Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Schock Wave Hitting Japan

At the time that I was ordering Bluesette last year, her builder, W.D. Schock Corp., was looking for a company in Japan to represent them in marketing their Harbor 20 and Harbor 25 sailboats. U.S. Yachts and Customs Inc. , in Fukuoka, western Japan, is now that broker.

The latest exciting news is that a Harbor 25 has been purchased and is on its way to Japan! The Harbor 25 is a daysailer designed by Steven Schock to be easy and comfortable to sail, yet fast, fun and competitive - and of course built for lasting quality.

The Harbor 25 has a self-tacking jib and lazy jacks for the main. It is also equipped with an inboard engine, a head compartment (toilet for you land lubbers) for full-sized people, and bunks for naps and overnight cruising.

The self-bailing cockpit of the Harbor 25 is eight feet in length and comfortably seats six adults. The Harbor 25 has the same sail control systems as the Harbor 20 – the halyards are internal, and they are lead aft to the cockpit for easy sail adjustments. The engine is a Yanmar (a Japanese company which has been around for nearly a century) diesel with a saildrive. It is a 2 cylinder 4 stroke engine.

For a review of the boat check this out: Mad Mariner

Japan is a long way from California, so how to get it here? Shipping Bluessette required a lot of preparation work (see my earlier post: Das Boot!), but putting the trailer and boat into a container was not too tricky.

But, how would you get one of these (don't forget the 1900 lb keel)...

into one of these...?

Your basic B-flat 40' shipping container.

As Rocky would say, "Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle!"

To do it, they built a custom cradle for the hull, tilting the boat 45 degrees. A second cradle held the rudder and keel, which will be attached upon arrival. Pukas (holes) in the boat cradle hold the mast.

e voilà!

The cradles are strapped in to keep everything from shifting.

So, now there will be two WD Schock boats in Japan, with many more to come I hope.

Of course the Harbor 25 is literally an order of magnitude above our humble Lido 14, both in terms of my sailing abilities and more especially my bank account, but it is in a way a big cousin of Bluesette. And little Bluesette will always have the distinction of being the first WD Schock sailboat in Japan.

You can read more about it on the WD Schock website (from which I borrowed heavily for this post) here: WD Schock News

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Friday For The Birds

-but the food was good.

On Friday we went up to work on Bluesette and maybe go sailing. Kind of pretty day. The weather was broken clouds and a threat of rain, but the air was clear and we could see the mountains 20km to the west. Not much in the way of wind though.

A couple of Flying Juniors were out for sailing lessons.

Not much happening. Even the birds were taking a break from fishing.

I trimmed and sanded the repair I made to the bow "lip", but upon inspecting it from below I saw that there were a couple of pukas (Hawaiian for holes) that I had missed on the back. I mixed up some more filler and took care of that, but it meant no sailing until it sets. Next trip I'll finish the job and we'll be good to go.

K sat in the boat reading "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters", an excellent and important book by James W Douglas. Kind of heavy material for a day at the yacht harbor though. I spent some time rubbing out some scratches until it was time for a lunch break.

The food at Mama's Kitchen was superb as always. They grow some of their own veggies, such as cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and egg plants, all in pots in front of the restaurant. We took a table by a window with a view of the lake.

K had a shrimp pilaf with carrots and asparagus wrapped in slices of beef

I had pasta with crab sauce

K's came with soup and pickled cucumbers, mine with a desert, which we shared.

On the way out, the chef gave me a couple of fresh bread rolls to take home. K told them about Bluesette and that being the reason we show up every week for lunch.

Back at the harbor, the high school students were taking a break from their sailing lessons, so I looked over their Flying Junior boats. Looks like a fun sailboat. They can be fitted with a trapeze for the more experienced sailors to get the most speed.

These carry a beach ball at the top of the mainsail to keep the boat from turning turtle during a capsize. Otherwise, with Hinuma's shallow depth (only a few meters) the mast can dig into the mud making righting the boat both very difficult and messy.

Johnathan Livingston arrived, taking a perch on the boatyard light and carrying on a conversation with nearby crows while supervising my work.

We called it a day about 15:00 with the idea of coming back for a sail on Sunday or Monday. It was not to be. While wielding an electric hedge trimmer on Saturday, I sprained my right wrist. Awe! Well, that's one way to get out of more yard work, but it also means I can't handle a tiller or mainsheet. I wear brace on it and hopefully it will mend quickly and we can get back out on the water next week.

A day for the birds alright, but that's just part of sailing. I can think of a lot worse ways to spend the day.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Around the World

OK, here's the answer to the Pop Quiz I posted earlier. The question was, "Who was the first person known to have circumnavigated the globe?"

First let's eliminate one obvious, but erroneous, answer: Ferdinand Magellan.

Magellan visited Southeast Asia on a voyage that began in 1511 took him east bound as far as the Spice Islands and westbound on the return. He then set out westbound on his famous circumnavigation voyage of 1519-1522, but died in the Philippines, short of his previous voyage's eastern most longitude, and thus failed to circumnavigate the globe. (As Maxwell Smart would say, "missed it by that much."

A modern replica of Magellan's ship Victoria, the only one of his five ships to survive the circumnavigation voyage and return to Spain in 1522

MF offered up the name of "Basque captain, Sebastian del Cano (who) is credited with assuming command of Magellan's last remaining ship, the Victoria, making it back to Spain in September 1522".

Very good answer MF - close, but no cigar.

While Sebastian del Cano (and surviving crew) did circumnavigate the globe, there was a single man who did so before them. And this person did not even intend to do so!

That person was Magellan's slave, Enrique de Malacca (aka Henry the Black).

Enrique was taken as a slave from Sumatra in the year 1511. He was a Malay and served Magellan as his interpreter. He went with Magellan back to Europe, westbound around Africa. He then came on the second voyage, which began in 1519, this time around South America. Magellan of course, as MF pointed out, was killed in the Philippines and never made it around to complete a full circumnavigation, but Enrique did. When he returned to his homeland on that ship, he in fact became the first person known to have circled the globe.

So, Sebastian del Cano and other crew that survived voyage of 1519 to 1522 around the world and returned to Europe were really a distant second to Enrique in completing a circumnavigation.

Together, Enrique, Sebastian del Cano, and surviving crew members have the distinction of being the first men to circumnavigate the globe in a single voyage.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Call of the Wild at Hinuma

Hinuma Yacht Harbor has an interesting canine character.

Readers in other countries are probably not aware of the fact that communities in Japan have a loudspeaker (PA) system which is used to make important announcements (such as an approaching typhoon, an elderly person with Alzheimers who goes missing, traffic safety concerns, local fires, etc.). The system is also used daily to play a tune at morning, noon, and evening to remind people to go to work/school, take a lunch break, or come home from the fields for dinner - kind a community alarm clock. The times vary a little. In our area, during summer, the morning "bells" are at 6:45 am, the lunch time chime is at 11:45 am, and evening tune at 5:45 pm. The tunes played also vary from town to town, from Big Ben's chimes to traditional Japanese children's melodies.

We stayed late at the lake a while back and heard the evening tune ~ it is the Largo (Going Home) from Dvorak's New World Symphony, though many readers may better recognize it as the tune to Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon School Hymn" on A Prairie Home Companion.

Anyway, the lunch chime is the tune "Green Sleeves" and we were surprised when we first heard it to also hear a dog howling like a wolf while it was being played. Later, we noticed a medium sized white dog wandering about yacht harbor and so inquired about her.

The dog is named Chuta. She came with her mother a long time ago. Her mother subsequently died. While trying to put her on a leash, Chuta bit Mr. Hakuta (who built and owns the harbor) so severely that he required stitches in his arm. The Hakuta's have fed her and cared for her, and for eight years she was on a leash. But Chuta never really accepted captivity. She escaped the leash and has never been recaptured.

Recently, at the veterinarian's suggestion, the Hakutas have tried putting a sedative in her food, but so far she has managed to avoid swallowing it. The concern is that if she is ever picked up by the "dog catcher" and does not have a collar, she could be put down.

Nowadays, Chuta can be seen around Hinuma Yacht Harbor and heard howling when ever the local PA system is used.

She's a nice enough dog who shows no hostility (unless her "space" in encroached upon), and will even wander to within a few meters of humans, such as when K and I have been sipping some cold tea at the picnic tables by the club house, but she'll come no closer.

In simply trying to capture her picture, she barked her displeasure whenever I got within about 4 meters (13.2 feet). Knowing Mr. Hakuta's fate, I was not about to press the issue.

Chuta has made her contract with humans. While most dogs opt for close domestication and allow themselves to be petted and tethered in exchange for care and food, Chuta was born free, still hears the call of the wild and demands that the relationship remain on her terms.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pop Quiz! - Around the World

There have been many records set by people who have circumnavigated the earth - on foot, by submarine, sailboat, airplane, balloon, space vehicle, even wheelchair.

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On April 26th, 2000 I met one such person, Hans Georg Schmid (pictured above), when he landed his single engine homebuilt airplane on the island of Maui, Hawaii during a record setting solo flight around the world. Hans was a pilot for Swissair at the time, and usually flew an MD-11 wide body passenger aircraft on international routes.

This day he had flown his "slightly" smaller personal plane from San Francisco to Maui, a flight which had taken 16 hours and 31 minutes. I was President of the local chapter of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) at the time and had the privilege to greet him at the airport and dine with him the following night. Hans was setting another record in this plane, by circling our planet twice, once eastbound, and then westbound! For a list of his aviation records visit this webpage at the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

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Schmid in his "Long EZ" Homebuilt

Voyages such as this inspire awe, admiration, interest in other lands and peoples, and a feeling that one can accomplish nearly any goal in life that one sets one's mind to.

(Sadly, Hans was killed on July 23, 2007 while trying to set yet another speed record in a hand crafted high performance airplane, the Express 2000 ER.)

The world's FIRST circumnavigation of the earth caused a paradigm shift in the thinking of the people of the time, for it demonstrated in concrete terms what had been theorized for centuries. It proved that the earth was finite - a sphere floating in space. That certain knowledge sparked fear in some quarters and a rush among European powers to grab what they could of the limited land, resources, and even 'souls' of this planet. There were explorations in years before, but once the globe had actually been circled, its finite character was absolutely confirmed. The result was an explosion of exploration, conquest, and colonization.

It goes on today, under the label "globalization", whether for the benefit of mankind or for the exploitation of them and their resources by the most powerful countries and corporations of the world. Whatever one's world view, the first circumnavigation of the globe was undeniably a pivotal event in world history. Not until Apollo 10 astronauts on the way to the moon in May of 1969 photographed the earth from 36,000 miles in space, was mankind made so acutely aware of our true situation.

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So here's the pop quiz question:

Who was the very first person known to have circumnavigated the globe? (Hint: It was done by sailing ship.)

The correct answer will be revealed in a later post.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Real Thing

...as in real sailing.

Sunday started off as they typically do for us with me flipping pan cakes for our breakfast, while we listen to "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers" on NPR's "Car Talk" via the internets tubes. A cheerful break from the weekday NHK/BBC news. But nowadays there is something new on the Sunday agenda: sailing!

Due to road construction, it took a bit longer to get to Lake Hinuma. K dropped me at the Hinuma train station and I rode my "Hinuma-cycle" to the Yacht Harbor. I put the bike into use even when we go by car, so that it gets maintained mechanically and also is absent from the station from time to time and changes parking spaces, so anyone "casing the joint" will know it is not abandoned. In the last week, the police have removed the obviously abandoned bikes (with rusted frames and flat tires), so I know they are at least making the rounds there. On the way to the harbor, there were perhaps 50 cars parked at one section of road. K found out that people were there to pick shijimi clams from the lake.

Shijimi fresh water clams. Only about 2 cm across, they are delicious in miso soup.

We had brought some things for working on the boat and stowed most of them in our locker. I added some velcro patches to the seats to hold a couple of seat cushions for K, which double as additional life preservers (the velcro didn't pass the real world sailing test, so back to the drawing board on that one). The wind was promising, but not very strong yet, so we put up Bluesette's mast and got her ready to go except for the sails. Due to our late start and the road construction traffic delay it was already close to noon. Rather than sail a short time and have to break for lunch, we decided to get lunch out the of way first. Besides, Mama's Kitchen was "calling" to us.

We enjoyed yet another superb lunch from this modest looking roadside restaurant. I had oil sardine pasta (don't let the name fool you - it also had peppers, asparagus, oregano, capers, and more and was "ono-licious" as they say in Hawaii) while K had a huge omelet with rice, potato croquettes and lettuce. Of course the menu included the salad bar and a special desert - a tart with cherries and chocolate baked in, served with a fresh cherry and slices of kiwi and other fruit. It's a good thing we don't live any closer.


The wind posed a challenge today as it was blowing almost 180 degrees from the normal direction which meant docking needed to be done on the opposite side of the dock from the launching ramp. Mr. Hakuta and his son took time to brief us on how best to leave the dock and return under these conditions. It was also kind of gusty, but not too strong, at between 6 and 10 miles per hour. That's a lot stronger than we had experienced before, but not unmanageable and I was happy to have some real wind for a change.

There were two other sailboats that launched today from the yacht harbor. Both were FJ class ("Flying Junior", a Dutch design about the same length as Bluesette), with high school sailing club students on board, assisted by their instructor in a motorized dingy. There were also many jet skis and wind surfers from the other side of the lake enjoying the wind and water.

An "FJ" sailboat.

We didn't get a lot of pictures, sorry. The ones we got may seem somewhat similar to previous posts, but with the wind as it was, we were kind of busy sailing the boat to get very creative with the camera. But then, that was a good thing for us.

K was a bit nervous at first. Every time the boat would heel over and the lee rail get into the water, she would cringe and say "oh, no". But I showed her that by letting out on the mainsheet and sitting up on the windward rail, we could keep the boat from capsizing and control the angle of the heel. Knowing that she had some control over the situation helped a lot and after a while she got the hang of it and started sitting on the rail whenever the wind picked up.

K, enjoying herself.

That's not to say that the occasional gust didn't get the better of me and put several liters of water in the boat, but for the most part, we managed it just fine. A downwind leg gave us time to bail out the excess, and take a few sips of cold tea. Our laundry-detergent-bottle-cum-bailing bucket isn't fast, but it gets the job done without tiring the crew (that would be K).

During this time, the students on the FJs were not having such luck and repeatedly capsized. A learning experience for them to be sure. At some point in the future, I want us to practice capsizing Bluesette deliberately - when I am sure we can handle it and after a careful program leading up to it, especially for K's sake, but also for my own - as it is bound to occur by accident at some point and it would be best to know what to do ahead of time. For now, I'll try to keep things more tame as we gain experience.

An FJ righting after a capsize. A student is standing on the centerboard with a hand on the windward rail.

The student climbs back in.

The wind whipped up a bit of chop and there were wakes from jet skis and a ski boat to contend with at times. K got very wet from all the spray. I joked that such is her job - to shield the skipper from the spray! Actually, I got plenty wet too - nature of the sport.

K learned a lot today as did I. She gained a lot of confidence too. She went from sitting in the cockpit on the seat and saying "oh, no" when we heeled over, to hiking out on the rail and saying, "OK, there's more wind coming". She's also more attentive to what the jib sail is doing and learning when to trim it in or out.

Our new wind vane and telltales.

I spent a good deal of time today studying the new wind vane, as well as the telltales we installed earlier, getting a feel for how high we can tack into the wind and how to keep the airflow going smoothly over the sails. The additional traffic on the lake kept me busy keeping track of that as well. And the gusty conditions meant constant adjustment of our positions in the boat and of the sails.

Coming back in went very well. We couldn't quite point high enough to make the dock on the first try, but after another tack we made it to just the right point off the end of the dock. To make things easier I give K the "hook" to catch the dock's line and took over both sails. As it happened, Mr. Hakuta was there to catch us anyway, so no hook needed. I was able to swing Bluesette into the wind at just the right moment to coast right up to the dock. (It was like piloting my Cessna in days gone by and making a particularly satisfying landing).

Safe at the dock.

After we disembarked, it took some juggling for Mr. Hakuta and son to get Bluesette around the dock in the winds and onto her "sendai" dolly. K and I then put the sails away and washed her down (Bluesette that is, not K). After we got her put away, we each enjoyed a hot shower and spent some time talking about our day with the Hakutas in the club house.

We didn't leave the yacht harbor until after 17:00. On the way home, we picked up some groceries including some fresh scallops (which K cooked up for our dinner while I walked Momo the Wonder Dog), along with a Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux.

Life is good.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Bikes and Sailboats Too)

Sunday we went up to the lake to work on Bluesette.

It was a cloudy, hazy, humid sort of late rainy season day and there was practically no wind. All the better to keep our minds on the work and not be tempted to put it off and go sail.

The first thing on the agenda was to put my new bicycle in working order. The bike will be used to commute between Hinuma station and the yacht harbor and to run errands. I bought a very inexpensive ($150) six speed which is insured 80% against theft by the store, just in case it goes missing. And of course, a good lock.

As musicians say, just your basic "B flat" bicycle

I've not had a problem leaving my other bikes for a day at our local train stations or bus terminal, but I've not left one for several days in a row. We'll see, but there isn't much at risk and the convenience of having a bike up there makes it worth a try. One plus is that there is a business in the ground floor of the little station, so there are always people around, at least during the day. The bike fit into the Honda Insight - which has a split fold down rear seat - with just the removal of the front wheel, left pedal, and loosening of the handlebars. I put it back together at the train station and gave it a test ride, meeting K at the yacht harbor.

One boat had to be towed in due to lack of wind. Later, a couple of FJ class boats were trying to race, but going nowhere fast. You can see some smoke on the far side of the lake, meandering straight up. The FJ is about the same length as Bluesette, but other dimensions are quite different. They are lighter and have less sail area.

We had a list of things to get accomplished. First, I installed some suction cups. Yep. Suction cups. I have found that they are very handy for holding things in place on the boat, such as our tool kit and first aid kit. I found some at a Hyaku en shop ($1 store) in two sizes, 4 cm and 6 cm, that work great. They were just 100 yen - about a dollar - for 2 or 4 of them depending on size. They will hold a surprising load and stay fixed on the smooth gelcoat of the boat until released, which is easily done by pulling up a tab near the outer edge. In this case, I used large ones, 6 cm diameter (2.36 inches), to stow the paddle and my new paint roller-cum-grappling hook against the sides of the seats. This keeps them off the floor and out of the way, yet readily available. The suction cups have a nipple in the center with a hole through it. For some applications I run a line through the hole. In this case, I found some 1 cm wide "velcro" strips, which make lashing or un-lashing these items a snap.

It's not as sharp as it looks, but perhaps I'll find a little cap for the end.

Then, some measurements.

Although I'd been told that Lido 14s are sailed with the standing rigging very loose (particularly when racing), I didn't know just how loose, and it seemed to me that the shrouds were too long. Not having any other examples in Japan to look at, it was hard to know what they should be like. So we measured them. They are exactly to specification. Not a problem. Next...

I crawled under the boat to inspect the centerboard and make sure it was operating properly. I usually don't like crawling under things, and laying on my back under the boat with a center board hanging over my head like a lengthwise guillotine was no exception. K ran it up and down with me holding the end and making sure everything was working smoothly. It was. It just doesn't want to retract all the way into the trunk. But since just a few centimeters stick out (about an inch and a half) I'm satisfied. I've read an article from one of the top Lido 14 racers that stated that was common and OK, so I'll go with that.

K took some pictures of the damage on the bow - which I won't post - and I cleaned it up a bit so that I could plan on how best to fix it.

We had received a strap from WD Schock to attach to the boom to hold the main sheet and keep it from sagging. Installation was straight forward - drill a hole in the top of the boom and attach the strap with a screw.

The new mainsheet strap. The red line is the mainsheet, the blue one is the main outhaul, which is used to adjust the tightness of the foot of the sail. The latter is always taut, so doesn't need the strap.

Some time in all this, we took a lunch break and went to Mama's Kitchen, which was busy. I tried spaghetti with karashi mentaiko - spicey marinated pollock roe - topped with squid rings. Karashi mentaiko is a specialty of Fukuoka City in western Japan. Although hot spice isn't my thing, this was very good. K had a teishoku (set meal) with pork, miso soup, nishimei (a veggie favorite of mine) rice pickled veggies, and tofu. Mine came with a small cheesecake dessert which we split. Again, the damage was to my waste line, not the budget. On the way out, the chef gave K a mini loaf of sourdough bread.

OK, so back to the boat. We also installed a wind vane, which I purchased from WD Schock a while back, on the top of the mast. As you can see, it tilts forward ever so slightly. This is because we normally sail with the mast tilting aft a bit. It should be most useful in steering the boat when we're pointing into the wind. The vane is easily removed from the mast when we're not sailing.

I measured the sendai (dolly) that Bluesette sits on. I may be able to use one or both supports from the trailer and mount them on the sendai. That would be great since they are made from the hull mold and thus support the boat perfectly.

That was it for Sunday. We had a cool drink and then I rode the bike to the train station where K picked me up for the drive home. K, aka "Miss Hypermiler", got 27 kpl on the 35 mile trip - 63.5 mpg!


While K went to her job on Monday, I rode one of my bikes 10 minutes to our local train station (well, just a platform actually), catching the little one-car train for Hinuma.

looking south from Hinuma Station

It's beautiful 44 minute ride through farms, bamboo and cedar covered hills, along the north end of lake Kitaura and then on an elevated rail across rice fields. There are eight stops before reaching Hinuma.

A car on the Kashima Rinkai Oarai Line which runs between Kashima City and Mito City. When it's busy they add one more car. There's one about every 45 minutes, so it's very convenient.

Hinuma Station

From the platform, one gets just a peek at the lake between houses. The covered bicycle parking can be seen here.

As you can see from the pics, Monday was sunny - and hot. The bicycle was waiting there for me, unmolested. I noticed that some of the bikes there were not locked to the railing and a couple even had the key left in their wheel lock. Hopefully that's an indication of safety. Not that I'll ever fail to lock mine up well.

The ride to the yacht harbor takes me 8 minutes at a leisurely pace. This day I wanted to work on two things. One was the bow, which needs a bit of fiber glass patching under the rub rail at the nose. I was lucky when hitting the dock that the only the fiberglass which is covered by the rub rail was involved and not the deck or the hull itself. After patching, the rail will cover it and hopefully look good as new. I brought a repair kit with glass, resin and so on and went to work cleaning the area to be repaired - removing the rub rail cement and sanding the area for a good bond. After I got the glass resin on I went to work on item number two.

The second thing was to try to rub out some minor scratches in the gel coat here and there caused by the boom or mast unexpectedly hitting the boat while rigging it or when taking sails down on the water. We try to be careful about that and lay down cloths to set the boom on, but sometimes there is a mis-communication or the wind catches us off guard. The rubbing compound was too light though and an hour of rubbing made some progress, but I'm not satisfied yet. I did some trimming on the patch and left it to finish on another day, perhaps with a more aggressive compound. Gelcoat is a fairly thick color surface and the scratches should come out. I also cleaned the boat with a spray cleaner and microfiber cloths then waxed the deck before calling it a day.

Japan Air Self Defense Force F-4EJs

I did mention planes in the title, didn't I? That's because Hinuma is just 10 kilometers from Hyakuri Air Base, there were Mitsubishi F-15Js, Kawasaki T-4 trainers and some F-4EJ Phantoms going by from time to time.

I'll go again on Thursday and hopefully finish the repair work. I'm looking forward to sailing with K on the weekend.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Independence Day Weekend Sailing

The Mickey Mouse weather services (Yahoo Japan, OCN, Accu(sic)Weather, etc., were predicting rain for Saturday and Sunday right up to the weekend. I was also following the reports out of Tokyo International Airport at Narita (just 35 km, or 22 miles, from us) on the Weather Underground website, and that was telling a somewhat different story. So, we decided to go with the people who actually fly through the weather, and went to lake Hinuma. ... It didn't rain.

There were Laser and Sea Hopper boats (a Sea Hopper, built by Yamaha, is a take off of a Laser Radial) practicing for Sunday's Japan National Laser competition qualifications, so we waited until they are out on the water. In the mean time, we did some shopping in the Hinuma Yacht Harbor chandlery in the clubhouse and got some much needed sailing gloves, a line for tying up the stern at the dock, and a kit of yarn telltales. We also rented a locker (¥525 per month - about $5.47), so we won't have to lug everything back and forth from home.

For non-sailing readers, telltales are ribbons or colored yarn which are taped or sewn to the sails. They show how the air is flowing over the sail which helps in pointing the boat and adjusting the sails to get the most out of the wind. Our main sail came with three ribbons on the leech (back edge), but we wanted to add some closer to the luff (edge attached to the mast) in order to get the bigger picture. I am not experienced in using these, so Mr. Hakuta was kind enough to help us spread the sails out on the floor of the clubhouse and showed us where to attach the strips of yarn. They are held in place by sail lettering material which has an adhesive on one side. I also have a wind vane for the top of the mast, but haven't yet installed it. For some reason he had us put the red yarn on the starboard side and the blue yarn on the port - as red goes with port and normally green is starboard, I thought it should be the other way around. Not important. The main thing is to be able to see them. If you are using the telltales to tell your port from your starboard you have bigger issues to worry about. ;^)

I found an excellent article on the topic of telltales which I will be studying this week: "Telling Tales" on the website of LB Sails - a Finnish sail maker. I think they are telling me I'm doing things all wrong.

You know there isn't much wind when the crew can sit back, relax, and munch on a "Soy Joy" health bar.

The wind did pick up a little and we had fun exploring the northeast side of the lake. Care must be taken to avoid nets that are evidenced by bamboo poles sticking up from the water. Run over one and damage the net and you might end up paying not only to repair the net, but any lost catch.

Green kayaks line the shore by a hotel, looking like so many crocodiles along the Nile.

In addition to small sailboats, Personal Water Craft (jet skis), skiers and fishing boats share the lake.

One of the issues I had during our shakedown cruise was that the mainsheet - the line which is used to control the main sail - would droop down from the boom every time we came about. It would catch my hat or my head and/or get fouled on the tiller, making for a mad scramble to get it free and get the boat back under control. Later, I looked at pictures on the "internets tubes" of people racing Lido 14s and saw that most had one, two, or three devices attached to the boom to prevent this from happening. I emailed Tom Schock (Bluesette's builder) and he will mail one to me. In the mean time, I improvised with a plastic D ring I had and a bungee cord - see photo below. It isn't very robust so won't last a long time, but for a temporary fix it works perfectly.

The red line is the mainsheet. No longer a menace waiting to hang me from the boom.

We took a lunch break about one and decided to try something different from "Mama's Kitchen". There is a resort nearby called Ikoinomura Hinuma which is run by Ibaraki Prefecture and consists of a hotel, swimming facilities, gardens, golf putting course, miniature golf course, tennis courts and spa. Ikoinomura (いこいの村) means "village of relaxation". Anyway, the restaurant there serves Japanese style food.

I had sashimi, which was very good. The miso soup contained several "shijimi", a small freshwater clam that lives in lake Hinuma.

K ordered chirashizushi. She didn't think her meal was up to par, but said it was OK as a change of pace. She did agree that the shijimi miso soup was good.

Then it was back for a little more sailing. The wind had picked up some and we could at last make faster headway on the water. We headed for the dock in time to beat the fishing boats which were due in at 15:30. The wind had shifted in addition to increasing in speed and docking proved a bit of a challenge. The main issue is the shallow bottom requiring the centerboard to be raised part way, which allows the boat to drift sideways and makes pointing into the wind more difficult. The other thing is that K has only seconds to grab the guy line on the dock before the wind will push us out of reach, and if we are pointed with the bow at the dock, there is no way to reach it short of throwing a lasso (whoopee ti yi yo). As a result we missed three docking attempts (on the first try, the centerboard was still too low and struck the bottom) and each time I had to jibe the boat to get out of the ramp area. We went out a ways to drop the centerboard and tack into the wind to get into a better position, but as we approached the dock again, I got distracted in the cockpit sorting out a problem with getting the centerboard to come up, and lost my situational awareness. Result? I looked up to see we were only a few meters from the end of the dock! I released the main and tried to vear off, but it was too late to avoid a crash. We came about again, took our time and finally made a successful docking.

The damage to Bluesette is a little more than minor, but much less than serious, as the rubrail and the lip of the deck under it took the blow. The deck itself and hull were not involved, but it will take me some time to repair this ding. A rather humiliating lesson, but fortunately not too serious an incident to boat or crew. Sorry, no pictures.

Aside from obvious lesson of keeping my head out of the cockpit (job #1 = sail the boat!), we also learned that we need a more sure way of grabbing the dock. Hakuta-san has used a fishing gaff for this purpose (with the sharp end covered), and that seemed a pretty good solution. I had an idea, so on our way home, we stopped at a hardware store and I bought a small paint roller handle and an extendable aluminum pole about 1 1/2 meters long to which it can be attached. It can be extended to 2 1/2 meters and is very light weight. I used my bench vise to bend the paint roller axle into a hook shape. We'll keep it in the cockpit next to the paddle so it won't be too much in the way. I'm also going to improvise a way to store them both against the sides of the seats.

Pandabonium's patented paint roller dock grabber hook thingy:

Sunday, we returned to the lake for more (hopefully uneventful) practice. The winds were even lighter than on Saturday. Hinuma was busy. The Lasers and Sea Hoppers were racing, so we made sure to stay out of that area, there were skiers, PWCs, fishing boats, and a hybrid parasail/water board thing on the water while overhead we saw a helicopter, a single engine airplane, and two ultralight "trikes". A man was netting shijimi clams at the harbor.

Two Sea Hoppers and a Laser

We decided not to take a lunch break and just sail until 13:15 or so. Due to the cooler temperature of the day, the wind was very light and variable. At times and places on the lake we made some decent headway, but toward the end we were almost becalmed. We sailed to the far eastern part of the lake where it connects to the sea by the Nakagawa river via the Hinuma river. Water at this part of the lake is very brackish. We could smell the ocean.

As luck would have it, the wind picked up a little just as we started to return to the dock. The racers were in for a lunch break and their power boat (for the judges) was at our dock, meaning I'd need to go around it. To complicate matters, some students were riding a PWC around some buoys set in front of the dock, such that I had to time our arrival to when they were at the other end of their run. PWCs require an (expensive) operator license in Japan, so one must first pass a course.

Happy to say, all went well, we slid by the power boat, eased to the dock, and K was even able to grab the line at the dock with her hands. I did use the hook to pull us in and hold us along side and it appears to work well.

We each have some aches from two days of using muscles we aren't used to using, but it is well worth the fun. It's good to be finding our way in lighter winds so as we get to better sailing weather this summer, we'll be ready to handle the windier days.

Until next, sweet sailing.