Thursday, March 3, 2016


February 21, 2016.    Cyclone Winston was, at Category 5, the worst storm ever South of the Equator since records have been kept with wind gusts as strong as 325km/h and waves up to 12m high.

It started out as a tropical depression to the East of Vanuatu and moved South between those islands and Fiji.   It built to a category 1 storm, but then backed off and meandered Northeast as a tropical storm, passing between Fiji and Tonga.   Somewhere South of Samoa, it revved up to a category 2 and made an abrupt reversal in course heading straight for the Fiji islands.   Building even further it slammed into Taveuni (Fiji's 3rd largest island) as a category 5.  The little town of Vuna, on the Southern tip of Taveuni was devestated.   Out of 160 homes, only 20 were left standing!   Winston ripped along the South shores of Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island, while its arms chewed up the main island of Viti Levu, then along the Bligh Water Strait (where that famous sailor and 17 others were chased by Fijian warriors back in 1789).

Path of Winston

After destroying village after village across the entire country, it finally slowed  and turned Southward again, bent Westward around New Caledonia and finally dwindled back down to a tropical depression again off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

Follow this link to see over 100 pictures from around the country showing some of the damage:

Tens of thousands of people are homeless.   Many children cannot attend school as their schools are either damaged, destroyed, or being used as shelters.

If you can, please make a donation to the Fiji Red Cross Society.   While help is coming in - a French transport aircraft landed emergency supplies at Matei Airport for the hardest hit areas of Taveuni and Australia has sent its largest ship (the HMAS Canberra) loaded with three helicopters, emergency supplies and over 800 personnel - the Red Cross is local and knows where the greatest needs are.

Taveuni Estates, where we have property, was not spared damage .   The Marina was completely destroyed, the clubhouse severely damaged, crops and other foliage stripped away,  and the water system main tank (one million liters) crushed.   The good news is, there was little damage to the village in which the workers live, Taveuni Dive Resort boats were not in water so are back in action, and the dive resort itself was undamaged.   The water system is presently being repaired and food is being sent to the workers and families in the estates.

Taveuni Estates post Winston

Thanks for any help you may send Fiji.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Technosphere Control

I used to own a "cell phone" - over a decade ago.   It was "necessary" for my business.  While it was useful for that, its incessant ringing also greatly increased my anxiety level, contributing to ill health (by increasing the cortisol in my blood).   I am no longer plagued by that thing.

Some of my friends consider me an "anti-technology extremist" as I also don't watch TV or drive a car.  Sigh.  This charge is simply untrue.   On his blog, Club Orlov,  sailor, engineer, and author,  Dmitry Orlov recently expressed his own similar sentiments well:

"I haven't repudiated technology at all; I have merely become very careful in selecting it. I do own a cell phone, a laptop, a bicycle and a few other bits of carefully selected technology. ... I didn't move to a cabin ... ; instead, I sold the house and the car, quit the job and went sailing."

For myself, I love my bicycles (all three of them) as well as my tadpole trike and am looking into yet another bike (each has a specialized purpose).   I love my Lido 14, Bluesette, of course, and  am looking into acquiring another boat (again for a special purpose).  My laptop and desktop computers work fine and I see no need for more.  And unlike Dmitry, I will be building a sort of "cabin" in a remote place, far from the Technosphere (with a capital T).  I don't plan on moving there permanently any time soon, but do look forward to spending substantial amounts of time there in coming years.

I hope that whatever technologies you embrace or eschew, you too will go sailing.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kapoom Theory

The weather this summer has been so uncooperative for sailing that we've grasped at straws and gone out in questionable circumstances.

So, we rolled the dice on October 4th and ended up with more than we bargained for.

By the time we launched the wind was up to 14 knots and while we have sailed in such before in years gone by,  this old Panda has had enough of water coming over the rail and flexing muscles to control the main sheet and tiller full time.

K seemed to think it was fun, if a bit scary. I just thought it was scary. Leaving the dock was smooth enough, but then two striped mullet leaped into the cockpit at my feet as if by cue!   K handed me a bailing scoop and with one deft move I was able to fling both fish over the transom in one go.  There was just a bit of green slime left on deck afterward.

We rocketed across the lake in only five minutes. The sky was lovely and the mountains 20 miles to the west were clear, but with water coming over the rail, this skipper was tiring fast and worried about his boat and his crew, so came about and shot back toward the safety of the harbor.

Once there I tried to come about parallel and close to the dock but missed it and was too far downwind to make it.  We went out a ways for a second try, but I did no better, so at last K jumped over the side with the painter walked us toward the dock handing the painter to Mr. Hakuta.   As we got close, I jumped over the side as well to hand the stern line to the younger Mr. Hakuta so that he and his dad could guide Bluesette to the sendai as K and I walked ashore.

It was that kind of day.

We took Bluesette to a quiet area and gave her a wash.

Only one other sailboat ventured out from Hinuma Yacht Harbor that day, a new Laser.   He didn't stay out for very long either.   I snapped a pic of the Laser before the owner took the sails down.

We'll wait for more gentle conditions...

After a hot shower we went for lunch at the hotel IkoinomuraHinuma before heading home with the contents of my soaked wallet spread on the rear deck of our Honda Vezel to dry out as we drove home.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Bluesette by 廣部好美・北川絵理子 Yoshimi Hirobe, Eriko Kitagawa

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

So Good

Japan has had the weirdest Summer in the nearly 11 years that Pandabonium has called it home. It was as if tsuyu or "rainy season" never stopped. Finally, we were able to align rain, wind, holidays, and K's work schedule to get out on the water today.

Last weekend offered false promises as although the big rains of two conspiring typhoons had subsided, the water level in Hinuma was still so high that it covered the pier which leads from the launching ramp to the floating docks, thus preventing the launch of any boats. Even now, the water level on the river leading from the lake to the sea is so high that most fishing boats still cannot navigate under the bridges to get to the ocean.

Last week the pier was under the surface of the lake!  In fact, Mr. Hakuta indicated that it came to the base of the top right Kanji character in the yellow sign ("no entry").   That is well over a meter above the decking of the pier.

A bit of excitement occurred in prepping the boat as I discovered some passengers while opening the cover. At first I thought it was a little tree frog as we had last year, but on close inspection, it turned out to be a rather large spider. Nearby, there was a ゲジゲジ - "gejigeji" - trying to hide under the out haul line. Gejigeji are a kind of centipede - not as fearsome as those in Hawaii, but very common in Japanese houses (even boats evidently) and while not as poisonous as the centipedes of Hawaii, they do sting. Happy to say I've never been stung by either kind, though both of my daughters were while growing up in Hawaii. I have since discovered that the spider is not harmful to humans. It is called "Huntsman" because instead of catching its prey in a web, it hunts and pounces.

A gejigeji tries to hide under the out haul line.

This female Huntsman spider looked plenty scary to Pandabonium.

Following these discoveries came a lot of yelling by the skipper at the crew to leave them alone as the crew ignored the skipper and attempted to "shoo" them away, which only succeeded in driving them further into the boat. Isn't sailing fun? Well, yes it is. The trouble arises when you don't sail often enough and freeloaders take up residence in the boat. Lesson learned. Visit the boat and clean it every few weeks, whether you go sailing or not.

I thought we would have winds of about 10 knots from the get go today, but even though we arrived in late morning, the wind was nearly calm.

At last, we launched onto a fairly flat lake under the power of our new paddle in the hands of K. After a few minutes of slow going, the wind started to pick up and we spent our remaining time on water with a lovely 6 or 7 knot breeze under clear skies with unlimited visibility.  


 While putting Bluesette away, I decided to take some pics around the launching ramp.   I glanced at K who was taking down the jib and could not resist taking her picture.

"And now for my grand finale..."
Perhaps it was the camera that took her focus off of what she was doing...  but instead of unscrewing the jib, she accidentally disconnected the fore stay, causing the mast to fall backward!  The mast hinge and the boom kept the mast from completely toppling over.

Critters and mishaps notwithstanding, it felt so good to get back to sailing...

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sailing - A Deal With The Devil?

I saw this boat at Otaru Shukutsu Marina Yacht Club in Hokkaido, Japan in July and loved the name. "Mephistopheles" is, of course, the demon of German folklore and central to the story of Faust trading his soul for unlimited knowlege.

We sailors all seem to make a sort of "deal with the devil" when we decide to purchase a boat, don't we?

For me, it is not one I would wish to recant. I think most sailors would agree - I can see it in their eyes and read it in their blogs.

Daina Krall, Live in Paris singing "Devil May Care" - enjoy.

Until next, sweet sailing!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

For Peat's Sake?

The Scottish castle looking building of the linked post was one of the places we planned to visit on this trip to Hokkaido.   It is the site of the original Nikka Whisky Distillery, founded in 1934 by Taketsuru Masataka.

Masataka was born to a family which had distilled sake since 1733, but in 1918 he went to Scotland  to study chemistry at the University of Glasgow.  He also worked in a number of whisky distilleries while there and in 1920 married Jessie Roberta "Rita" Cowan of Middlecroft, Kirkintilloch.

Rita and Masataka in 1920
Returning to Japan with his bride, he helped establish a whisky distillery for a company which would later become Suntory.     He started Nikka in 1934 and sold its first whisky in 1940.   The reason for choosing Yoichi, Hokkaido as the site for his distillery was that he thought that the location most resembled Scotland in its climate.  The fact that Hokkaido has plenty of peat - burned to dry the barley and thus add flavor to Scottish whiskies - may have played a role in that decision as well.  Oh, for peat's sake, why would a person want to live in a climate like that of Scotland?   Give me the tropics any day.

K with the barrel head sign inside the entrance.
Whisky is not of particular interest to either of us, but I decided to take K up there because she had enjoyed watching an NHK Asadora (morning drama) called "Massan" which was based on the lives of Masataka and Rita.  Because of the drama, the distillery has become a popular destination for Japanese tourists.  Tour buses roll in and out all day long.  Visitors can stroll around the original distillery buildings on a self-guided tour (with signs in Japanese and English) or take a guided tour at specified times during the day.   Admission is free.

The original buildings make for an interesting tour, while on the adjacent land, Asahi runs the modern distillery.

Still life?  Ahem.   From these stills, the whisky was decanted into large vats in the next room, and ultimately, into oak barrels for aging.  A large screen at the entrance to this room plays a video showing how these stills were operated.

Inside one of many warehouses, there is a display of aging barrels along with audio-video and step by step  displays showing how barrels are made and what the pieces look like at each step.

After visiting an aging room, K seems hardly to have aged at all. ;)

Named for Rita, this was the management office in the center of the plant.

The Taketsuru home.   Originally built in 1935, it was rebuilt by Yoichi town after WWII.  Short commute, eh?

 K inside the Nikka Whisky museum, which is filled with personal and distillery artifacts.  There is also a bar in there where you can purchase whisky samples.

Some of the photographs and other memorabilia on display.

The Taketsurus.

At end of the self-tour, K went into the sampling room and had free samples of whisky and the apple wine which they started producing while waiting for the first single malt whisky to age.

Pandabonium at the monument to Masataka Taketsuru

In July of 2015, Nikka Whisky won several awards at the International Spirits Challenge in London, including Distiller of the Year and the Best International Blend Trophy along with six gold  medals for individual products.

Rita passed away in January of 1961 at age 64.  Masataka passed in 1989.

We had lunch at the distillery restaurant which was quite good.   Our timing was just right as some tour groups were arriving just as we were leaving.   We then visited the gift shop before heading to the train station to go to our next stop - Otaru City.

The distillery as seen from the Yoichi train station.

JR Yoichi parking lot.
Sittin' at Yoichi Station, got a ticket for my destination....

All aboard!
つづく (to be continued)

Until next,  sweet sailing.