shipping channel. So we decided to wait for more favorable conditions, and we anchored in a bite in an industrial setting, just outside a number of ships also waiting for passage through the narrow channel. We did our best to entertain ourselves during the 2 days while we waited through rain and then thick fog until gradually the wind clocked around to a more favorable direction and ideal wind speed of 7-10 knots. We calculated the currents and tides repeatedly checking and rechecking because it was so important to get the timing right. We were trying to arrive at the narrowest spot under the bridge where the current is typically strongest during slack water just before it was beginning to ebb so that we'd be gently flushed in the direction of our destination under control. Our engine is not strong enough to counter any significant current under the best of conditions, but an adverse current of even 3 knots (much less 13!) would be insurmountable, and maintaining control amidst any whirlpools that might develop in such a strong even favorable current could prove impossible. We started out at the tail end of the flood, watching readerboards posted at the entrance indicating that the current (under the bridge 7 miles away) was flowing in a westerly direction at a speed of 3 knots against us and dropping as we expected.

We had ideal sailing conditions for working our way up the winding passage just outside the shipping lanes. One of many ships
As we rounded a curve we had the wind on our nose and little room to stay outside the shipping lanes along this stretch. We turned the engine on to give us a little boost as we worked our way along. Then the engine made a ghastly sound that sounded like gears grinding and we immediately shut it off. Our winds were favorable enough for us to make excellent headway, despite needing to short tack along the shore to stay out of the shipping lanes and avoid the contours of the land. And we really couldn't have done anything else but carry on under sail alone, given the state of the tide and the geography. We were getting a charge out of pushing ourselves to sail as high as possible and make good tacks. As we approached the bridge, our timing was pretty well on track for being under the bridge at slack water when we wanted to be there. Suddenly a coast guard boat appeared and stopped in front of us and came out with a loud hailer to tell us that we could not have our main sail up in the channel. Then they asked us what our next port of call was. Ah, hello? If you need the loud hailer, do you think you will be able to hear our replies? After much gesturing to encourage them to call us on the radio, we called them. We told them that we had engine trouble and needed to sail. They didn't seem to understand but did move out of our way as we continued to sail towards them and continued to short tack up the shore. We were committed and we had to just carry on since we couldn't really anchor there and turning around just before the tide turned would have been worse. We had no choice but to continue the last bit under sail alone and do our best to stay out of the way. I guess no one ever imagined a sailboat would be so bold as to try to sail through this incredibly active pass where a very strong current runs and I suppose that if we hadn't been very experienced racers with such a maneuverable boat, we might not have tried this but instead called for assistance. The vessel traffic control called us on the VHF with good English and we explained again that we had engine trouble. They understood our problem and asked us to be very careful of the large volume of shipping traffic and strong currents. I explained that we were staying outside the shipping lanes and were being very careful. Every once in a while, during the course of our conversation I had to put down the mike to tack away from the shore or out of the shipping channel, but soon they seemed satisfied.

Then we reached the narrowest section under the bridge and there was no room outside the shipping channel in this 100 yard wide stretch of water. At just this moment, with 3 supertankers all approaching us in a steady line and bridge supports taking up some of our sea room, we got another call on the VHF. Could they have picked a more inappropriate moment to contact us? I can't imagine one. After we tacked and they'd called a second or third time, I answered. They wanted to know our last and next *few* ports of call and times of arrival(!) and departure, our port of entry, nationality, confirm that we had engine trouble and ask how long it would take to repair the engine problem. (If I haven't looked at the engine problem, how can I tell you how long it will take to repair?) Again I had to put the mike down while the guy was rephrasing his question for the third time about when we'd have our engine fixed, so that we could tack out of the way of a ship. Just as I thought I was done answering their questions, they'd confirm the answer. For each question I answered they confirmed it 4 or 5 times and the conversation seemed to go on endlessly. I was just about at wits end, tempted to say something like "for the safety of everyone in this channel, I suggest we postpone this conversation for a few minutes" but I figured with the language barriers it would just be harder then trying to just answer the quesions as quickly as possible and finally they signed off. The Command Mike in the cockpit kept us from having to run down below each time we were hailed. (Then again, I might not have heard them in the first place.) By the time we cleared the bridge area, a readerboard nearby indicated that we had 4 knots of current with us. As we moved away from the channel we again had space outside the shipping lanes where we could poke along at our relatively slow speed out of the way of these fast moving ships. Within a half hour of when we got past the bridge, we heard an announcement on the VHF in English (and presumeably also in Japanese) that the current under the bridge at that time was 8 knots and rising. Boy were we relieved to have made it through and gotten away from such a strong current.

We had just started to relax after our rather intense session short tacking alongside a major shipping channel (and creating an international incident!), when we neared a fishingboat and one guy started waving flags frantically. As we got close we could see a line of nearly submerged small white buoys (that looked like much of the other small trash and debris that we had been ignoring for the most part over the last few days) stretched to another small float in the distance. So we tacked away and the guy calmed down. As we progressed a little further, another boat started waving frantically and honking. We realised that he was also connected to the original float and the first fishing boat, also with small white nearly submerged floats. These might have been easier to spot had they been in a straight line, but they weren't. We were a bit surprised to encounter fishing boats stringing lines and nets across a large expanse of area next to a major shipping lane, but around here fishermen are king and seem to push the right of way rules as far as they can . By the time we cleared this fishing group we were feeling thoroughly fried, yet plenty of fishing boats still dotted the horizon, along with countless ships some of which were cutting the corner outside the shipping lanes. We'd told customs that we'd sail out of the Inland Sea straight to the south of Shikoku island and estimated our time of arrival to be 5pm the following day. As the day wore on, the wind died to nothing, and I mean nothing, zilch, zip, nada. Not even a ripple on the water. With no wind or engine to fall back on and dusk descending upon us, we were feeling the pressure. Being near a busy shipping lane, surrounded by hoards of fishing boats doing the unexpected while we had no steerage in foggy conditions made for a long tense night, but it was only the first of many. I can't remember office stress that surpassed this.

To the south of us was another narrow stretch where the current flow was notable. Without wind we would drift back in the adverse current losing all progress we'd made whenever we had a breath of air. I sailed past, then drifted back to a group of fishing buoys several times, which frustrated me to no end. Trying to sail in no wind can be such hard work and annoying to get nowhere for all that effort. So we did our best to sail in nearly no air, and had a number of painful days of sailing where we'd make minor progress, battling for every inch in short wisps of wind, sprinkling rain and fog, and then lose our progress as the tide changed. The anchorages were too far apart to keep the progress we'd made and give us a rest. (We figured that eventually we could sail into a bay and take a look at the engine, though we weren't very optimistic: We figured that the problem was serious and we wouldn't be able to get parts in the tight schedule before the weather turns for the season.) We finally made enough progress to sail in and out of an anchorage, allowing us a good night's sleep and an opportunity to look at the engine though we found no obvious source of the trouble. We set off again in a mildly promising wind only to have it die once we were too far to return to our snug anchorage. No wind and fog
Finally after our 4th agonizing day of drifting without any sign of real wind, we broke down and tried the motor again out of sheer desperation, hoping we wouldn't hear that horrible grinding noise again. When we did hear it Garth was below and realized it wasn't what we thought it was but a much simpler problem which we think we've addressed. So we motored for most of a day to another anchorage, making a whopping 30 miles of progress for all our hard work in a foggy drizzle.

Finally the following day, the wind picked up so we could make some decent progress under sail. But by then, we'd wasted so much time bobbing around, we had lost a bit of our sightseeing time. Typhoon season wasn't going to wait for us to finish our sightseeing. So we decided to skip some of our minor planned stops on Shikoku and carried on to Honshu, the most well known island of Japan. Shipping and fishing traffic continued to be heavy in often overcast conditions, but the wind conditions improved significantly and we covered the miles to Wakayama, just south of Osaka. While we were a little apprehensive about hassles with customs since we never stopped where we'd declared we would and had been mostly unaccounted for over 9 days, when we reached Wakayama, the Customs officials greeted us with a smile, offered us some small souvenirs, and were quite understanding when we declared that all our actions and schedule were totally dependent upon the weather. We'd pulled into a very nice marina, with many conveniences which buoyed our spirits on a gorgeous sunny day.