Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Solstice Dream

From the 1974 film "The Odessa File"
(Andrew Lloyd Weber / Tim Rice / German lyrics: André Heller)

Perry Como & The London Boy Singers

Watch me now, here I go, all I need’s a little snow!
Starts me off, sets the theme,
helps me dream my Christmas dream,
Every year I dream it, hoping things will change,
An end to the crying, the shouting, the dying,
And I hope you will dream it too!
It’s Christmas,
We’ve got to remember!

So, light the light, I’m home tonight,
I need you to warm me, to calm me, to love me!
To help me to dream my Christmas dream!

Crazy things, said an’ done,
Every single day but one!
Every night should, I believe,
Be the same as Christmas Eve,
Nights should all be silent,
Days should all slow down,
An end to the hurry, the noise and the worry!
And I hope you believe that too!
It’s Christmas,
Does no one remember?

The whole world needs, a Christmas dream,
We need it to warm us, to calm us, to love us . . .
To help us to dream our Christmas dream!

(Lüge dirigiert die Welt, Ehrlichkeit bringt selten Geld,
Jeder möcht' Sieger sein, wer verliert bleibt ganz allein;
Doch manch Will' ist möglich durch die Fantasie
Du stirbst um zu leben und nimmst um zu geben;)
Einmal im Jahr wird alles wahr
Zu Weihnacht vergiss nicht,
Vergiss es gewiss nicht.

The whole world needs, a Christmas dream,
We need it to warm us, to calm us, to love us . . .
We need it to warm us, to calm us, to love us . . .
We need it to warm us, to calm us, to love us . . .
To help us to dream our Christmas dream!


Pacem in Terrace

Best wishes to all on this Winter Solstice and throughout the New Year from
K and Pandabonium

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fall Maintenance - Boat and Skipper

Three weeks of being beached seems an interminable stretch after six months of enjoying Bluesette on a weekly basis. Our sailing hiatus has not been voluntary. The weather did not cooperate at all, nor did my body.

I finally realized the pain I'd been having for a few months wasn't going away and I went to see a doctor. He suspected gallstones and a few days later I went in for an ultrasound scan, which found none. Two days later I had an endoscopy which showed that my esophagus was inflamed (not to be confused with an inflamed Snuffleupogus) and duodenum was getting ready to sprout ulcers. A month of meds along with the changes I had already made in my diet should clear things up.

Meanwhile temperatures of air and water keep dropping and I realize that sailing at this time of year will require a wetsuit. I ordered one recently, but upon trying it on, the fit was not right and I sent it back - my legs are not "Longfellows" and I really need a custom fit.

In addition, for the last few months I've made some key changes to diet and increased my daily exercise to get into better shape. I'm about 1/5 of the way to my goals there and hope to arrive at my targets by April. I have ambitious goals, but in my experience, such are the only ones that I will work for. If one's goals are set too low, it is too easy to put them off. Anyway, I'll wait for the wetsuit until I reach my fitness goals.

One of the ways I have increased my exercise is to get a new ride. It's a Raleigh (Japan) Club Sport bicycle. A practical cross (for me) between a road bike and a city bike, it is fairly light weight and has 21 speeds, but also straight handlebars for a heads up posture in the city, fenders to keep me clean and dry, and a kick stand. I ride it everywhere, including the 12 km each way into town for hardware or groceries, the 45 minutes to the expressway bus depot (to go to Tokyo), and even rode it 30 minutes each way to the hospital for the ultrasound scan. (I haven't driven a car in over five years.)

Speaking of bicycles, my "Hinuma-cycle" - the inexpensive 3 speed I leave at Hinuma train station for commuting to the yacht harbor - had gathered rust over the summer. Himuma station is after all only 3km/1.8miles from the Pacific Ocean. We made a quick trip up there in K's car to retrieve it and brought it home for maintenance. I spent a day on that so it's good to go, but I may just keep it here at home until spring, even though with our five bicycles, parking is an issue.

We made a trip up to northern Ibaraki to enjoy the autumnal tints at a couple of our favorite places for that. I've made business trips to Tokyo and Mito City during this period as well, and K had gone to Hitachi City for workshops on medical interpreting (Japanese to English/English to Japanese) as she volunteers to interpret for English speaking patients. She got to practice during my trips to the hospital. So, a busy time, but I've had sailing on my mind always.

Yesterday, Sunday, December 6th, we went to the lake to work on Bluesette. Only three weeks since we last went, but when we arrived I felt like saying to Bluesette, "shibaraku desu ne!" (Japanese for "it's been a long time.") The weather was spectacular, with clear air at a warm 15° C/59° F, and practically no wind.

Out on the water, eight boats - Sea Hoppers and Lasers - were having a slow motion race while a flock of wintering ducks gathered in the south eastern corner of the lake.

The ideal conditions brought out three ultralight aircraft. They must have had a beautiful view. In Hawaii, I owned a Cessna 172 for about ten years, but I never thought I would ever fly an ultralight. I was far too conservative a pilot for that. Then one day my Austrian friend, Armin Engert, took me up in his tandem "trike" (similar in layout to the one pictured here) over the north shore of Maui. He let me fly it for a few minutes. With no aluminum or plexiglass between us and the elements, I was amazed at the view and the rush of wind on my face. I felt closer to the birds than I ever had before. Flying and sailing each offer similar experiences and the affinity that pilots and sailors have for their respective sports and craft is the same - brothers, or at the very least cousins, of the air.

We had a number of things to get done. One was to try out the new mast float I bought. While the Hobie Cat float worked well when we capsized last month, there were two things that I didn't like about it. First, it adds a bit of weight to the top of the mast which makes raising the mast more of a chore. Secondly, it leaves no room for a wind vane, which I missed. The new float, which I bought from Annapolis Performance Sailing, consists of two inflatable tubes (of aircraft life vest like material) stitched to a center section of sailcloth with loops sewn on both ends for attaching to the main halyard. The sail cloth section goes around the bolt of the luff, and is pulled up by the halyard along with the sail. Together, the tubes displace 8 liters. The Hobie Cat float displaces 14 liters, which for the Lido 14 proved much more than necessary.

With the new float, the top of the mast is free once again for my wind vane.

I don't know if the drag created by the new floats will matter much. We'll see.

I squeezed under the boat and took a look at the centerboard and trunk. I don't like this chore as I invariably hit my knee on the sendai frame while squeezing between it and the hull. As I suspected there was a piece of reed about 16cm long stuck in there. Easily removed. No other problems. Meanwhile, the race drifted on...

Next I installed two new telltales on the shrouds. As we didn't have a wind vane atop the mast when the Hobie Cat float was installed up there, I came to rely on bits of yarn on the shrouds for clues about the wind. These new tell tales are well designed and not prone to tangles or slipping. I'm looking forward to trying them out.

At last, a horn sounded, signaling the end of the race...

With the race over, the boats made their way back to the dock. With so little wind, the sailors stood on the bow of their boats, holding the mast and rocking back and forth to sort of scull their way along. It looked very odd, but was quite effective.

After putting his Sea Hooper away, our friend I-san who pulled me out of the drink last month, came over to say hello before heading to the clubhouse with the others.
It was well after 13:00, so we took a lunch break.

Mama's Kitchen was quiet. We each had the "set" lunch, however, the cook adjusted mine. So, while K had some dishes with pork or duck, I had tofu and fish. On our way out, the cook gave K a couple of freshly baked rolls stuffed with thin slices of ham and covered in cheese.

Then it was back to "work". There was a large-ish area along the starboard side of the hull that I had wet sanded and polished back in September that still didn't look good to me. I applied more rubbing compound and used an orbital polisher on it. After that I changed the cloth and applied wax, then buffed it. I'm much happier with it now.

When not helping me, K was reading the Sherlock Holmes story, "A Study In Scarlet". We enjoy watching the old Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as well as the newer (1980s) episodes from British television starring Jeremy Brett. Reading them is a challenge for K as the English used is a century old. Also a challenge to me when she asks the meaning of some words which are not at the top of my vocabulary and I struggle to remember their meanings. Then there was the mystery of what Watson meant when he listed among his personal shortcomings - "I keep a bull pup."

We packed up and headed for home by 16:00. As we drove along the east shore of lake Kitaura, the afterglow of the sunset treated us to a show of warm colors. It reminded me of sunsets in the deserts of the American Southwest, with indigo skies above the fiery horizon and swirling red-orange and deep violet waters. Next time I hope I have my larger camera and a tripod with me.

Kitaura bridge after sunset

Working on Bluesette and seeing the sailboats racing on the lake made me realize that I cannot wait until May to sail again. I'll get a dry suit and keep sailing as long as K can manage with her wetsuit and neoprene jacket. There will be months this winter when it will be too cold even for that, but we'll make the most of times when we can sail rather than resign ourselves to missing out altogether.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, November 16, 2009


We were back on the water with Bluesette on Sunday. The forecasted weather looked good in the morning, confirmed by a call to the yacht club. Light winds were forecast with a maximum of around 4 m/s (9 mph). Before sailing there were several things I wanted to get done. Mostly I wanted to fit all loose items with suction cups and short line, so that in the event of a capsize, they will stay put. I'll take some pics next time. They really work well as evidenced that our paddle and whisker pole stayed put in the capsize.

The rains of the past two weeks had left a puddle in the cockpit, in spite of the cover, so we mopped that up. Then we spread the cover out on the ground to dry it and clean it a bit. K cut out new waterproof patches for 3 small holes which had developed earlier (due to running the tie down rope over the cover rather than under it). Then we put up the mast and jib. The mast was a bit problematic as it was missing the nut that holds the bolt at its base in place. That bold keeps the mast attached to the deck, so is crucial. K found a replacement nut soon enough, and then working like a detective located the original on the ground. (A good crew is priceless).

By the time we got done, it was 11:30 and we decided to take an early lunch at Mama's Kitchen. The place was unusually busy with five customer cars in the lot. We took a seat by the lake side window. K had a teishoku tray with pork in ginger sauce as the main dish, while I opted for pasta with clams, asparagus, and mushrooms. While we ate, even more people showed up. We were happy to see Mama's so busy - though I didn't appreciate the smokers. Desert was cheesecake and fruit, which the two of us shared. The cook came out and presented us with two large sesame rolls stuffed with sweet potato slices to take home. We ate them with dinner and they were delicious.

At one point, two men came in and took a seat at the counter in front of the kitchen. After a few minutes, Mama came over to our table and introduced to us to one of the men who, it turns out, is her husband.

When we returned to the yacht harbor, we noticed two of the cars that had been at Mama's Kitchen were now there. Candidates for the Japan boating license were taking the practical exam today, and the cars belonged to two of them. They would be using the dock for the test as well as maneuvering around some buoys placed out on the lake, so we'd need to watch for them and not get in the way.

I don't think I'll ever tire of the view of Tsukuba-san. Although the mountain is only a modest 877 meters (2,788 feet) tall, it stands out above the Kanto plain, displaying its beautiful symmetry in every direction. K and I hiked to its summit a few years ago. We should do it again sometime and take a picture of lake Hinuma from there.

We launched a little after 13:00. The wind was nice at about 3 m/s (4.7 mph). The sky was clear and visibility very good, with Mt. Tsukuba dominating the view to the west. It was warm - 20C/68F - and K felt hot in her wetsuit. The only other sail boat (not counting windsurfers at the west end of the lake) was a sea hopper.

Some of the trees around the lake were taking on their autumnal tints, adding to the backdrop. Flights of ducks went by. Other birds were swimming in large groups, diving in unison to feed on the bottom in the shallows.

After a long downwind leg, we turn to follow the Sea Hopper. He was surprised as we gained on him, and kept looking back to check our progress. What he may not have realized is that while he was pointing up as high as he could into the wind, we were on a close reach that did not parallel his course, and being a bit off the wind were going faster.

We were on a port tack so sitting on the port side. While K held the camera for another shot (she takes most of the pictures), a large fish - about 40 cm (16 inches) - came out of the water close off our starboard bow and swam half out of the water around the bow and down the port side past K and then submerged. It was quite a sight and I was trying to tell her about it throughout the event, but she didn't believe me, so missed it entirely. She did get a nice shot of the Sea Hopper.

K declined to take the tiller this trip. A bit to much wind to try it again after the capsize. I know the saying goes that if you fall off a horse (something I have also experienced) you should get right back on. But I would hasten to add, not at a full gallop. Not even a canter.

The wind kept increasing, bit by bit, until after an hour or so, it was over 6 m/s (13.4 mph) with white caps on the water all across the lake. There were some pretty serious gusts too (though nowhere near like we saw November 1), and it began to feel like déjà vu all over again. The conditions were not the sort we came to sail in this day, so we headed for the dock.

I timed the turn at the dock just right so coasted right up to it, and K was ready with the grappling hook to catch the line on the dock. She pulled us alongside, hopped out onto to the dock and secured the bow in such a smooth flow of motion that it looked as if she'd been doing it all her life.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Way Haul Away

Bluesette's mainsail has been repaired and we're ready to "haul away" again.

North Sails Japan in Yokohama was quick about it - we emailed them a week ago, sent it in on Saturday night and got it back today (Friday). Cost was only ¥3000 (about $33.50), plus shipping. Granted that it was a small repair, but it was sure nice to get such quick service. The repair looks good too.

Our first opportunity to sail will be Sunday, but we're keeping a wary eye on the weather as it looks like winds might be ten knots - more than we want this trip. We'll go up there in any case and if we don't go sailing there is work I can do on the boat and I also want to bring the "Hinuma-cycle" home for maintenance.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Roll, Roll, Roll, Your Boat...

We thought we had seen a bad day until reading a post on the M Squared blog from last May. Seems the Willamette Sailing Club in Portland, Oregon put on their Spring Fling Lido 14 regatta this year on May 2nd and 3rd. Some boats from Eugene came up to join the fun and there a total of 12 boats starting.

As with our day, things for them got very interesting very fast. One of the participants related the following:

"The skipper's meeting started at 2:00 under partly sunny skies and an 8 to 10 knot breeze. The first race started on time at 3:00 under menacing skies, a building breeze, and claps of thunder. About 30 seconds later a squall rolled across the river. As it hit [us], we luffed the sails and watched them flog in the wind. It wasn't enough to prevent us from being blown over. We tried to prevent the turtle to no avail. We righted the boat and were immediately blown right back over. We decided to wait for the wind to ease a bit before trying again. So, we climbed on top of the turtled boat and began to wait. I looked behind me to see if anybody else had capsized and counted 7 more of the 12 starters turtled as we were. Only 4 boats remained upright, 1 being an 81 year old [with] his grandson on board for his first ride in a sailboat.

"The rescue boats arrived in no time at all, including 3, 2 manned jet skis from the Portland Fire Rescue team.

"[We] were able to right our boat the second time about the same time the rescue boat arrived and decided to accept the tow they offered rather than sail back, as our machismo seems to have evaporated at some point during the adventure.

"Several people had abandoned their boats in favor of the rescue ride as the river water got very cold, very quickly. It took a while to get all the people and boats back to WSC and the race committee decided to cancel racing for the rest of the day. Nobody was hurt and no boats were damaged.

2 races were completed on Sunday in very light winds with [one of our own] taking home a 3rd place trophy in the A Fleet."

Cold water and rain too. Almost makes our little adventure look like a piece of cake. Eight boats turned turtle? Maybe they should look into mast floats...

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

How many words is a camera worth? A cellphone with a camera?

There won't be any sailing pictures with this post. The reason will become evident soon enough.

K had things to do all Saturday (Halloween) up in Mito City, so we decided to go sailing on Sunday. But Sunday morning, K was having cold feet. She was waiting for something she ordered, which of course didn't arrive until almost noon. So we were going to have a late start. It was our 5th Anniversary and we had dinner plans in the evening - would a lunch at Mama's spoil our appetite? Would be be late getting back, etc. etc. - woman logic. Perhaps the visit to the beautician Saturday played a part.

Anyway, I had already put all of our gear into the car as was ready to go. I went into grumpy Panda mode (sorry O Docker, this is about the most drama I can come up with). I told K we could skip lunch and if we got hungry we could have SoyJoy bars and cold tea while sailing and be back plenty early for dinner. Finally, she relented and off we went to the lake.

The weather was warm with scattered to broken cumulus and light winds at around 2 to 4 knots. It was forecast to stay that way until picking up to 6 then 8 knots in the late afternoon. K was wearing her new wetsuit and boots, I had my usual garb and new neoprene boots.

When we launched the wind backed off quite a bit with just a patch in the middle of the lake. When we reached the other side and turned around, I searched out that patch of wind. Be careful what you wish for. Suddenly things began to change and we soon found ourselves hiking out as far as we could while I was busy with the main sail and tiller. The wind was building fast until reaching about 15 knots or so. 15 knots is about the most a Lido 14, a family boat, is comfortable with. It is also at the edge of the envelope for my capabilities.

More experienced Lido 14 sailors can handle wind like this. In August of last year at the 51st Lido 14 Class Championship on lake Fern Ridge Lake near Eugene, Oregon they had 18 to 20 knot winds during a practice and 15 knots during the race. "We had a hard time keeping the boat under control," said Mark Schroeder, a local veteran.

This was certainly more than we could handle and we headed back toward the dock. It was going to take more than one tack as getting anywhere upwind was a struggle. The wind speed continued to increase and many times I had to let the main so far out that it was against the shrouds, yet we would still take on water. Then the big gusts came, and it was game over.

We both made some mistakes which ultimately kept us from righting the boat. I should have stood on the centerboard trunk and climbed over to stand on the centerboard, while K moved to the bow. But I jumped in the water instead and made my way around to the centerboard. K however, went after our cooler, letting go of the boat and so got separated from it as the wind pushed the hull along. I tried for the centerboard from the water, but did not have the jib sheet to grab onto and so slid right off as the boat started to right. The Lido has a lot of buoyancy so centerboard is pretty far above the water when the boat is on its side. At least the mast float was preventing us from turning turtle.

I then made the mistake of trying to grab K while holding onto our stern line. She was already too far away for that to work. Realizing that was foolish I went around the boat again to throw the jib sheet over the side for something to grab on to. Then once again went around to the centerboard to climb onto it. By this time, all the swimming around had tired me out and I couldn't pull myself up on the centerboard any longer. Time to wait for help.

K was trying to use her waterproof cell phone which was on a strap around her neck. With the wind whipping the water, she could not see the screen well enough to make the call. (Lesson - before sailing, ready the help number so you just need to press one button). By this time the boat and I had been blown 50 meters or more downwind from her. Some fisherman in one of the long wooden boats that are so common here, had called it a day and were on their way across the lake when they spotted K and picked her up. They tried to pick me up as well, but I couldn't make it over the high (it seemed at the time) side of the boat.

One other sailboat was also caught on the lake. It was a SeaHopper (Laser-like Yamama) sailed by Mr. "I". I-san came over and picked me up, it was easy to get into that boat. It took several tacks to get back to the dock and we nearly capsized twice in the process. It wasn't the strong wind for the SeaHopper so much as the gusts. When we got near the dock, I jumped off to wade the rest of the way in, so I-san could take his boat over to the other dock.

Normally, when someone has trouble, Hakuta-san or his son launches a jet ski and help is on the way fairly quickly. This day, Hakuta-san was half a kilometer away on a community weeding project and his son was busy teaching a licensing class, so Hakuta-san didn't get back until we had already arrived at the dock. He went out on a jet ski and towed Bluesette back. The mast float kept the top of the mast from going under, and I had lowered the jib and partly lowered the main, so it wasn't so difficult to tow. Once back at the dock, sheltered form the wind by the trees, it was simple to right her.

Of course, I realized how foolish it was that we had never practiced capsizing and righting the boat. Our safety gear worked well (always wear a lifevest on the water!), but we were not prepared to handle the situation, and for that I have no excuse. Had we been ready, it would not have been difficult to right the boat, perhaps bring down the main and sail back on the jib. Or if we could not get back on our own, K could have made the call for help to the yacht harbor from the boat. As pointed out in the previous post comments, some previous practice with the anchor might have also been useful while waiting for a tow.

The main sail was slightly damaged in the knock down. Up near the head of the sail, a 16 cm stretch of the bolt - a line that is stitched into the luff of the sail to keep it attached to the mast - was uncovered as the material around it was torn out. The sail is being repaired now at North Sails Japan in Yokohama and won't cost much - about $35 plus shipping.

K lost her new waterproof cellphone. Perhaps it came off while she struggled aboard the fishing boat. It was insured, so within a few days she had a new one at about 1/7 the cost of new. Hopefully we won't be charged for calls made by some flounder.

Most other things in the boat were tied down or well stowed. One exception was the most expensive of course - my new Olympus camera which K had been using on the way across the lake. It was in the cubby up in the bow, but now resides at the bottom of Lake Hinuma. Ouch. I now have devised a way to easily keep it secure anywhere in the boat, yet convenient for use. At least I won't lose my other camera now.

We have always been fairly well prepared for the expected. The lesson here is to be prepared for the unexpected. And safety drills are not to be put off, but discussed and rehearsed early on and repeated. K has learned not to go after drifting items, but to stay with the boat.

That night I got the wind records for Tokyo International Airport at Narita. Narita is about 30 miles from Hinuma, but was directly upwind on Sunday. What we experienced would have passed Narita about one and a half to two hours earlier. The chart is interesting.

Wind speed in knots along left edge.

After showers and a change, Mrs. Hakuta served us some hot tea and we talked with I-san and Hakuta-san about what had happened, the mistakes we made, and things we did right. We expressed our gratitude for all the help extended to us.

A Sweet-Bluesette post should always include food...

We made it home in time for our dinner out at an Italian restaurant in Kashima (our fair city) called Trattoria Cinquecento (there are two old Fiat Cinquecento cars parked out front). We had a wonderful feast of Italian style smoked fish, various shell fish, and wood fired oven baked pizza. We were waited on by the owner and his son while other family members did the cooking. They restaurant is in a wing connected to their house.

They grow their own herbs and when K declined the offer for a free espresso as it might keep her from sleeping well, the owner made a special herb tea for K which contained apple, mint, oregano, and lavender, for a good night's rest. Before we left he brought out mason jars full of the dried herbs and mixed a baggie full of the blend for us to take home. ("no really, officer, it's just herbs").

We had a table by the bay window.

Quite a day with much to think about and much to be grateful for. We should be back on the water in a week or so. Be safe out there.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Winged Migration

K's sailing course was on a Monday. The following Saturday we were both looking forward to taking Bluesette out together again. The weather was looking to be boring - gray skies, light winds, but we could sail, so we went.

Arriving before noon, we decided on an early lunch so as not to break up the day later. Mama's Kitchen severed up a tasty lunch as usual. The desert was beautiful, with a fruit tart and fresh pear slice, grape and persimmon.

On the way out, we were each given a present - candy canes in a glass with a thank you card. "Thank You" on my card was in English. Nice touch. Mama's was celebrating their first year in business. We wish them continued success.

Out on the lake, a large flock of ducks was resting on the surface, on their way south for the winter. While we sailed they would occasionally take to the air and flies along the shore before settling again. The left the area entirely by the end of the day.

The title of this post is taken from a documentary movie of the same name. Released in 2003, it follows the migrations of birds in various parts of the world using ultralight aircraft to put you right in the formations. If you missed this film, go rent it or buy it. You can read more about it and watch the trailer here: Winged Migration.

The wind was light, but we moved right along on a broad reach. We switched places so K could take the tiller of Bluesette for the first time. She tried various tacks, running down wind for a bit so I could see what it was like to put up the whisker pole, seeing how high she could point into the wind when close hauled, and practicing coming about. I gave her a hand with the mainsheet now and then, but she was skippering the boat.

I think she liked it. ;^)

As mentioned above, there were birds at the lake that we normally don't see. There was also something missing that we normally do see - bamboo stakes to which nets are tied. Hurray. The season was over for whatever they catch in those nets, so all the rows and rows of stakes which at time blocked our way in some parts of the lake were gone. Only a few stakes remained.

A quiet afternoon on the lake, but a joy all the same. As we headed back to the harbor, a caravan of fishing boats crossed our path - migrating home, like us.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Captain K

K has taken an all day sailing course. Her instructor was Mr. Hakuta, owner of the Hinuma Yacht Harbor. I was all for it as my own knowledge is so limited and also because I knew it would be so much easier for her to learn the concepts in Japanese rather than in English.

While she sat down in the club house with Mr. Hakuta, I went out on Bluesette, sailing her single handed for the first time. The last time I sailed a Lido 14 by myself was as a boy in hull number 443. It was fun, and interesting to see what the boat handled like when 105 lbs lighter. I have to admit, though, that I missed K's company. Not just her help on the jib and hiking out to balance the boat, but as someone I am used to sharing the experience with. That was a large part of the reason for choosing a Lido 14 over a smaller boat - for us to sail together.

When I saw them walking out to the boats, I came back in and docked to find out what the plan was, and watched them set up the training boat, a Yamaha "Sea Martin". The boat is designed for students and is similar in layout to the larger Sea Hopper so that students can easily move up.

I got back in Bluesette and went out again. For the first time, we were both sailing on the lake in different boats. I made sure to sail to another area of the lake so as not be a distraction. When I saw them coming back toward the dock, I headed back too. There are two ramps and docks at Hinuma Yacht Harbor. One for boats on a sendai (four wheeled berth) and one for lighter boats which can be launched from a hand cart. So as K docked by one ramp, I tied up at the other, and we took a break for lunch.

This day we had brought bento lunches with us in order to save time. The Yacht club has stone picnic tables with a nice view of the lake, so we ate outdoors. As we did we saw the high school students coming in from practice on their three Flying Juniors.

A well camouflaged kamakiri - praying mantis - sat on the hedge before us and seemed to be begging for a bite of our lunch. Sorry, pal, we don't have any insects to offer you.

Then it was time to go back out.

K and Mr. Hakuta sailed together for a time and then K tried it solo. She had a little trouble at first, getting the boat into "irons" (for non-sailing readers, that's when to point the boat too close to the wind, the sails just luff and you lose the speed you would need to turn, so you are kind of stuck). She worked her way out of it, but not without first having her sailing cap knocked into the lake where it remains.

I watched her as she sailed to the far northeast part of the lake and back. Mr. Hakuta went out on his jet ski to watch and offer instructions if needed. She did just fine.

Needless to say, I was happy and proud for her. As I marveled at the sight of the sun's rays lighting up a cloud to the west and casting shadows and sun beams with the silhouette of Mt. Tsukuba in the distance, I suddenly had a disturbing thought - what if she enjoyed it so much that she decides she wants her own sailboat to sail by herself? Oh, dear.

She was waiting for me on the dock with a big smile on her face as I slowed the boat and approached.

Lucky for me, K doesn't want her own boat. She is very glad she spent the day learning more about sailing and how to manage a boat on her own - though she admitted it was pretty scary to solo. Mr. Hakuta presented her with a booklet on sailing and a length of line with which to practice tying knots. Perhaps in the spring she'll do another all day course. For now she can enjoy sailing all the more and we can take turns at the tiller. Aye, aye, Capt. K. We'll go on learning together while we sail Bluesette.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

These Are The Times That Dry Men's Soles

Where were we last? Ah, yes. I was dissing the meteorologists at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

In the morning, the weather presenters on tee-vee were still predicting thundershowers, but looking out our window we saw a gray sky over a still lake. Ha! I knew it.

A dozen or more people were standing off shore casting fishing lines. Net fishermen were checking their nets. The air was still.

We met up in the dining room for breakfast - a buffet of Japanese and western style foods - and discussed our plans for the day. As the wind wasn't blowing and the hour still early, we walked along the shore for a bit.

After walking off breakfast, we checked out of the inn and headed for the harbor. As we set up the boat, the wind started to increase a tiny bit, but only to about 4 mph. We'd had a good breeze the day before, so this was OK . The main thing was, it wasn't raining. I assured Martin that it would not rain as he had no dry pants to change into now and needed to keep them that way for his long trip home in the afternoon. As we shoved off I felt something. Was that a raindrop? Nah! It wasn't going to rain.

We enjoyed the relatively placid water and leisurely pace. Still, there was enough wind to keep us moving along. It gave Martin a chance to see what it's like in calmer wind and take in more of the scenery.

There were fish jumping out of the water here and there. Suddenly, a small one of about 15 cm/6 inches in length, popped out of the water, flew right past Martin and landed inside the centerboard well! We could peer down and see it wiggling around, but had no way to reach it. By the time we docked it had escaped out the bottom. Wow. First fish caught aboard Bluesette! Congratulations, Martin. Sorry it got away.

After a time, Martin asked to have a go at the tiller. He had been in boats before, but not a sailing dinghy. We changed places and he took over helming while I handled the port jib sheet and main.

It's always tricky at first, learning to handle the tiller. Martin was surprised at how responsive the boat is and also how much one has to work at it. The wind came up a bit and we tried tacking a few times.

It was new experience to me in Bluesette to be handling the jib and not the tiller. Martin noticed the look on my face as I reoriented myself to the new position in the boat. It did seem strange.

Then, when coming about, Martin changed sides too quickly and we rolled precipitously. I popped the mainsheet from its cleat and things steadied. My bad for not doing a better job at briefing the crew. We changed places again.

K pointed out some very dark clouds to the East and shortly we heard a rumble of thunder. And then - the rain began. As we had agreed ahead of time, we immediately headed for the harbor, which was downwind from our position. The cloud followed us, however, and soon was emptying its moisture on Bluesette. So much for staying dry. The weather bureau's revenge was at hand.

(do click on these two to see the rain on the water and the boat and us) ...
Martin did his best to shrug it off (like a true Viking)

K didn't look at all amused - was it something I said? Perhaps it was raining lemon juice?

Ah, well. Showers and dry clothes would fix this. (except for Martin, who now had nothing dry to change into). What to do... I recalled seeing a new laundromat that we passed on the route that leads home and which wasn't too far out of way. So we went there and in a matter of minutes Martin had dry pants. Never a dull moment when you sail on Bluesette!

Time for lunch...

With Martin's interest in food issues - like food security (Japan only grows 40% of it's own caloric intake), food safety and sustainability - we had been wanting to take him to a farm association run market and restaurant we discovered about four years ago called JA Ibaraki Pocket Farm Doki Doki Restaurant. K set the Insight's navi computer for "shortest route" to get to the restaurant. We were soon driving down very narrow, winding roads through farms. At one point a delivery truck pulled out ahead of us, but thankfully he was heading the same direction. Maybe we'll stick to the main road next time.

They feature locally grown produce and meats both in the market and the restaurant. The latter is an all you can eat affair. The building has a high open beamed dining room set in a forest with large picture windows to bring the outside in.

I took this picture on a previous visit to Doki Doki.

The food is displayed on a large wooden, two tiered table. Often, the dishes are labeled with a small sign with a picture of the farmer who provided the ingredients and a blurb from the chef who prepared it. The food is all very fresh as the amount of each dish put out is relatively small, so replaced often with a fresh batch or a different dish altogether. There are no chemical additives in the foods. The selection is amazing. You can read Martin's impressions here: Five Stars For The JA Ibaraki Pocket Farm Doki Doki Restaurant.

After lunch and a visit to the market there, it was time to move on. We were heading in the general direction of the bus terminal, but there was another stop we wished to make along the way.

Both Martin and I have some background in Buddhism, albeit different sects. There is a temple in rural part of Hokota City which is little known outside the area, but of some historical significance, so that was our next stop.

Muryouju-ji (ji means temple) is on a hill overlooking a valley of rice fields. The gate is a the top of a long flight of steps (pant pant wheeze).

Muryouju-ji was founded in 806 and later renovated by the monk, Shinran Shonin, who lived there for three years starting in 1221. Shinran was the founder of the Jodo Shinshu (true pure land) sect of Buddhism - presently the largest sect in Japan. (It is known in the USA as Hongwanji and Buddhist Church of America). The worship hall was replaced in the early 1600s with the building one sees today.

The bell tower was built around 725 and is rung 108 times on New Years eve. K gave it a go.
On a previous visit, the temple hall itself was closed. It underwent a complete renovation starting in 2000, which took four years. This day, we were lucky and the hall was open and we went inside. A woman joined us - possibly the minister's wife - and lit a candle for us so that we could offer incense. She also told some things about the temple and its unusually elaborate decor and some of the history of the sect.

Altar with a statue of Amida Buddha. The carved panels above - some brightly painted and others gold plated - were made by the same artist who made the carvings for the famous Toshogu Shrine in Nikko in 1617.

A protective dragon greets one at the entrance.

Recent renovations included a new thatched roof.

The tall tree is a ginko, which may have been planted by Shinran Shonin himself as it is over 700 years old. To the right is a stone "Domae" - treasure house.

Then it was time to repel the Viking invader take Martin to the bus terminal for his long journey home - happily, attired in dry clothing. We'll do it again. Next time, just for kicks, in sunny weather!

Until next, sweet sailing.