GSSR#33 – Welcome to Tomakomai Japan!

Total Distance: 5,276 nm
Run so far: 4,971 nm
Nautical Miles to go: 305 nm
Tomorrow’s goal: 0 nm

I am very pleased to report that the GSSR fleet has successfully reached our first, of many stops, in Japan. We are now at port, in Tomakomai, on the island of Hokkaido.

Our five day passage from Petropavlovsk Russia was as calm as they get. Our biggest problem was fighting boredom. On the last day we had problems with sea gulls, with as many as twenty on the bow at one time. We kept a bowl of cherries next to the helm with which to chase them away.

Until the last night, before arrival in Japan.

We had been warned that there would be fishing boats and nets in Japan, and that these could make navigation difficult. This was certainly true, and our last 12 hours into port was quite difficult.

Roberta and I were at the helm, around midnight, with the other two boats trailing slightly. We were in thick fog and the water was dead calm. I started seeing dots on the radar. At first I thought they were just clutter on the radar. Then, when we really studied them, we decided they were either crab pots, or birds. There weren’t many, so I just steered around them. I called to the other boats, but they were far enough behind me that they weren’t picking them up on radar. I suggested we form a single file line, and that they follow my track, which they did.

The number of unknown targets started rising, until I had 15 or 20 of the targets on screen at any time, and was starting to zigzag a lot. The other boats were not picking them up, or were barely picking them up. I tried to get close enough to one of the targets, to see if it was actually there, but could not find one. I was chatting back and forth, on the radio, with Grey Pearl and Seabird, who only half-believed I was seeing all these targets on the radar.

At 3am, Roberta and I went off-shift. At the end of each shift, the outgoing crew gives a report to the next shift. I showed them the targets on the radar, and I went to sleep, knowing that with Bill and Jeff in control, I would sleep fine regardless of what the targets were.

While Roberta and I slept, the occasional blip on the radar, had become a massive number of blips. The guys were zigzagging through a mine field of radar blips. They were able to get close enough to one to identify that it was a marker for fishing gear. We were running about 10 miles off the coast of Hokkaido at the time, and they made the decision to head to deeper water, to get out of the fishing zone. This worked. A few miles farther out at sea, they still had occasional targets, but they were easily avoided. In addition to all the markers we were seeing, Jeff and Bill passed a squid fishing fleet, which looked like an entire well-lit city at sea.

When Roberta and I came on shift, we had only about three hours to go to reach port. Above is what we saw on the radar. The radar above is at three mile range, and the port is about 15 miles to our right. As you can see, to reach shore, we were going to have to weave our way through the mess. Tomakomai is a busy port. I kept moving forward, thinking that sooner or later there would be a break in the targets, but either I didn’t go far enough, or there wasn’t one. 

The good news is that the fog lifted. I could now see the targets, and they were plenty far enough apart to drive between. Unfortunately though, I had no idea what the targets represented. Were there nets connecting them? Were there fishing lines? Were these just crab pots? None of us knew, but all of us were of the same opinion (which could well be wrong). Our theory was that these were linked together by long lines holding fish hooks, but that the fishing gear was lying on the bottom hundreds of feet below. We “thought” we would be fine to pass between them.

Whether we were right or not, we were able to pass through all the targets easily. If there were nets, we missed them. I stood outside and watched the water as we moved through, and saw nothing. And, to our surprise, the field of floating targets was only about a half mile thick. Once we poked through to the inside, we were in open water. There were still some random crab pots, but we could move again at full speed.

As we approached the port, we saw a jet ski. It came to us, and started indicating that we should follow it. We were being guided into port! I had sent an email to our agent in Japan, saying we would arrive at 8am, five days later, and we hit our arrival time within minutes. I still can’t believe we were able to time it that exactly. The Japanese, of course, assumed that if we said we would arrive at 8am, that we would arrive at 8am, and were standing on the dock to greet us.

Tying up to the dock was simple, and we were unbelievably happy to have arrived!

We were boarded by a horde of customs and immigrations people, who went from boat to boat. We had prepared a thick set of documents prior to arrival and emailed them to our agent. Within an hour, all three boats were cleared into Japan. All that remained was a bus ride to the immigration office for all of us, to get our passports checked and stamped.

Except, there was one more step for Sans Souci. We are traveling with our dog, Shelby, and we needed to get her imported into Japan. We started the process nearly a year ago. At first our agent thought it was impossible, but then we discovered the process, and educated him to it. He was a bit skeptical, but agreed to work on it. The process involved LOTS of medical tests for Shelby, lab work, and lots of paperwork, all of which we did.

We did hit one problem, just as we were leaving Seattle. There is a form, which needs to be stamped by the USDA, in Olympia Washington, that indicates that they believe Shelby is in good health. We were able to obtain this form, and get it stamped by the USDA. We had to wait until the last moment, so that her health certificate would still be valid when we arrived in Japan. Unfortunately, I left one date blank on the form. It was the date that indicates when Shelby was micro-chipped (back in 2003). I goofed and missed writing in the date. I did put her microchip number. The animal quarantine office in Japan noticed this, and sent me an email, but by then, we were at sea, and it was too late to go back to Olympia to get a new form stamped. Instead, I contacted the Microchip company and got a letter from them verifying the date she was stamped.

Upon arrival in Japan, this was not acceptable to the animal quarantine officer. We had plenty of proof that Shelby had been microchipped back in 2003, and the form was completely filled out, and stamped, except for that one blank. However, he simply could not let her into the country without that blank filled in. I offered to write in the date myself, which got me an extremely dirty look. ARGH! He brought out a steel cable, attached it to Shelby, affixed it to a barstool in the boat’s salon, and said she would have to stay chained until we could get an original form, from Olympia Washington, properly filled in and stamped. Roberta said, “How is she supposed to go outside to go to the bathroom?” He didn’t understand her, and our agent cut her off. “Do not ask questions.”

As you can imagine, this was not a fortunate turn of events.

About this time, a large group of people showed up at the boats. It was the Port Authority Master for the city of Tomakomai. This is a major shipping port for Japan, so I assume he is an important person, and certainly seemed to be. He said that it was the first visit to Tomakomai by American boats, and he wanted to welcome us. Each boat was presented with a large, beautiful, flower arrangement. Lots of people took pictures, including journalists, who wanted an interview.

While two-thirds of our group went off to the immigration office, I stayed behind to meet with our agent, Mr. Furuno-san, as well as a ‘local agent’ from Tomakomai.

They had a long list of questions for me, most of which centered around their wanting to know our plans. They wanted to know when we would leave, and where we would go. This was complicated by the fact that they spoke very little English, and I speak no Japanese. I have corresponded with our agent many times by email, and his written comprehension is good, but face to face, neither of us could understand the other.

I explained that we had no plans. Our plan was to randomly explore the country over the next couple months, and then return to the US for six months, then return to Japan, and go to some other country.

I could tell that this explanation wasn’t working, and it wasn’t just the language barrier. They needed a schedule. They explained that we could change the schedule, but that they must have a schedule.

After much more discussion, they said “You should become a domestic boat.” Assuming I understood them, I have the option of becoming a Japanese boat, and being able to explore with a minimum of bureaucracy, or continuing as a foreign boat, and requiring agents and huge amounts of paperwork every time we move the boats. I have spoken with several other boats that have been to Japan and never heard this issue. I asked the downside, and they said that as a Japanese boat I would need to pay $5 per gallon for fuel instead of $4. This seemed a great exchange. Unfortunately they said we would have to clear back into the country again, and would need to have customs come back. Argh.

I asked how far of a walk it was to town. They said, “Impossible. Must drive.” Ouch. “What about the subway?,” I asked. “No subway here. We are not near anything. Must take taxi.” Double-ouch. “How much does it cost for a taxi into town?,” I asked. “$40 each way,” came the response. Uh-oh. We have 14 people, and we are a half hour drive into the nearest town. Not good. I have been to Japan many times, but always to Honshu, the big island, where Tokyo is located. We are now on Hokkaido, also a big island, but much more remote. In Tokyo, it is easy to move between any two points. The Japanese have mastered mass transportation. It never occurred to me that we could be in Japan and not be able to get into town.

Tokyo is not comparable to any city in the United States, although the closest would be Manhattan, except on a MUCH larger scale. Here on Hokkaido, or at least in Tomakomai, the city is laid out more like a large suburban American city. Everyone has cars, and there are parking lots. We think we can rent a car, although it requires an international drivers license, which I do not have. And, driving would be difficult. The steering wheel is on the right side, and they drive on the left side of the road. $40 for a taxi is sounding better, except that this will add to a lot of money very quickly.

I was starting to realize that this was going to be a long day, and that things were going to get worse before they got better.

Our agent took all of us to a bank to change currency, which went smoothly, but slowly. It took an hour to change money. Our group was split between two vans, and we had asked if they could help Steven (Seabird) and I get Japanese cell phones, and internet cards. I do have good internet on the boat, but it would be cheaper and faster if I could have a Japanese 3g card for my computer. Thus, after the bank we split to two groups. Steven, Carol, Roberta and I loaded into one van, while the others loaded into another. The first group wanted to go get lunch, and we were heading shopping.

At the electronics store, we discovered there was only one “pre-paid” USB internet adapter. Steven paid for it, and the store said that it would take an hour to activate. I wasn’t that worried about being able to buy one. I have decent internet on the boat, and was trying to improve my situation, but am fine without the 3g card. We then went to a store called “SunKus” which looks exactly like a 7-11. Apparently, foreigners cannot buy cell phones in Japan. Our Japanese agent was going to buy a phone, and then we would use it. My American phone works here, but it will be cheaper over the next couple of months to have a Japanese phone. Our agent said that he was restricted to buying only one phone a day, so we would have to buy a phone for Steven, and come back another day for me. A half hour of paperwork later, and with Steven $100 poorer, we returned to the electronics store.

Another surprise….

The store had realized Steven was a foreigner, and had voided Steven’s transaction (we think). They will not let foreigners buy their internet cards. We were not happy.

We got back in the van and were taken to a huge shopping mall. I asked if we were going to try again to buy an internet card. “No. Shop,” came the reply. I explained, as best I could, that we did not want to shop. This did not go over well. We had hit a language barrier. I assumed our friends had gone downtown to eat, so I asked the driver to take us downtown. He apparently did not have authorization to do this, and needed to phone his boss. He said “Wait 15 minutes.” After five days at sea, we were exhausted and grumpy. We hadn’t eaten for 12 hours, and 15 minutes sounded like an eternity.

I saw a taxi driving by and jumped out of the van to chase it. This led our driver to chase me down and say, “OK. Downtown.”

Once downtown, we realized no restaurants were open. It was only 4:30pm. There had been a four hour time change since Russia. Our bodies thought it was 8:30pm, and we hadn’t eaten for over 12 hours, but not much was open. We didn’t see our friends, and picked the largest hotel we could, and had some terrific Chinese food. We then taxied back to the boats.

The rest of our crew was there, and told us the part of the story we had missed. Their driver had taken them to the shopping mall and dropped them off. They weren’t sure what to do, or why they were there. They had no idea how they were going to get back to the boat, but thought we would be coming there, so they shopped while waiting for us. Ultimately, they gave up, grabbed some food in the food court at the mall, and took a taxi to the boat.

Our vision of wandering the streets of Japan, finding a cute little pub, and having some sushi hadn’t gone as planned.

I then spent the rest of the evening working on getting someone in Seattle to drive to Olympia, to work on my Shelby problem.

And on a different topic…

Our next destination is Yokohama. It is a three day passage south from Hokkaido. The weather between here and there can be very difficult, and we will need to watch for a good window. We had wanted to stay here in Hokkaido for a week or two, and travel around, but the transportation issue is making things difficult. Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, is nearby, but not being able to take Shelby off the boat is a huge complication. We think we will solve all this by Monday. My guess is that if we have good weather, we will start our run to Yokohama at that time.

As confusing as all of this sounds, we are very happy to be here, and know that after a few days getting oriented, this is going to be a very cool, once in a lifetime, experience. We need to figure out the whole “foreign versus domestic boat” issue, and understand the bureaucracy involved in moving our boats around Japan. I’m confident we’ll solve all of this, and ordinarily I would not bog down a blog with all of this logistical discussion. However, dealing with clearing in and out of countries is a huge piece of world cruising, and it wouldn’t be right not to give you a taste of it through my blog.

I have mentioned in the past that world cruisers, are a unique group of people. There’s a certain personality it takes to do what we’re doing. There are some people who would be driven crazy by the challenges of arriving in a new country, with a language you don’t speak, bureaucracy you don’t understand, and the worst: surprise costs and regulations that you didn’t plan for. Then there is our group which has smiled through it all. Our day yesterday was not what we expected, but last night we were all celebrating, and it was a party atmosphere. This group seems to thrive on overcoming challenges. We grumbled a few times yesterday, but overall it was a very good day, and things are going to be great soon.

I would like to thank our agents, and the local agent, who worked very hard to make our arrival as smooth as possible. As you just read, there were a few road bumps along the way, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Foreign boats, of our size, traveling in Japan, are extremely rare. The marinas aren’t sized to accommodate our boats, and people aren’t sure what to do with us. They are working very hard to make us happy, and ensure that all of our needs are met, but the language barrier is really being a tough one. Roberta’s and my son, Chris, arrives from the U.S. on Saturday, hopefully carrying the paperwork we need to get Shelby out of jail. Chris went to college in Japan. Having Chris here, who speaks Japanese, for even a few days, will be very good.

And, I’m happy to share with you this email I just received from the President of Nordhavn, Dan Streech:

Dear Ken,

As the final miles of the GSSR wind down, I want to take this moment to acknowledge your great success. On behalf of Jim, Jeff, and all of the employees at PAE and Ta Shing, I want to offer you our hearty congratulations.

You have made us proud and our Nordhavns look good. However, the boats are not the stars in this story; the stars are you, Roberta, Carol, Steve, Tina and Braun.

With a perfect mix of careful planning, tenacity, technology, seamanship, flexibility and people skills, you have shown thousands (probably tens of thousands) of people around the world what can be accomplished.

I know that many people are saying “I could do that…”, but they haven’t and you have. The six of you are at that perfect place in life where your health, wealth and sense of adventure are in perfect alignment, and you seized the moment. Ten years ago, it might have been too soon; 10 years from now, maybe too late.

You have accomplished a feat few other people have dared. You will now have your memories to savor for the rest of your life.

Also, I want to acknowledge the kindness, respect and generosity which has shown thru in your blogs (and Steve’s e-mail reports). I get the feeling that each place you have visited has been left better for their contact with the GSSR fleet.

With sincere appreciation and deep admiration,


That’s it for today!

Thank you,
Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

PS At the top of this blog it claims we only have 300 miles to go. That is incorrect. We still have at least 700 or 800 miles to go, and with site-seeing, we’ll probably run another thousand. I’ll figure out how to reflect that with my next blog.

25 Responses

  1. Response to a post by DJ Williams who said:


    I agree with Chris. That is what the news clipping says.



    DJ, I miss you terribly. Go Badgers!
    Love, Bumper (Seattle)
    Sure hopes this works.
    Ken, What the heck were those things on the radar? Has that ever happened again?
    I’m stoked that you’re doing this. I’m retiring my 1968 32′ aluminum Matsumoto from it’s career as a gillnetter after the 2018 season in Bristol Bay. The Lobo Del Mar will be I may be inspired to bring her down myself, instead of the Northland Barge, after reading your book. Wow. Mega Kudos to you, Captain(s). Roberta, you’re a rockstar.
    hugs and kisses , love and fishes
    Bumper Metcalfe

  2. Bill:

    Thanks for the update. We miss you on Sans Souci!!! I hope your enjoying your time at home, and that Cindy isn’t working you too hard.

    -Ken W

  3. Greetings all! I’ve been too busy to post an update, although some of you may have noticed that we’re now on the move.

    Roberta and I have been busy land-touring (Sapporo), and having a great time. I’m never sure what to write when wandering around on land. Lots of websites exist with information about doing the tourist stuff in Japan. For me to do a travelogue about things hundreds of other websites already cover seems wrong.

    That said.. I probably will try to post something later today. The quick story is that there’s a typhoon around us, and we’re moving slowly and cautiously. And, I’ll also be reporting that Shelby is now out of jail .. she has officially been cleared into Japan.

    And, now you know .. “the rest of the story.”

    Actually not all the story … we need to have some secrets… As you imagine, the decision to move the boats TOWARDS the typhoon was not made lightly. There was plenty of ‘discussion’ about whether or not this was the right move. Suffice it to say that none of us wants to tangle with a typhoon. I’ll explain our rationale in my next update.

    -Ken W

  4. Sounds like a plan. Are you buying Don???? 🙂

    In all seriousness however, it was great reading his viewpoints throughout the trip. Stay safe on Miss Lori while out there fishing Bill! Thanks for all your posts!

    – John S.

  5. Wouldn’t you just love to get Mr. Harrington in a bar with a few drinks and listen to the “rest of the story”………hummmm?????????

  6. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ken and Roberta for taking me along on the GSSR from Kodiak to Japan. It was something I probably would not have gotten to do otherwise. They are fantastic people and made me feel a valuable part of the group and almost like family. We had a great time and everything went smoothly, having been blessed with good weather the whole time. The people we met along the way I will remember forever. The Russian military folks I partied with were exceptional. It goes to show that people everywhere are all good, it’s only the politicians and political climate that that turns us into adversaries. I salute my Russian comrades with one final “Nastrovya”.
    Sans Souci is an incredible boat and proved to be fully capable of anything a reasonable person can ask of her. The crew, Kirt Ahlquist and Jeff Sanson, were great people and taught me some of the more refined aspects of yachting that essentially don’t exist in my field of commercial fishing. Thank you.

  7. As others have said, congratulations on another milestone in your fantastic journey. Having followed your blogs from when I first heard about the NAR, then as your new boat was being built, I’m really excited that you have made it this far. Keep the updates coming! Dean

  8. congraulations to you all on reaching russia/japan safely! feels like you left a week ago. you mentioned coming back to the united states for 6 months, are you planning to leave the boat at a marina for that long or fly back and forth and do smaller trips now that the boat is on the other side of the globe? jon

  9. Your friends the gulls are Slaty-backed Gulls, I was on Hokkaido in February on a birding trip and saw thousands of them. We caught the ferry from Tomakomai to Orai on Honshu, but it was dark when we arrived and left. The scenery around Hokkaido is fantastic and the people were very freindly. I hope you enjoy Hokkaido (& Japan) as much as I did.


  10. Rusty:

    Shelby has her own yard! (Kind of…) We have a dog door in our pilot house. I’m sure it is the first Nordhavn built with a dog door. She goes in and out freely, and we all know to be careful when going out on the pilot house deck. Roberta usually hurrys out in the morning to hose down the deck.

    The only flaw in all of this is when we’re at sea, and the boat is really pitching. She sometimes sneaks out the dog door when we aren’t paying attention. When it is really rough, we usually close the dog door from the outside so she can’t use it, and then wait until the seas calm to open it again. We don’t like closing the door though, because she has bumped her head a few times trying to get the door to open.

    We had the rails on Sans Souci custom made, so that Shelby can’t fall off the upper deck. If you look at pictures of the boat you’ll notice that there are extra rails down low, creating a cage to keep her on deck. We still worry when she is outside, if the boat is pitching, but she’d really have to work at it to fall off the deck – even in violent seas.

    Thank you,
    -Ken W

  11. Ron and George:

    The USDA has now signed the original paperwork and I should have it in hand within 24 hours. On Tuesday, when we arrived, I was exhausted from five days at sea, and feeling grumpy. Yesterday was a fantastic day, and today is going to be better. The animal quarantine guy was just following the rules, and spent probably 30 minutes on the phone seeking a way to approve Shelby, but the rules are the rules. Also, although Shelby was chained, he didn’t lock the chain in any way. Removing it so she could go on deck to use the restroom would certainly be easy, although I would never admit to having done that. We’re all smiling about the situation at this point, and know that she’ll be free to leave the boat within a day or two.

    Most of the crews from the boats have headed to Sapporo, the nearby big city. I’m eagerly awaiting their return, to hear what fun stories they have. Chris, our son, arrives Friday, and our plan is to head straight to Sapporo once he arrives.

    Thank you,
    Ken W

  12. Ken – Shelby’s difficulties with obtaining approval to go ashore bring up a fundamental question. Where/how does she normally “take care of business” when at sea. I have read how some dogs readily use a patch of astro turf placed out on deck.

  13. OK, enough of this pussy-footing (whoops, cats) around! It is time for Shelby-wan kenobi to unleash (whoops) her inner powers and vaporize the chain with her wand. Do they know who they are dealing with? Does the US Consulate in Sapporo know that an American citizen (with plenty of papers) has been chained-up by a callous Japanese Customs official? Do all Customs officials carry chains? I have to wonder why the micro-chip question is on the form at all.

    N.B. American Citizen Services – U.S. Consulate General Sapporo

    Please call 011-641-1115 for inquiries and appointments
    Hours for appointments: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    Monday, Wednesday and Friday (except U.S. and Japanese holidays)

    Welcome to the American Citizen Services section of the U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo!

    We are here to provide services and assistance to American Citizens living or visiting in Hokkaido, as well as Aomori, Akita, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures in the Tohoku Region of Japan.

    When you arrive in Japan, we encourage you to register with us either by visiting us in Sapporo (Please click here for directions), or by going online at ( . This provides us with timely information to make contact with you or your family in the case of an emergency or natural disaster.

    The U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo is also here to provide information and documentation services to American Citizens for such things as:

    Registration of American Citizens
    Marriage eligibility certificates for marriage in Japan
    Reports of Births of U.S. Citizens Overseas
    Passports for U.S. Citizens
    Notaries and signature certifications
    Social Security and other Federal registrations and benefits
    Doctors and Hospitals in Hokkaido and the northern Tohoku regions
    Death of American Citizens Abroad
    Assistance in Cases of Illness or Disaster
    Assistance to Arrested/Incarcerated American Citizens
    Welfare and Whereabouts of American Citizens
    Lawyers and Legal Services listings in Northern Japan
    Federal Tax Forms – General
    Selective Service Registration
    Advice on Travel to or Visas for Other Countries
    Other Services and Information

    If you are in need of our services and you are a resident of Hokkaido, or Aomori, Akita, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures, we encourage you to contact us in Sapporo at 011-641-1115 during our business hours. More detailed information on these available services can be found online.

    If we are not able to assist you, we will try to direct you to the appropriate offices that can.

    For detailed information about American Citizen Services available in Japan, please go to the U.S. Embassy Tokyo’s Japan-wide information website. (

    Ron & George don’t want Shelby to have to download all this.

  14. Ken,
    I have awakened each morning with anxious anticipation to what adventures I would read about that particular day. I can’t put into words how much I have enjoyed your blog, albeit, with a twinge of jealousy.I felt as though I was with you and “googleing” some of the places you have been has broadened my knowledge a lot. I hope you continue to have a wonderful time and I look forward with eager anticipation to your continuing story. Do you have any plans in the future to puts this blog into book form as you did the NAR, I bought that shortly after starting to read your GSSR blog and have read it cover to cover twice.
    Happy and Safe Cruising!

  15. Here’s a few responses to comments on my last blog entry. Sorry to gang them up like this.. but, we’re still a bit busy today getting settled into Japan.

    Steve asked if we felt the earthquake that hit the Kuril islands while we were there. We never knew there was an earthquake until I read his question, and then googled. ( ( We did hit some very strange seas, but mostly with respect to water temperature (for instance, 38 degree water, then 60 degree water, then back to the low 40s.) We also saw strange ‘boiling’ patterns in the water. Underwater volcanic activity? No idea. We did have a period of very gentle 15 foot rolling seas. Perhaps these were caused by the earthquake? In any event, we had a smooth ride… I’d take a run like that any day.

    Jay Sprague suggesting contacting the American Embassy to get clarity on the ‘domestic’ versus ‘foreign’ clearing issue. That’s a great idea! There is likely an American embassy in Sapporo, and we will be there later this week. I’m still confused, and have no idea what paperwork we need to be doing. No one showed from customs today. I’m not complaining. It felt good to have a day to just relax and catch up on various boat projects.

    Ron and George expressed their support for Shelby, and outrage that such a minor paperwork error is such a big deal. Shelby passes along her gratitude. Thank you!

    John Kennelly posted a terrific comment, with a lot of great information. For those who aren’t sure who he is, he is the ‘real’ father of the GSSR, and made this run alone, with just his family a couple years ago, with a Nordhavn 62. He was our inspiration, and we never would have considered this run without his guidance. All of us are very eager to speak with John again, to get clever ideas for where to go next! The last we spoke with John he had made it to Singapore, and was working his way around the world.

    Sonaia posted a message congratulating us on reaching Japan. For those who may not recognize Sonaia’s name, her and Chris Samuelson own Goleen, a Nordhavn 57 that we crossed the Atlantic with in 2004. Sonaia and Chris were a class act, and we learned a great deal cruising with them, in addition to just being fun people to hang out with. I shall never forget Roberta and I golfing with them in Spain. A very cool experience. Sonaia has a great idea, that we should contact President Clinton about helping us free Shelby. Hopefully, it won’t be necessary! PS Thank you Sonaia. We are working our way your direction, and rowing as fast as we can! See you soon (or, at least sometime in the next decade)

    Both of my sons posted a message! Wow! Hi Chris and DJ! We wish you both were with us. Unfortunately, DJ is ‘stuck’ in Cabo, where he is a busy caterer ( ( ), as well as hard at work on ( , and couldn’t come to Japan. Darn.

    Thank you all!
    -Ken W

  16. Hi Ken & Roberta,

    How happy and relieved I am for you guys!
    I guess this trip was harder on imagining what ‘could happen’ than what really happened till you guys reached Japan, wasn’t it? MANY CONGRATULATIONS to you all!!!
    Dan Streech said: “you have made us proud and our Nordhavns look good. However, the boats are not the stars in this story; the stars are you, Roberta, Carol, Steve, Tina and Braun.”
    I totally agree with him and I personally would stretch his comments a bit to include the people that (being paid a salary or not) have facilitated for this dream to come true for the 6 of you, and those are your CREW! I congratulate them too for buying into YOUR vision, dreams and into this difficult challenge surely not designed for the fainted hearted. WELL DONE ALL OF YOU!!!!

    All the best and keep enjoying the ride ?

    Sonaia Hermida

    Ps- You could have a petition going around the net to gather signatures to show the world’s support for Shelby’s release, at least for her to be able to do her business outside of the boat though!
    Alternatively, you may ask former President Clinton to intervene on your behalf on his way from North Korea where he managed to free two US journalists yesterday. His old ‘charisma’ is still working you see ?

  17. Dad:

    I’ve told about going to Hokkaido when I was in college. I had to go to Sapporo one day because I had run out of money, due to there being no mass transportation available anywhere.

    If you’re hoping for a translation of the news clipping, I fear it doesn’t say much of interest. Just says three “luxury” ships arrived in port, left Seattle in April, stopped at ten ports on the way by way of Alaska and Russia, gives your name (Ken Williams) and your boat’s name (San Souci) but no others, and gives average estimates of the length and weights of the boats.


  18. Ken, CONGRATULATIONS!! The culmination of another Dream! We have all been enjoying your voyage vicariously. Thanks so much for tak the effort to Share.

    When we arrived in Kushiro, Hokkaido, aboard Walkabout, we did not have any issues with Domestic vs. International boats. I believe that you will have to pay the domestic diesel price whether “domesticated” or not. The only difference will probably be when you are clearing out of the country completely, at which time an International boat might be able to buy its diesel “duty-free”! (However, I hate to think of the paperwork that will involve).

    We were always asked about our agent since almost all business in Japan is conducted in that manner, but we had chosen to proceed without one; and we had no trouble dealing with any of the authorities – usually with the help of marina management. Whenever we left one major town headed for another, we did have to prepare and provide to the authorities a crew list and clearance document to be stamped in, then another one to be stamped out. I wound up scanning the form, and just making changes to dates and arrival/destination info. The same form was utilized nationwide. They want to know your general itinerary, because the Japanese Coast Guard keeps close track of boaters for safety purposes. They feel a great sense of responsibility for your safety – this can be grating on the sensibilities of an independent-minded voyaging cruiser! Keep in mind that local boats are not allowed to have VHF radios, and VERY few Japanese private boats voyage very far.

    We just gave them a general list of ports to be visited and we modified the list as we went along. In the Inland Sea (the Seto Naikai – south of Osaka), we would anchor off many of the islands which did not have marinas or even authorities, and we never had any difficulty. We would do the inward clearance cha-cha-cha when we eventually got to a larger port/marina.

    I am sure that if you arrive at Yokohama Bayside Marina, you will find English widely spoken, and clearance somewhat easier. All of our experiences were without a dog, which I am sure complicates matters immeasurably. This is why we decided to leave our 100 Lb. Labrador at home with Veronica’s parents. Obviously this is not an option for Shelby. I am sure that the official who hassled you about the insignificantly incomplete form was not being malicious, but rather you have met up with the Japanese penchant for “Precision”, perhaps especially in their bureaucracy. My father, who spent 3 years in Japan in the occupation forces after WWII, and who speaks fluent Japanese, has a great deal of respect for the Japanese. However, he has a saying, that he could never understand how “a people who can be so Smart can also be so Dumb”.

    We did rent a car while in Japan, and we drove all through the Japanese Alps, but finding a firm willing to rent to a foreigner was tricky, and I DID have the International Driving Permit, which I had to get at AAA in the US. It really is only a tax/fee thing, which is valid for 12 months, but in another display of “Precision”, you will not be able to rent without it. If you have visitors coming from the US, they might be able to obtain it before they go, and could rent the vehicle? Good Luck, and I suggest you rent the mapping GPS for the car, because, even in Japanese, it is still useful; and otherwise you will have all sorts of adventures finding things. The locations (houses, businesses, etc.) do not have street addresses, but rather are described by region, with a descending hierarchy of description. The taxi drivers regularly stop at the sidewalk police “Kobans” or kiosks to ask for directions!

    You are having a wonderful adventure. Remember, it is often easier to ask forgiveness than permission, and nowhere is this more true than in Japan!

    I loved the Japanese desire to be helpful, and I managed to contain my frustrations with “Precision”. The most important Japanese phrase is: “Sumi-masen” (I am sorry), “Nihongo-wa Hanashimasen” (I do not speak Japanese).

    Smooth Seas.

    John Kennelly,
    M/V Walkabout – N6230

  19. George and I are forming a “Free Shelby” protest as I write this. In addition, Shelby must be free to “do her business” at any time she chooses. What is this, Iran? I am suspending all Nikon purchases until Shelby is free. To quote our president, “this is stupid.”

    Oh, congratulations to all for a safe and successful voyage. Who broke their ankle?

    Ron & George Rogers

  20. You might try the American Embassy or nearest consulate. The commercial officer may know about the “domestic boat” issue. Congrats on getting to the other side pf the Pacific.

  21. congradulations ken great to hear you made it to japan. by the way did you guys feel the earthquake? hope things go well for shellby

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