GSSR#35 – Tokyo and the Yokohama Bayside Marina

From Hachinohe to Yokohama is a 470 nm run. As we left the port, to work our way south, we didn’t know if we would be running one or two days. The weather outlook was dicey. A typhoon had just left the area, and the seas were still settling down. Another storm system was predicted to move into the area. The one day outlook was fine, but for our second day, the outlook was less certain.

When discussing whether ‘to go’ or ‘no go,’ a key factor is whether or not there are any bail-outs along the way. By ‘bail-out’ I am referring to ports, or places to anchor, that we could stop at if we didn’t like the weather. We all wanted to get to Yokohama, and didn’t really want to sit still through another storm system waiting for a long window of good weather. As long as we had a solid prediction of 24 hours of good weather, and plenty of places to bail out if we didn’t like the seas on the second day, it was an easy decision. The GSSR was back on the move.

Our biggest challenge, in navigating around Japan, has been all the fishing gear. Roberta and I took the second shift running the boat, and throughout our entire shift (3pm to 9pm), we dodged an endless stream of the little flag poles marking fishing gear. During daylight, they are fairly easy to dodge, and we’ve decided we can safely run within a few yards of them, without fouling our props. Unfortunately, they are not all the same. Most have poles that stick up from the water, but some just have a ball floating at water level. Some have radar reflectors on them, making them easy to spot on radar, but most do not. The big freighters ignore them and just run them over, whereas if we wrap one around a prop, it would mean putting a diver in the water. Given the warm water we are now in, this wouldn’t be a big deal during the day, but at night it would be a real headache.

Steven (Argosy, on Seabird) struck one, dead on…

All of our boats have line cutters mounted just ahead of the props. Theoretically, if we run over a line, the line cutter will chop it off, and we won’t have any damage. This is exactly how it worked for Steven. He heard it pass beneath the boat, and felt it tangle briefly with the prop. Looking back he saw the diced up line in the water. Afterwards, he felt no vibration and all was fine. A single line of rope isn’t a problem, but some of these might have chain beneath them, which could damage a prop, or a net, which could have too much line to easily be cut.

When Roberta and I retook the helm at 9am, the seas were ‘sloppy.’ We were seeing 20 to 25 knots of wind from directly behind us. Usually, a breeze from behind is good news, however, in this case, it was whipping up a significant swell from behind. This was being complicated by a significant current that was going against us. We were completely safe, but it wasn’t a comfortable ride, and everyone was worn out. It had been a tough night dodging fishing gear.

The prospect of spending another night dodging fishing gear was not appealing, and the rough seas would make it impossible to ‘see’ the flag poles on radar. With the rough seas, in the dark, we would have no choice but to mow down any gear that gets in our way. Braun (Jones on Grey Pearl) referred to it as ‘playing rudder roulette.’

Sans Souci was the only boat with any crew left. Both Seabird and Grey Pearl were running with just two people on board. As soon as Roberta and I were at the helm, we had a radio discussion amongst the boats, regarding whether or not we should stop for the night. The discussion didn’t last long. It was quickly unanimous that we’d like to exercise one of our ‘bail-out’ options.

I contacted our agent, Mr. Furuno, at InterOcean Shipping (, and asked him to find us a port to pull into. An hour later he was back to me to say that he was unable to find us a suitable port, but had a marina that would take us, the Iwaki Sun Marina. He asked if this would be ok, and after reflecting on it for about one microsecond, I said “Absolutely!.” I contacted the other GSSR boats who were also excited. This could mean shorepower, and being able to get off the boat. Possibly even a restaurant close enough to walk to. Luxuries we hadn’t had in a while. A quick internet search showed that we were indeed very lucky. The Iwaki Sun marina looked like a real winner, and Furuno-san was our hero!

It is impossible to convey how good the marina looked to us. There was a sand beach, with people swimming, and a beautiful marina, with a restaurant at the dock!

Chris, our son, decided that since we were only a couple-hour train ride from Tokyo, he wanted to get off the boat and stay at a hotel in Tokyo. He had lived in Tokyo for seven years, and didn’t want to spend his entire vacation on the boat. We didn’t blame him.

It was decided that he would leave the next morning, and asked if we wanted to accompany him into town, to the train station, to buy his ticket. He said that the good restaurants tend to congregate around the train stations. Going into town sounded fun to our entire group, so we had the marina summon three taxis for us, and we set out for what we thought would be a ride into town of only a few minutes.

Unfortunately, we hit a language barrier and instead of the taxi drivers taking us to the local train station a few minutes away, all three cabs went to a train station over 45 minutes, and a $60 cab ride (for each taxi) away. Oops! By the time we got there, all of us were unhappy campers. It was no one’s fault, and we had fun anyway.

A second language-related issue almost occurred. We were all so tired that we picked the first restaurant we came to, even though the menu was 100% in Japanese. We figured that between our son, Chris, who speaks Japanese, and pointing at pictures in the menu, we’d be fine. I noticed a picture of what appeared to be a good- looking beef curry, and decided I wanted it. One of the others in our group also chose it. As I was ordering, by pointing at the picture, Chris happened to notice the words on the menu. I was ordering a horse-meat curry!!! Uh oh… The restaurant had an entire horse-meat page on the menu, and the menu touted horse as extremely healthy. I passed, as did the others at our table.

One ‘too good to be true’ asset of the marina was that it was next to an ocean-front golf course! I’m not much of a golfer, but what I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm. Our group wouldn’t be leaving for Yokohama until the next afternoon, so Chris, Jeff and I booked a tee time. All they had available was a 5am tee time, which we grabbed. I have always heard that golf in Japan is off-the-top-of-the-charts expensive, so I was afraid of the cost, but how often in life do you get a chance to golf with your son in Japan?

The course was incredible!!! We had wonderful ocean views, and to my enormous surprise the cost was only $70 each, including rental clubs. All of us had a huge amount of fun, and we were back at the boats, ready to go, by 9:30am.

We didn’t get underway until nearly 3pm. We had only 195 miles to go, and wanted our last eight hours into Yokohama (near Tokyo) to be in daylight. Therefore, we needed a late departure time.

At 9pm Roberta and I handed off the helm to Jeff and Kirt. At 3am, six hours later, when we returned to the helm, Jeff looked under stress. All it took was one glance at the radar to understand why. There were at least a dozen large objects that they were tracking. We were surrounded by freighters!

Freighters move rapidly in comparison to Sans Souci, usually 15 to 20 knots. This doesn’t sound fast, but you would be amazed how quickly a freighter can approach. Sans Souci was surrounded by freighters, several of which were headed our direction.

My general rule is that I will not allow Sans Souci within one mile of a moving freighter. Sans Souci’s radar (and, chart plotter) continually analyzes Sans Souci’s course, as well that of surrounding vessels, and shows me for each vessel their ‘CPA’ (Closest Point of Approach). With a quick glance at the radar, I can tell for any vessel how close we’ll come to each other, and when we’ll be at the closest point. For instance, the radar might indicate that I have a CPA with a particular freighter of .5 miles in 12 minutes. This tells me I’m on a path to get closer to the freighter than I like, and that I have 12 minutes to solve the problem. With a single freighter, this usually is fairly easy, but when navigating through a pack of them, in the dark, it becomes a bit more complex.

There were a number of other factors adding extra layers of complexity. For some reason, at least half the freighters didn’t have AIS. With AIS, each boat’s position, and other important information, is constantly being transmitted to surrounding vessels. One key bit of information, available via AIS, is the name of the vessel. I’ve found, in the past, that when I contact another boat via the radio, being able to call them by name makes a huge difference in their likelihood to respond. That said, whereas it would normally be relevant, it didn’t seem to be in this case. I tried repeatedly to contact the freighters via VHF radio, using their names, unsuccessfully. I wanted to arrange how we could move out of each other’s ways safely. But, no one wanted to talk to me.

Adding further ‘excitement’ to our cruise, there seemed to be no recognition of the basic rules of the road. The freighters seemed to want to pursue their paths, and weren’t moving for anyone, including each other. When Jeff gave me his update, at the start of our shift, he said, “Ken. I have never seen freighters pass so close to each other. These guys seem to actually touch each other when viewed on the radar.” The freighters were being driven aggressively, and not about to move aside for our GSSR fleet.

Prior to our run, I had carefully plotted out a route, which our group had been following. Jeff said that he had given up trying to follow the route, and was focusing on only one thing: ‘Safety.’ We were a mile or more off my route when Roberta and I took the helm, and maneuvering constantly. Whereas ordinarily, we run an entire shift in ‘Nav Mode,’ following a track to within a thousandth of a nautical mile, we were now actively driving the boat, dodging traffic continuously.

Here’s something bizarre from Roberta’s and my shift:

We observed a target coming at us at 6 knots. This speed, and the size of the blip on the radar, indicated to me that it was a sailboat. I was being squeezed by a couple freighters, so I had to get within a quarter mile of it. Once it was in visual range, I could see that it was lit only by two red lights. There are standards which dictate how boats are lit, and if you know how to read the lights you know a bit about what the ship is up to. Two red lights, one over the other, means a vessel is in serious trouble. There are some cute sayings that we use to memorize what the lighting means; for instance, Red Over White, Fishing at Night. This particular boat seemed to be lit according to the saying ‘Red over Red, Captain is Dead.’ I was never close enough to get a really good look at the boat, although I could see it was a sail boat. It was randomly zigzagging through the water. I don’t think I’d want to be dead in the water, floating, and surrounding by fast-moving freighters. Or, perhaps it was just a sailboat tacking upwind, and ‘red over red’ means something completely different in Japanese…

At 4:30am, daylight arrived, and in the daylight, the freighters were much easier to dodge.

At 9am, I handed the helm back to Jeff and Kirt, knowing that when Roberta and I woke up at noon we’d almost be to Yokohama.

Our destination, Yokohama, sits about half way into 40 mile-deep Tokyo Bay. There are many commercial shipping ports within Tokyo Bay, and freighter traffic is constant. In the chart snippet above you see traffic lanes, representing where the freighter traffic should move. I routed the GSSR within the northbound traffic lane. Tokyo bay has an 11 knot speed limit, and I figured we could comfortably run at 9+ knots. We could still be overtaken by freighters, but I had assumed dodging a freighter moving at only 2 kts faster than us would be easy. I could always exit the lane if needed to allow a freighter to pass.

I was too excited about reaching Tokyo to sleep, and returned to the helm at 11am. I immediately glanced at the radar, and was dumbfounded by what I saw. The radar screen had caught the measles! There were spots everywhere.

Even the chart was a mess. Ignore that this is a blurry picture, the camera goofed somehow – but, each of those yellow stripes is an AIS target, and keep in mind that AIS targets represent only a small percentage of the traffic we were weaving our way through.

We were still running at full speed, yet it seemed impossible to me that we could claw our way through all the boats I saw on the radar. Also, we were well outside the traffic lane, and nowhere near the route I had so carefully planned. I asked Jeff what was happening, and he said he was trying to find a safe path through all the boats. I asked about my idea to run the freighter lanes, and he said he thought we would be better off outside the lanes.

Jeff is a sharp guy, and has a 1,600 ton Captain’s license. When he feels strongly about something, listening to him is usually the right answer.

Prior to Jeff’s career running a yacht management company in Seattle, Jeff had a career running charter fishing boats. Many of the boats around us were fishing. Jeff could look at the charts, and the water, and predict where the boats were headed. He also seemed able to predict which boats were likely to understand the ‘right of way’ rules, and which were likely to shoot across our path, even though a strict adherence to the rules would indicate that we clearly had the right of way. Under the official ‘rules of the road’ it is designated which boat has the right of way. The boat that has right of way is supposed to maintain course and speed while the other boat maneuvers to avoid a collision. Ultimately though, a Captain has an obligation to protect the passengers and the vessel. Most of the boats around us seemed to have never read the rules, and a strict adherence to the rules seemed a sure-fire path to serious trouble. Whereas both Jeff and I agreed on the ‘right way’ to handle the situation, Jeff had solid experience and street smarts, which helped to keep us out of trouble. Sans Souci was in the leaad with the other two GSSR boats following right behind, single file, tight to our tail, as we weaved our way at full speed through heavy traffic. By 1:30pm, we were making the final turn into Yokohama Bayside Marina, safe and smiling.

Here’s a picture of just a couple of the boats we had to find a path through; a charter fishing boat, and a passenger ferry that we clocked at 42 knots.

I noticed that the Japanese freighters have a different look than any freighters I’ve seen before. They are newer, and have a sense of style. Some are enormous, many times the size of any freighter I’ve ever imagined possible.

I had thought it would be impossible to surpass the Iwaki Sun Marina, but the Yokohama Marina has done it. It is Japan’s largest marina and is surrounded by hundreds of shops and restaurants. Our initial plan called for only a week or two at Yokohama Bayside marina, but within minutes of arrival, we were asking our Japanese agent if a month-long stay was possible.

We happened to arrive at the marina on an evening when they were having a big party and fireworks. Roberta and I hadn’t known about the party, and had previously arranged to meet Chris in downtown Tokyo. Braun and Steven did attend, and were asked to speak to about 500 Japanese attendees. I have terrible stage fright, so I dodged a bullet by not being there. I asked Steven how he did speaking, and he said that once he realized that no one in the audience could understand a word of what he was saying, it became fun. There was no way to fail! He said it was a fun party and I would really have enjoyed it.

One of the associates of Mr. Furuno, our agent, offered to give Roberta and I (and Shelby) a ride into Tokyo. We’ve been to Japan several times, but usually we are just at a hotel in Tokyo. The drive gave us a different look at Tokyo than we’ve had before. It was quite an eye-opening experience. At home in Seattle, we live near the Port of Seattle. The Tokyo port appears to be an order of magnitude larger, stretching for miles. I’m not an engineer, but the highway we were on seemed of a quality, and scale, that I had not seen before. The architecture around me was stunning. First impressions aren’t always accurate, but my sense was that Japan is doing some very impressive work with their infrastructure.

And on a completely different subject….

The GSSR group has finally started thinking about ‘what comes next.’ We have one more major passage, to Osaka, which we probably won’t make for at least three weeks, after which, the boats may not move again this year. Until now, we’ve avoided talking about future cruising plans, mostly because there were too many unknowns for it to have any meaning. We weren’t even sure the group would hang together after this year, and still aren’t. The momentum is towards the group sticking together, but no decision has been made.

We now have a first-pass plan for next year’s cruising that is being discussed. It is preliminary and almost certainly will change.

With that caveat, I’ll share what we’re discussing…

To be honest, I am just starting to look at the maps, and I don’t really have a sense of what there is to see, or where to go. We had discussed exploring Japan’s inland sea this year, but are now thinking to save it for next year. From there, we would explore the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, work our way south to Okinawa, then visit Taiwan (including Kaohsiung, where our boats were built), finishing up the year in Hong Kong. We’ll be near Korea, and may add that to the agenda, although I am not excited by the idea. I’m hoping that as I start studying the islands I’ll somewhere find a series of white sand beaches, and with some good anchoring, diving and swimming opportunities.

And lastly…

There’s an old saying, ‘You had better be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.’ All of us have been asking for hot weather for months. I’ve always described myself as a ‘warm weather cruiser.’ Well, we’re in it now. It is hot and sticky outside. The water temperature is approaching 85 degrees. The inter-boat radio conversation was dominated on our way to Tokyo by topics like, “What temperature is your engine room running? What about your shafts? Transmission?” There are a wide variety of problems that come with warm water cruising. Air conditioning is suddenly mandatory. Working in the engine room can be miserable. Animals and coral seem to grow in the sea chest, strainers, and on the hull. After all of us whined a bit, I said, “So… does anyone wish we were back in cold water?” This was met with total silence. We’re all happy to be back in warm water, challenges and all.

That’s it for today, and probably for at least the next couple of weeks. We’re going to enjoy Yokohama, and do some serious relaxing.

Thank you,
Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

25 Responses

  1. Chuck: presumably you are using the phone outdoors as it will not go through the wheelhouse roof without an external antenna.

  2. Bill: Thanks for the info. My 9505A drops calls all the time. I cruise in S.E. extensively and this has been a problem for me. Now I need to find a repair station to analyze the problem. It drops calls no matter where I am at, with 360 degree view, no mountain blockage. The “bars” come and go even when not on the phone, as though there are not continuous satellite coverage. But your experience tells me I have a problem. Thanks!

  3. Chuck: I have an Iridium on my fishing boat as well as other comm. systems and it is 100% reliable and has never dropped a call. Another good thing about it is it works globally. I have packed it to Europe and Mexico and with the portable antenna swung out you can call anywhere from anywhere. Since the charge is by the minute for airtime you can call either your next door neighbor or anywhere in the world for the same price without extra long distance charges. I think it is an amazing technology since everything is self contained in the handset and completely portable.

  4. Chuck:

    All of the boats have Iridium phones, and use them for both data and voice. We all of external antennas on our Iridiums.

    Because I have the Mini Vsat, which also provides both voice and data, I’ve only used the Iridium a couple of times. I consider it my third level backup (after Mini Vsat and Fleet Broadband). When I tried the Iridium it worked very well, and the voice quality was better than expected.

    Seabird and Grey Pearl used their Iridiums much more often. When I’m not nearby, they regularly check their email with the Iridium, and regularly make voice calls. Both have considered it the real workhorse on the boat, and 100% reliable, as far as I have heard.

    -Ken W

  5. Iridium Phone: I believe you have one of these and I am wondering how you are satisfied with its performance. Do you have a problem with it dropping calls, as I have with mine, regardless of surrounding terrain.

  6. Ken, the issue is much more complicated though. If you had done the trip on a 747 (or other Airliner) you’d have done it in 12 hours. On the boat the trip took several months. These were months that you weren’t driving a car, weren’t staying in hotels, and weren’t connected to the grid at home. I’m not saying being on a boat is better for the environment than living on land, but there are a lot of factors that come into play. A comprehensive study on energy use while cruising vs. living on land would be very interesting to see, but I suspect it would very significantly with the type of boat, type of people, location etc…


  7. Sam:

    You are certainly right. No one focuses more on fuel consumption and waste than cruisers. We tend to know where every gallon of fuel goes, and where every gallon of waste goes. We also manage power constantly.

    That said, results count. And, it can never be argued that boating is fuel efficient, unless oars or pedals are involved.

    For fun, I decided to compare my trawler to the same trip on a 747.

    According to this site: ( we could have done this trip on a jet, at .01 gallons of fuel, per person, per mile. Instead, we did it at something closer to .3 gallons per person, per mile.

    Oh well…

    -Ken W

  8. I’ve found that while cruising most people are significantly more aware of the amount of resources that they consume and the amount of waste they produce. Unlike at home when you have unlimited power, water, and waste capability, on a boat all of these things are limited. You make your own power, and must be vigilant with power management, especially when running on batteries. You have a limited amount of water (or you have to run a generator to make water) so you are more careful with how you use it. Trash has to be kept on board and can’t simply be taken away by the trash truck. Most cruisers take steps to limit their power and water consumption and decrease their waste production not only to save money but also to extend the time that they can go between ports.


  9. Alan Muskett:

    I always try to avoid anything with political overtones, because it’s a sure-fire way to lose half my audience.

    That said.. and, since you’ve asked…

    It would be fun to compare different forms of transportation, and compare the number of gallons of fuel burned per mile traversed, per person carried. A fair list should include airplanes, buses, cars, mopeds, subway cars, walking and more. My guess is that walking will ‘win’ followed closely by bicycles, and third place will go to mopeds. The last I was in Beijing, they seem to have been executing quite well on that strategy, although I felt no great urge to move there.

    I’m being somewhat silly of course, but not completely…

    Japan has a very practical solution to all of this: good mass transit. They move a lot of people very efficiently. I would love to see a breakdown on fuel consumed, per mile traveled, for the Japanese. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the Japanese move a lot of people very efficiently.

    You may have noticed that I am cheating and not responding directly to your question.

    Here’s why…

    I suspect that if you add up all of the fuel used by all the recreational cruisers in the world, it will amount to about .0000000001% of the world’s fuel consumption. It doesn’t matter diddly squat whether I drive an N46, an N68, an N120, or a zillion horsepower megayacht. However, if I invest time and energy into things that I do think can ‘swing the needle’, and have ‘big impact’, then perhaps I can accomplish something.

    Anyone who drives a car has already indicated that they are willing to swap burning fuel for increased personal comfort. We’re just quibbling about where to draw the line.

    To be completely honest, I’m not that hung up on the whole fuel issue, although I take pollution very seriously. I see fossil fuels as a fairly short-lived phenomena. If you look at the world over a million year period, there will have been a couple hundred years where mankind burned fossil fuel. During those 200 years, some damage will have been done. Whether or not it is permanent damage depends on who you ask. And… even if you are 100% convinced it is permanent damage, I will absolutely guarantee you that you aren’t likely to change it. Even if everyone in the United States started walking, I don’t know how you are going to stop the rest of the world from wanting cars. Before those 200 years, man lived without power, and after it, power came from clean sources. Whether that clean source is nuclear or something else – I don’t know. But, I am absolutely confident I am right, and that putting energy into figuring out clean sources of energy is probably more productive, in the long run, than anything done to find ways to use less fossil fuel. I like ‘real’ solutions to problems, and am just not bought into the concept that me buying a smaller boat solves anything for anyone.

    There went half my audience. Argh.

    -Ken W

  10. Ken you have provided very interesting data on fuel consumption. I know you have thought about this, and would like to hear your comments.
    You mentioned that your fuel consumption on the N68 was about twice that of the N62. What is your philosophy about emissions, carbon footprint, and environmental impact of your boat and travels? One of the features that attracts me to trawlers is that they are generally lower horsepower, slower, and accordingly more miserly in regards to fuel. Where do the plots between consumption and performance intersect? Certainly your boat doesn’t have the horrific consumption of an express cruiser, but it is twice as much as a relatively capacious N62. I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

  11. Bill H:

    The most popular feature on Sans Souci is the Internet connection. As you recall, it is not uncommon for everyone on our boat to have their laptops open, and internet going. I worry we have spoiled you, and that the next time you are headed to Attu, it will seem a LONG ride without the ability to surf your way through the longer passages.

    Now that we’re in Japan, I’ve bought a Japanese 3g card, so we have blindingly fast internet, and it is unlimited. Awesome!

    Life is pretty good here in Yokohama. Not being able to speak the language is the only major frustration. In the bigger cities, you can find some english restaurant menus, but not here in the boondocks. I was wandering around today trying to find a hardware store, and buy some plumbing parts. I was successful, but it was a LOT of work, and very confusing, for them, and for me. Luckily the japanese word for beer is almost exactly the same as the english word …

    Hope to see you in Cabo sometime this winter!

    -Ken W

    PS We’ve all been talking about how cool it was being in the Aleutians, and in Petropavlovsk. Japan is awesome, but it is tough to compare what we are doing now, to what we did then. It will be virtually impossible to top all the adventure we had with you. With your help, we went places few pleasure boats in history have ever gone, and had a great time doing so. It was a trip none of us will ever forget.

  12. Roberta Avila:

    The freighter I pictured was a car carrier? I guess that makes sense. I believe the huge ones I’ve seen are carrying natural gas.

    My current challenge is trying to find places to drop anchor on the way from Yokohama to Osaka. All three GSSR boats are now down to just the owners, and we don’t really want to do overnight passages. There isn’t much information on marinas between here and there, and there aren’t many marinas that will hold boats our size.

    I’ll figure it out.

    Thanks! – Ken W

  13. Hi Ken. It seems a lot of people want me to critique the Sans Souci. I get emails and questions all the time so here goes.
    As far as I’m concerned its a fine boat. The fit and finish are nothing short of incredible. The stainless rails and fitments around the boat are flawless. You cannot even see the sign of a weld. The craftsmen who did the woodwork inside and out have to be complimented highly. The woodwork is amazing. Roberta’s choices in decor around the boat are perfect. One thing I was amazed by was the way the boat handled in a seaway. Although we were never in anything more than a little snotty weather I was astounded at the comfortable ride we had. What really impressed me was how easy the ride was in a beam sea and how well those Trac stabilizers worked. In anything less than a full gale you could probably have played a game of pool in the salon. As for the systems on the boat, they were well thought out and everything was accessible with ease. All the strainers, filters etc. were well placed. Considering the boat has all the amenities and systems/electronics of a 100+ footer everything seemed to be well placed and easy to service. As you know, on my fishing boat, I am more of a minimalist but none of your systems were intimidating even if I did sometimes say some were unnecessary. That’s only opinion though and can be taken with a grain of salt. In essence though the “excess” stuff was pretty awesome. All in all being a guest on your boat was a great experience and I enjoyed it immensely. I was lucky to get lashed up with all of you fine folks. As they say, you don’t know what you got till its gone. Thanks very much.

  14. Ken, the picture of the “huge” freighter in your blog is that of a car carrier. They are tall to accomodate many floors, which move hydraulicly to compress as many cars as possible — many over 5,000 vehicles. They criss-cross the Pacific Ocean in a week’s time and are usually at port no more than 48 hours. Interesting, they are powered by single, powerful diesel engines — like a Nordhavn 62, and the vehicles are loaded and unloaded by drivers who behave like in a race against time. When coming to the United States they are full of new vehicles, and when returning to Japan they are ususally partly filled with classic cars and motorcycles as well as specialty vehicles (like low riders, limos, etc.). I once had a chance to observe the docking/unloading/loading of a ship like the one in the picture. Most important, I spent half a day touring the ship and speaking with the captain and crew (sis persons) about their jobs — fascinating! Congratulations on your passage and thank you for “cyberly” bringing us along with you.

  15. A highly entertaining tale and well written besides. Wish I had some talent at something. I forwarded the link to Gene our comp pres and he very much enjoyed it to. We hope to be able to meet you when you get to Osaka in a few weeks. You might be able to persuade him to part with some local fishing tips. He is just finishing his testing to become a certified fishing instructor; who knew there was such a thing.

  16. Hi Ken. All of your assumptions are correct. A fishing vessel only has the right of way when fishing. Sport fishers don’t count. During the day two black triangles apex to apex must be shown. Red over white means fishing at night. For fixed gear only. Meaning longlines or pots. A dragger towing a net shows green over white. When in proximity to other vessels, a dragger also shows: when setting out, white over white. When hauling, white over red. When seining yellow over yellow flashing alternately at one second intervals. The most interesting one is one you mentioned in your blog. Red over red. In this case, if in fact it was a fishing vessel, this means the vessel’s gear is hung up on the bottom and the skipper is trying to get loose of the snag. This may explain why you saw him making various course changes. This is a very dangerous situation and I know of 2 vessels that were capsized in this condition. One with all hands lost. Stay clear.
    In your photo of all those boats, they looked like head boats or “pukers” on a live piece of bottom with sport clients on board. None of them showed a dayshape associated with commercial fishing.
    As I recall, on the way in to Hokkaido, when we ran in to all those targets on the radar all we had to do was move outside the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) which is clearly marked on the charts and we had clear sailing. Otherwise, inside the EEZ its just a video game of “Dodge the Dots”. Fun and entertaining. Sorry I missed it.

  17. Bill:

    A very interesting question. I may do a bit of research and then do a blog on this topic…

    I’m not sure any of the boats that we saw in Tokyo Bay were Fishing Boats, under the International Rules.

    My belief, which I have not double-checked, is that a boat is ONLY A FISHING BOAT, UNDER THE RULES, IF ALL OF THE FOLLOWING ARE MET:

    1) Gear in the water; meaning a net or a trawl. Fishing poles trolling do NOT constitute fishing gear
    2) The vessel is lit, or has day shapes displayed, indicating it is fishing
    3) The vessel is ENGAGED in fishing
    4) The act of fishing is restricting the maneuverability of the vessel

    In other words, a charter fishing boat, with poles out, and lines in the water IS NOT a fishing boat, for right-of-way purposes. It is simply a power boat.

    Similarly, a fishing boat, en route to a fishing destination, is NOT a fishing boat. It is simply a power boat.

    Also, a sail boat, if running under power, is a power boat – even if the sails are up!…

    Correct me if I have this wrong. My belief is that many fisherman, and sailors, believe they have the right of way, more often than they actually do.

    -Ken W

    PS Can someone double-check me on this? I’m not 100% sure I have it right…

  18. Ron:

    Thank you for the comment, and the offline email.

    With respect to Shelby – I’m assuming that we’ll have no trouble getting her into both China and Taiwan. Of course, I haven’t confirmed that yet, and this could turn out to be a huge issue. We’ll see. No one thought we’d get her into Japan, but we did. Today, Shelby took her first train ride, and subway ride. No one said a word, and she had a great time.

    As to getting us into China .. I don’t think it will be that difficult. John Kennally, and his Nordhavn 62, Walkabout, visited Shanghai and Hong Kong just last year. He also visited Korea and Vietnam. When we spoke with him, he made Shanghai sound awesome as a stop, so this could get added to the list. We’ll see. We’re traveling as part of a group, and if some one member of the group is passionate about visiting Shanghai or Korea or Vietnam, I’m sure we’ll go there. This is a group in which each of us has something we’re passionate about, and the rest of the group is respectful of helping others achieve their personal goals.

    Personally though…

    I confess that I’m ready for a break from culture and doing interesting things. I want a sand beach, blue water, a beautiful anchorage, palm trees, bikinis (or less), drinks with umbrellas, and a little Jimmy Buffet music. You may have noticed that next years route is only about a quarter of the mileage we ran this year. The distance may grow, but it won’t surprise me if I’m not alone in looking forward to a year of not much more than: ‘fun in the sun.’

    -Ken W

  19. Just the thought of this adventure continuing on to Hong Kong next year will keep me smiling in anticipation all day. And what a thrilling (from land) way to conclude this leg. Thanks!

  20. Great post, thank you! How about mainland China such as Shanghai? I’d imagine a Hong Kong agent will be required and visas might not be easy. Maybe you need to go to the new Nordhavn factory? {;*))

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson