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.


Martin J Frid said...

Wow, sounds like hard work! Armchair sailors like my old self can only cheer you on from behind the "internet tubes" and wish you the best.

For weather reports, I always rely on Japan Meterological Agency. They also have satellite views.

Pandabonium said...

Japan Meterological Agency is good, but they only report two stations in Ibaraki. There are only two airports as well, but the weather underground reports from them are real time and fairly comprehensive.

I hope you'll join us for sailing - after I better know what I am doing.