This is just a quick blog update to let everyone know that we are still at the dock in Nagasaki. The GSSR group will not be moving again until the end of next week.
We had planned to leave this Saturday, and even plotted our route and reserved a couple of marinas, but then Braun from Grey Pearl sent an email to the group that began like this:
“…Question – are we leaving Nagasaki too soon?…”
The group is at a bit of a major milestone. This is really our last stop in what I’ll call ‘Mainland Japan.’ When most people think of Japan, they are thinking of the four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.
We will be heading into the 1,000 km long ,169-island chain, known as the Ryukyu Islands, that are part of Japan, just as the Aleutian Islands are part of the US, but somewhat analogously, due to geographic separation, and their independence until modern times, the Ryukyu islands are very different from the Japan we’ve been cruising in. Some of the distinction is historically based…
The Ryukyu Islands’ history is ‘messy’ by all standards. For most of the past thousand years, the islands were an independent nation, with strong ties to China. Then, in the 1600s, they were captured by Japan, but kept partially open, in order to maintain trade with China. Disputes arose as to whether the Ryukyus belonged to China, Japan, or were an independent nation. U.S. President Grant somehow got involved, and was called upon to arbitrate ownership of the Ryukyus, and against the protestations of many Ryukyu residents and China, gave the islands to Japan. WWII was very hard on the Ryukyus, where Okinawa became the battleground for perhaps the bloodiest battle of the war. More people died at Okinawa than from the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. After WWII, the US demanded long-term military bases in Japan, and grabbed something like 40% of useable Okinawan land for US military bases. The Okinawan citizens were not happy with Japan for allowing the US presence, and it has been a controversial topic ever since, and is particularly tense this year.
I do not know what greeting our group will receive in the Ryukyus. It is tough to read the history on the internet and know how this will play out in terms of the reception we will receive. Okinawa and Ishigaki (Ryukyuan islands) are popular vacation destinations for the Japanese, so I suspect all will be fine. Crusing the Ryukyu islands will be a challenge…
All of the Ryukyu islands are closed ports, except perhaps Okinawa, meaning that we need to apply to visit each one independently. Our agent asked that I identify our route so that he could start the paperwork. I really didn’t want to be pinned down to too firm a schedule, because of two big picture issues:
1) The Ryukyu Islands are mostly tiny islands with no protected bays. Although typhoons typically arrive later in the year, they can, and do, occur in June. We need to always be thinking about where we’ll run to hide if a typhoon strikes. Weather in general is going to be a huge issue because most of the islands have no place to hide from any kind of rough weather.
2) We know that there are some great anchoring opportunities to be had in the Ryukyu Islands, but we’re not sure where they are. We want the flexibility to extend our stay at the good places and bail quickly on the bad ones.
Below is a tentative schedule I gave to our agent:
|Approx. Date |
| Location || GPS Position || Days || Anchor or Tied to Wall |
| June 3 ||Yakushima || 30° 25.878’N, 130° 34.311’E || 1 || Don’t care |
| June 4 ||Nakano Shima || 29° 50.497’N, 129° 51.228 || 1 || Don’t care |
| June 5 ||Takera Jima || 29° 9.506’N, 129° 12.410’E || 1 || Don’t care |
| June 6 ||Amami Shima || 28° 25.662’N, 129° 37.977’E || 5 || Anchor |
| June 11 ||Amami Shima || 28° 10.724’N, 129° 17.441’E || 5 || Anchor |
| June 16 ||Okino Erabu Shima || 27° 23.724’N, 128° 39.855’E || 1 || Don’t care |
| June 17 ||Okinawa || 26° 13.611’N, 127° 39.738’E || 10 || Marina or Wall |
| June 27 ||Miyako Jima || 24° 45.627’N, 125° 16.288’E || 1 || Don’t care |
| June 28 ||Ishi Gaki || 24° 20.101’N, 124° 8.613’E || 5 || Prefer marina or wall, but there may also be anchoring possibilities |
| || || || || |
I accompanied the schedule with this disclaimer: “I put in my best guess at dates, however, the one thing that I can promise is that there will be weather delays, and that this schedule will shift
The islands selected were the largest we could find along our route, or the ones with the greatest chance of offering some shelter.
This is the response I received:
| || “…Have contacted Kagoshima Coast Guard and asked them to give us further information to anchoring/mooring points according to your voyage plan. |
Frankly speaking they are not sure good anchoring/mooring point at these small islands such as Nakano Shima, Takara Jima, Okino Erabu Shima. So Coast Guard told that leave decision and judgement to captain for anchoring and mooring or drafting at these islands depending on weather. …”
It’s an understandable response. We picked the best sheltered islands we could find, but there isn’t much to pick from. The Aleutian islands were much friendlier with respect to having protected bays.
Contrast this to our situation in Nagasaki. We have good electricity and are on a floating dock. Our boats are docked a block from the train station, in the heart of a major modern city. We have all the shopping and restaurants we could possibly want within walking distance.
Anyway, to make a long story short. Our cruising is about to take a dramatic change. We’re moving into the unknown, where things might be really great, or they might be really horrible. We don’t have the vaguest idea. The only thing we know is that they are going to be incredibly different. Anyway, that’s enough on that topic…
My last blog entry, which talked about one of our GSSR boats losing power on the way to Nagasaki, attracted some terrific comments. If you haven’t already, you may want to review them by CLICKING HERE
). There are some interesting comments on fuel systems and anchoring. And speaking of anchors…
The captains of the GSSR group had lunch together this week, and we started speaking about ‘The Med’ (short for the Mediterranean) which we are working our ways towards. At this point, the Med seems very far away, so it was just idle chit-chat, but the topic of med mooring came up.
Roberta and I had our prior boat, a Nordhavn 62, based in France, near Monaco, and had some experience with med mooring. It’s something that is fairly common in Europe, that generically refers to a way of mooring your boat by backing up to a wall, with nothing between you and other boats on your side except fenders.
Your stern is attached to the wall by lines, and your bow held in place either by an anchor, or by lines that extend to the bottom of the marina.
Med mooring can be quite difficult, particularly in high winds, and in some places, such as St Tropez, it’s a popular tourist attraction just to watch the mega-yachts attempt med mooring as they frequently bounce off each other.
I mentioned at lunch that I had always done the ‘lines to the bottom of the marina’ form of med mooring, and had never had to tangle with dropping anchor and backing to the wall. Braun (Grey Pearl) had also had his boat in Europe and gave some details about his med mooring efforts. One of my biggest questions has always been, “How far in front of the slip should I drop the anchor?” Braun said that it is no different than any other form of anchoring. You need enough scope (the ratio of chain-length to depth) to be able to set the anchor. In other words, probably at least five times the depth in chain. In 40’ of water, you would need to pull away from the wall a couple of hundred feet, drop the anchor, then back up to the wall, moving exactly straight, so as not to tangle surrounding anchors. This is tougher than it sounds, particularly when in high-wind, and backing into a slip so tight you need to roll the fenders as you squeeze your way backwards.
Then Braun mentioned something I hadn’t heard of – floating the anchor. I thought I understood med mooring, but Braun added a new wrinkle. Apparently in some marinas, such as Monaco, there are so many anchors under the water that tangling anchors is a real problem. Thus, to simplify anchor retrieval, they regularly send down divers to put air bags on your anchor, and float it to the surface. I’ve never seen this done, so your guess is as good as mine as to the details of the process.
And, this is all a long preamble to a strange coincidence…
Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend who is a delivery skipper.
He had been delivering a boat from La Paz Mexico back to Seattle when he hit rough seas along the west coast of Baja. He was getting beat up in 30-40 knot winds and high seas, and wanted protection from the wind.
He was near an island, but it had no great places to anchor. The best protection he could find was a location in 120 feet of water. This meant dropping a lot of chain. When the storm passed, and he started retrieving the chain, the worst-case scenario occurred, and the windlass (the gadget that pulls up the anchor) failed completely. He was in the middle of nowhere, on a large boat, with a very heavy anchor, deep down, and no way to pull it up. It was far too heavy for him to retrieve by hand.
To my friend’s credit, rather than just cut loose the chain, he took the tender to shore and started seeking a diver. He then took a couple of large fenders, deflated them, and had the diver take them down to the anchor. Once attached to the anchor they were inflated, and a few moments later the anchor floated to the surface.
There are lift bags which are made for this purpose, and I’m now thinking I should buy one (or two) and keep them on the boat. An example: http://www.turtlepac.com/photo-gallery/underwater-lift-bags.html
Very cool, and how often do you hear two floating anchor stories in the same week?
And, here’s a few pictures from around Nagasaki…
L to R: Me (Ken), Roberta’s mom (Nova), our son (Chris) and Roberta’s dad (John). Roberta and I have been cruising alone on Sans Souci until now, but will have guests for the next week
If you have a really good microscope you can find Sans Souci in this picture. We are RIGHT DOWNTOWN in Nagasaki
For two hundred years the only part of the Japan open to trade with the outside world was Nagasaki. One of the many tourist attractions is to tour the homes of the westerners that used to live here to trade with Japan
Life isn’t always exciting on Sans Souci (that’s a good thing!)
Scenes from the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park.
Starr backing up to Grey Pearl, to say goodbye
I’m sad to report that our friends Don and Sharry Stabbert, on Starr, have departed Nagasaki without the rest of us. The GSSR has now trimmed down to just our original three boats (Grey Pearl, Seabird and Sans Souci.)
Starr only arrived in Japan a few weeks ago and wants to spend more time in Japan before leaving. Their goal is to cruise the western coast of Japan this year, while our group continues on to the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Starr will be producing blog entries (http://starr.talkspotblogs.com
) and I’ll be eagerly awaiting each of their blog updates.
That’s it for this blog entry. We’ll be back at sea next week, and as I always say, my blog feels like a tug o’ war between myself and the readers. If all goes well, I have nothing to write except “Another day spent working on my tan, barbecuing, and sipping an adult beverage.” However, I suspect the Ryukyu Islands won’t allow me the pleasure of writing boring blog entries. Sometimes I win, and sometimes the blog wins.
Until next time,
Thank you! Ken Williams
Sans Souci, Nordhavn 68
And, if you are interested in my books, check out : http://www.lulu.com/kenw