GSSR No. 5 – Hiroshima Japan

Greetings all!

You may recall from my last blog that our boats entered a commercial marina in the town of Takamatsu. It was a wonderful town, but our mooring situation was a mess. The boats were tied to a concrete wall, and were rising and lowering about eight feet with each swing of the tide. This, coupled with the wind pushing us off the docks, meant literally risking our lives each time we wanted to transfer between the boats and shore.

Our next big destination after Takamatsu would be Hiroshima, a distance of 100 nautical miles (nm.) This was farther than we really wanted to go in one day, yet our incident with the coast guard had us nervous about where we could and couldn’t stop.

To test the water, I sent our agent, Furuno san, a list of possible anchoring locations, as well as the location of a marina. My worry was that the coast guard was going to limit greatly our ability to explore the inland sea.

To my pleasant surprise, the coast guard looked at the list of locations and said that all were fine, but that the locations I had chosen were likely to have problems with current and vessel traffic. They suggested a couple of other locations, all of which were acceptable. Our group discussed whether we’d rather anchor or go into port, and anchoring won! We chose a point half-way to Hiroshima and decided to drop anchor for the night.

We departed Takamatsu at 7am, for the short 50nm run to our anchorage at an island called Innoshima. The run was easy with nothing interesting to report.

The anchorage was fabulous, and the sun was shining!





Roberta and I were lazy and didn’t tender into town. The others did, but there wasn’t much to see. No problem. I was happy to be lazy.

I called Braun on the radio to ask if he wanted to consider diving. The water was murky and cold, even though the air was warm. Braun asked, “Why?” and I didn’t have a better reason to give than that it might be fun to do. He reminded me how cold the water was, which quickly cooled me on the idea. At the start of our trip the water was at 57 degrees. It has been warming quickly, and is now at 62 degrees. The warmer water is a mixed blessing. As it warms the chance of typhoons will increase, but at least we’ll be able to swim and dive.

While the others were in town, I spent the afternoon plotting our course to Hiroshima. The coast guard’s cautioning me against high currents had caught my attention. My first pass at a route to Hiroshima had us zigzagging through the islands, and once I studied the currents I realized this wasn’t going to work.

Here’s a website which helped me figure out the currents at each point on the passage:

I identified a short-cut, which would get us to Hiroshima in 53 nm, with little current most of the way, but one tight passage which could be a real problem. I also found a safer, longer (76 nm) route, which would be less interesting, but had few points with the potential for high current. I was fairly confident we would be safe on the shorter passage, but didn’t want to make the decision alone, so I asked the others onto Sans Souci to look at the routes.

Specifically, I wanted them to look at the narrow passage which is at: 34° 11.706’N, 132° 32.259’E

On the charts, and in the coast guard books, it looked tight and dangerous. However, when I looked at it in Google Earth, it looked like a piece of cake. Google Earth has been an incredible help for us in trip planning. I was able to click on a camera that was right at ground level and see the actual passage, using Google Street View. Some of the others in our group had never spent time with Google Street View and were blown away. The passage looked easy and we made a group decision to ‘go for it.’

We departed at 7am, with a goal of arriving at 3:30pm.

Our short cut route turned out to be wonderful. We were zigzagging between islands, in nice wide passages, with plenty to see at all times.

I’m no expert, but I have some theories about Japan…

Japan is comprised of a series of islands, with virtually all cities near the water, and most inland regions unbuildable due to steep terrain. Japan’s primary means of moving manufactured goods, fuel, produce, etc is via freighter. In the US we also move goods by freighter, but overland methods of moving freight, such as trucking and trains are also heavily used. The US has only a fraction of the number of commercial shipping ports that Japan has. In Japan, it seems there is another commercial port every few miles. The waterways in Japan are dominated by freighters and fishing. Many factories are located on the waterfront, with this giving them easy access to the freighters.

There is very little recreational boating in Japan, and our interest in cruising for fun confuses the Japanese authoirities. The waterways are their lives. It’s how everything moves here, and it’s where a significant chunk of their food comes from. The idea of ‘playing’ on their busy waterways just seems odd to them. The coast guard doesn’t understand why we want to find a quiet cove, drop the hook, open a bottle of wine, and fire up the barbecue. They have no objection, but it’s not an observed behavior, and in this highly disciplined society, they don’t really have a set of rules or conventions with which to deal with us.

Along our route we observed an endless stream of factories and ports. One sad thing we noted was many freighters sitting at anchor, floating high in the water (meaning empty bilges), and factories seemingly sitting idle. It was another depressing reminder that things are tough all over.

And, as long as I am speculating on things I know very little about…

Japan’s economy hit a road bump a decade ago, and has been struggling to recover ever since. To stimulate the economy the Japanese government has funded a decade-long construction boom. This has resulted in an economy that is hard for me to judge. It feels vibrant, but there are also some worrisome details. Out of curiosity I looked up the national debt to GDP ratios for a few countries, and noted that the US’s ratio is at about 90%, Greece’s is at about 120% and Japan’s at a staggering 192%. What does this mean? Don’t ask me, I’m a software developer, turned ship-captain, not an economist. Interesting food for thought, though.

We did observe some Japanese military vessels. We will soon be in Okinawa, which has a large American military base. There is also a base near our present location. Japan is in a geographically difficult position, surrounded by countries with which they have had tense relations (China, No. Korea and others). The presence of US military bases in Japan are controversial, and there is talk of America’s military leaving Okinawa. I don’t know the issues, but know that it will be an interesting time, historically speaking, to be in Okinawa.

The tight channel I had agonized over turned out to be a non-event. Here we see how it looked on my chart plotter and how it looked in ‘real life.’

Our arrival at Hiroshima, AT PRECISELY 3:30 — which was my original prediction of our arrival time —  was much simpler than we thought it would be. The Kanon Marina is not accustomed to boats our size, and emails had been going back and forth where the marina was promising to close the marina for our arrival, and send out guide boats to escort us into the marina one by one. Diagrams were sent to us explaining the tight turn just inside the entrance. As it turned out, the approach was easy, and the marina is perfect. It has easy access to buses, a dozen restaurants in front of the marina, and a very nice, helpful, staff.

I included this photo of the boats in the marina to show that recreational cruising does exist in japan. It isn’t non-existent, it just doesn’t exist in nearly the quantity that we see it in the Pacific NW, or on the east coast.

Roberta and I wanted to visit downtown Hiroshima, and discovered that we had arrived in the middle of the Hiroshima Flower Festival. There were parades, live music, dance competitions, food booths, and much more.

Our son, Chris, lived in Japan for seven years and advised us to be careful biting into pastries, because sometimes there is a ‘surprise’ in the middle. Here we see a booth selling Octopus beignets. Yum! (… Nah, definitely not something I’d eat!)

Most menus in Japan are only in Japanese, but many restaurants post models of their food in the windows. The models are so exact that it is impossible to tell that they aren’t real food. Chris, though, says that he has a saying, which he insists is true, “Plastic food outside means plastic food inside.” We think that he is probably right!

And, to turn serious for a moment…




On August 6, 1945, at 8:15am, Hiroshima became the first city in the world to feel the impact of an atomic bomb.



I had been curious about how we might be received by the local Japanese in Hiroshima, but it has not been an issue at all. Instead, Hiroshima wants international visitors to visit their memorials, and wants the world to focus on the horror that occurred, in the hope that it might help discourage the future use of atomic weapons. In a hallway of the Peace Museum there is a book I enjoyed looking through. Every world leader you can imagine had a letter, acknowledging their tour of the memorial and their hope for world peace. I wish it were that easy — which it isn’t — but at least the sentiments are honorable.



Hiroshima today is one of the most charming cities we have visited in Japan. There is no indication whatsoever, other than the memorial, of the events 65 years ago.

We have spent our time here enjoying the great international restaurants, shopping, and walking tours of the city. Here you see the Hiroshima Castle.

And, on a completely different topic…

We were happy to be able to celebrate Steven Argosy’s (Seabird) birthday.

During the  birthday dinner the discussion turned briefly to the topic of, “Where are we going, and what is the plan for cruising next year?” Traveling as a group has exceeded everyone’s expectations. I can’t envision ANYTHING that would split the group, other than a disagreement over where to go. This year’s destination (Hong Kong) isn’t controversial, but next year, our destination is not so clear, and the year after that, there is the potential for major disagreement. It’s a bit of a touchy topic, so we didn’t spend much time on it, but my sense was that momentum seemed to be that we’d run the boats to Singapore in 2011, then evaluate the safety issues in the Gulf of Aden, and most likely load the boats onto a freighter (Dockwise) for delivery to the Med. That said, we have a lot of miles to finish this year’s cruising, and trip planning for next year is not only wasted effort, it’s bad luck. What will be, will be!

And, to speak about someone else’s cruising for a change…

I’ve been enjoying reading the blog ( of Eric and Annie who are cruising with their young son named Bear. They just crossed in their Nordhavn 64, Oso Blanco, from Mexico to the Marquesas.

An excerpt from their blog…

             “…Anchored in a small, calm bay a short distance from the main town on Nuka Hiva, Bear and I decided to go snorkeling in the heat of the afternoon. Karl nosed the dinghy near shore and Bear and I jumped out with our snorkel gear in tow and went ashore. I stashed a few things on the beach then we put on our snorkel gear and headed to the water. Just as we were about to step foot into the surf, Bear said, “Look Mom! A spiny dogfish!” Bear had experience catching spiny dogfish, a small type of shark found in the Pacific Northwest, on a rod in Alaska. I looked where he was pointing. Yep, that was a shark. Nope, not a spiny dogfish. It was a small (two and a half foot) black tip shark and it was in the surf just a few feet from shore with its dorsal fin sticking up out of the water.

Just then, four French sailors were launching their dinghy and saw our astonishment at the shark discovery. In their broken English they said, “No worry. Man here said no bite. Just black tip. No tiger shark in this bay.” Then they launched away from shore.

Bear and I stood there alone, stunned and nervously laughing at our situation. We radioed to Eric on Oso and asked him to send Karl to retrieve us. As we stood on shore awaiting our ride to safety, it occurred to me that we were going to have to swim out to the dinghy, through the shark infested surf – and Bear was going to have to do it as well. Don’t panic, don’t panic. “OK Bear. Here’s the deal. We have to swim out to the dinghy. That shark is small. It can’t kill us. We’re going to be fine. We’ll just wait until Karl gets as close as he can and we’ll put our flippers on and kick real hard out there. Our flippers will scare the shark away.” A wary Bear, who suggested that perhaps its mother was around, kept it together – until it was time to launch. I had one foot in the water and he yells, “There it is!” And he was on the verge of tears. He scared the bee-geebies out of me but when I looked around I didn’t see it. He said it wasn’t there but it could be. I scolded him to not “cry wolf” and sternly said, “OK, let’s go.” And guess what? He came. We plunged into the water and scurried out to the dinghy. Bear scampered up the ladder with his fins still on – I’ve never seen him move so fast. We got in the dinghy, laughing and sighing. …” 

I always speak of my dream of being anchored off a white sand, tropical beach somewhere. Eric, Annie and Bear are cruising in the land of my dreams. I’m following their blog closely. Sharks? Ouch!

And, I’ll close out today’s blog with  …

Here are some pictures from our site-seeing expedition today to the nearby island of Miyajima, a tourist destination where people go to see the friendliest deer I’ve ever seen. They wander everywhere in the town! Oh, and there are beautiful shrines and ryokans, too!


That’s it for today, and as always, thank you for all your comments!

Thank you,

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, Nordhavn 68
And, if you are interested in my books, check out :  


6 Responses

  1. Hi – Your stepmom, Sandra signed me up for your blogs. I have
    enjoyed your journey and look forward to your updates. Thanks for
    the adventure. Sharon (from Virginia, formally CA.

  2. Hi Ken. Looks like you folks are having a good time. We are in lovely Sand Point Alaska delivering fish. Last time I was here I was living under slightly more elegant circumstances on Sans Souci. Many of the people you met here have asked me to pass on a “Hello”. There is a French couple here who are travelling in a converted tugboat called Le Manguier, Mango in English. They left from Corsica and traveled over the top of Russia via Northeast Passage and down through the Bering Strait. They soon will head to Kodiak. I seem to get sought out for local knowlege a lot these days by cruisers. It makes my work more fun as I get to meet people from all around the world. Your blog must have been good advertising. So, have fun and a big hello to the rest of the Gang.

  3. I adore getting these updates by mail. I cannot remember How I came upon them, but am always pleased to see them. This posting was particularly interesting. Hiroshima pictures were so beautiful – especially Hiroshima Castle. I trust you heeded the cranky monkey signs. I saw a woman in Gibraltar get snatched by the hand by a feisty monkey. It chased her (both of them screaming) down the monument. If you think of it next time – what is the arch in the water?

    Thank you.
    – I looked at the photo of your friend on his birthday. I suggest you hide the camera as your birthday approaches. : )

  4. As usual, a very nice informative blog. Thanks for taking the time, you must enjoy putting them together and I and many others enjoy reading them.

  5. Ken,

    Try to make sure your eyes are open when they snap the shutter. Those bottles of wine on the table make it look like you had one too many! Nice shots of Hiroshima. Its amazing how it could be rebuilt into the city it is today in a relatively short time. Glad to read your adventures again.

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