Monday, August 31, 2009

Batten The Hatches!

UPDATE: Krovanh veered to the east and passed us off shore, so all we got were some 20 mph winds and moderate amounts of rain.

Good thing we have a tight waterproof cover on Bluesette and that she and the sendai she sits on are tied down to eye bolts in the ground. Krovanh is coming.

TS Krovanh's position as of 10:00 AM Japan time today (Monday). Image from Japan Meteorological Agency

Korvanh is a Tropical Storm heading right for us. Already Tokyo International Airport at Narita (just 20 miles from us) is reporting winds of 50 kph with peak gusts of 70 kph (30 mph and 44 mph respectively). The center will pass over us around 21:00 tonight.

The good news is, the storm is not intensifying to Typhoon levels. However, it was a storm of similar intensity that wrecked an iron ore freighter right off Kashima Port in 2006 with loss of ten lives, grounded another ship, sank a 98 ton fishing vessel to our north with loss of all 16 hands, and capsized a pleasure fishing boat near Tokyo. So this is nothing to trifle with.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A New Name and a Milestone

Friday, K dropped me off at Hinuma Station on her way to Mito City so I could ride my "Hinuma-cycle" to the yacht harbor. She did stop by at the yacht harbor long enough to drop off some cookies we bought at Disney Sea two days before for the Hakuata's grand children, and to undo Bluesette's cover for me (ain't she sweet?).

My mission was not sailing, but a change of name. No, Bluesette is still Bluesette (and I am still Pandabonium), but I decided that the decal I had chosen did not offer enough contrast to the color of the hull - a mistake I made due to the fact that under light at night the decal lights up like a street sign (a good safety feature in some circumstances). In fact, the decal came from a company called "Streetglo" - more about them and their excellent service in a future post.

This decal lights up light a traffic sign when hit by direct light, but in ordinary conditions, I felt like there was too little contrast to the hull color.

Anyway, I had brought with me my new decal with white lettering, and some water based paint remover and a plastic scraper to remove the original decal. It all went as planned, except that the scraper proved to be harder than I thought and left a haze of tiny scratches. Ack! As a result, instead of applying the new decal I spent the next few hours wet-sanding out the scratches with 1000 and 1500 grit sandpapers and then buffing with rubbing compound.

A dragonfly observed from its perch atop the fence.

It was a hot day, and I was glad that I had worn my Aussie style hat that offered some personal shade. At some point I took a break and rode the bike down to Mama's Kitchen for a well deserved lunch. They were surprised to see me without K and that I had arrived by bicycle. They took good care of me, of course. In the end, Bluesette looked pretty good, but not quite ready for prime time. The new decal will have to wait a few days until I can use an electric buffer to make that section really shine.

After putting everything away, I rode the Kashima Rinkai Tetsudo train home. I had left my Yamaha hybrid bicycle at our local station to ride home. A beautiful day, if only half as productive as I had hoped. Hopefully, Saturday would be better.
Rice fields and houses next to Hinuma train station.

Saturday morning, K drove us to the yacht harbor, dropping me at the Hinuma train station so I could ride the bike again, which helps keep it a) from being stolen by not leaving it in the same spot, and b) keeping the mechanical parts in use and thus in better condition. One might add c) giving me some added exercise - I can use every little bit that comes my way. As the station is only a few kilometers inland from the Pacific Ocean, the bike is already picking up some rust. I brought some oil this trip to help ameliorate that.

The weather forecast was for scattered clouds, a warm/hot 26 degrees C (~79 F) and 1 to 2 meters per second of wind (2-4.5 mph).

Before launching, I removed the aft set of hiking straps from the boat. I don't need them at this point and it will be some time before I am able to or have a need for them. Meanwhile, I find they are mostly in my way.

At first we wondered if we would have a repeat of our earlier "no" wind day. The sails could not make up their mind as to which way to luff as what breeze there was would come from the south for a while, then from the north. A bit further onto the lake we got established on a tack, only to have a reversal. It was bizarre and a bit frustrating. At one point we were sailing with wind coming from the North but a Sea Hopper only a few hundred meters away was sailing with winds coming from the South!

After we tired of chasing from one patch of ripples to the next - finding a bit of wind here and there and then being becalmed - I turned west and things gradually started to pick up. I had K put up the homemade whisker pole, adjusted to 183 cm in length (72 inches) as per Lido 14 class rules. Worked great. We shifted our weight to heel the boat a bit and reduce the drag from the hull (though not too much so as to keep K comfortable), pulled up the centerboard, and were actually keeping right up with a Sea Hopper off to our starboard. He seemed as surprised as I was.

Sea Hopper looking for wind early in the day.

When we reached an area near the west end of the lake, K had difficulty getting the whisker pole down. The simple hook I used to attach it to the mast was too curved. With bamboo fishnet poles getting uncomfortably close, she collapsed the adjustable pole a bit and was able to get the pole free.

We beat our way back toward the yacht harbor. We missed the dock on the first attempt and went back out for another try. I am, understandably, a bit shy about the prospect of plowing into the dock, and sometimes come up short when turning into the wind to dock as a result. The second time we were short again and ready to sail back out, but Mr. Hakuta ran out with a long bamboo pole which K grabbed hold of and we were pulled in. (I love this yacht club. Such service!). We lowered the sails and tied up for a lunch break.

Mama's Kitchen offered a great lunch as always. As a break from pasta, we had a "teishoku" (set lunch) with salad, Japanese style fried chicken breast (I pretended it was a fish), rice, boiled mackerel with grated dikon, pickled veggies, miso soup, and potatoes. On our way out, "Mama" gave us some fresh celery from her neighbor's garden.

Before raising the sails again, I took out some pliers and went to work on the whisker pole hook, making it a bit less curvy. We sailed out to the middle of the lake and turned west again. The wind was up to 3 to 4 m/s (7 mph or so). We flew down the lake as long as we could until we met up with some obstacles - bamboo poles holding fish nets. This time, K was able to bring in the whisker pole rather easily.

K and the homemade whisker pole

We were due in at 15:30 (the yacht club has everyone file a kind of "flight" plan). We got back closer to 15:00 which is a popular time for fishing boats that have followed the river out to the ocean to return. There were three lined up, so we tacked back and forth across the lake a few times until they had been pulled out of the water.

I told K to forget about the grappling hook this time. Since the wind was blowing pretty strong, I would just get close to the dock, slip into the water with the painter in hand and walk us in as I have done once before. As it happened, Mr. Hakuta appeared again and I sailed the boat right up to the dock before losing all speed so he was able to just reach out with his hand and grab the fore stay.

Our time back was 15:30 as planned. A perfect end to an almost perfect day of sailing. This day was a milestone of sorts, as it was our tenth time out. We had acquitted ourselves rather well I think. We're becoming much more smooth at coming about as well as launching and docking. Before leaving, Mrs. Hakuta gave us some nashi - Japanese pears - to take home. They were delicious.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gravity: Mast Raised, Skipper Decked

Lot's of good times in between.

Saturday's weather started out cloudy but gradually turned sunny. The wind was not as strong as last time, at just 1 to 2 meters/second (2 1/4 to 4 1/2 mph). At times we actually got some hiking time sitting up on the rail.

Once again, K had an Ibaraki International Club lecture to attend (about Vietnamese superstitions of all things), so I took the train to Hinuma and biked the rest of the way to the yacht harbor. I wanted to measure the cockpit floor so that I can order some anti-slip (or non-skid if you prefer) pads to keep us from falling down when the boat gets wet. The old Lido 14, which I sailed as a kid, had smooth gelcoat seats, but the inside of the hull had a typical fiberglass boat spray job for the time that was not slippery. The 6000 series (Bluesette is #6329) has smooth gelcoat inside and out, and I've read that I am not the only one who has gone "slip sliding away".

It's a beautiful ride through farms and along Lake Kitaura.

For those who wonder what it is like on the train... Only 20 passengers or so for the first half of the trip, but more get on with every stop. The cars are a little old and rough around the edges, but I find them charming and a kind of nostalgic part of rural Japan.

I had quite a bit of time on my hands before K would join me for lunch, so I decided to raise the mast on my own. It's a bit tricky as the thing is a little heavy and also because I usually have K attach the forestay to the bow while I hold the mast upright. As Bluesette sits in the sendai, she tilts a bit aft so the mast wants to fall backward.

My solution was to attach the jib halliard (which goes through a pulley on the mast up near the forestay) to the bow, cleat it to the mast while still holding the mast up, and let the halliard hold the mast while I got out of the boat and walked to the bow to attach the forestay. Worked great. K was quite surprised to see it when she arrived. That would be my sole victory over gravity for the day, however.

Before taking the boat out, we went to (all together now) "Mama's Kitchen" for lunch. This time, they offered a teishoku lunch with tempura. Nice change from pasta. It included salad, miso soup, pickled veggies, rice, and a kind of turnip called "kabu" served in sauce - very tasty. The tempura was fresh and crisp. While we were eating, "Mama" came out and gave us each a bread roll fresh from the oven. Why eat anywhere else?

The high school students were out training with both spinakers (boat on left in this pic) and trapeze (not shown). The instructor worked them hard the whole time we were there.

We readied the sails and got on the water by 14:00. The lighter breezes made things easier and yet picked up enough later to get more interesting without soaking K or keeping us distracted with the threat of capsizing. Just a lot of nice sailing and practice. Perhaps due to the hills and valleys upwind, the south side of lake has a lot of wind shifts while the north side gets the stronger breezes and steadier wind directions, so tacking back and forth from on side of the lake to the other is a lot of fun. I am finally figuring out how to tack without falling down or loosing control of the tiller, by facing forward and passing the tiller and mainsheet from hand to hand behind my back. Obvious stuff for an experienced sailor, but a revelation to me.

Our mast float. The top "telltale" yarn on the mainsail is trying to tell me something. The one on the lee side, which can be seen by its shadow, is pointing forward. That tells me I have the downhaul/Cunningham too tight for the light wind conditions. Loosening it will allow the sail to bend more and create better airflow. Sailing is a lot like flying an airplane, only the wings are much more adjustable!

We made a long downwind run to test my new homemade whisker pole. To use it, K takes off the grappling hook and screws on a sort of spike that goes through the clew of the jib, then she adjusts the length to about 70 inches, puts the spike in the clew, and puts a hook at the other end into a bracket on the mast. Then she sheets in the jib and viola. It holds the jib flat while sailing downwind so that it catches more wind and makes us go faster. It works just fine, though we need to mark the pole so we can get the right length every time. I think we were a little short today, but no big deal.

K did a great job deploying our new whisker pole.

After we'd been out for two hours, it was time to dock. We had gotten pretty smooth with coming about and felt confident approaching the dock. I had K release the jib to let it luff, let out the main and swung the boat around into the wind. This time I was closer to the dock and it was looking good except that as K snagged the guy line on the dock, she caught or sat on the jib sheet and we started sailing toward the dock under the jib's power. She was stuck between letting go of the grappling hook or addressing the jib sheet. We made a bit of a rough landing and put some minor scratches near the bow on the starboard side. (Scratch removal day coming up).

After tying up, I stayed in the boat and had K take a picture before taking the sails down, as we didn't have any pics yet with the sails up taken from somewhere other than the boat itself. Well, now we do. Though I would like to get some pics of us while we are under way.

As Bluesette was being put on the sendai (dolly) to be pulled out, something was catching. Somehow the centerboard line had become uncleated (since I was last in the boat, guess who was responsible for that!). I made the mistake of walking down the ramp and into the water to try and grab the centerboard line and pull the centerboard back up. BIG mistake.

Do you know how slippery a boat ramp can get? One in a lake full of algae? Well, I'll tell you - Teflon is rough by comparison. As close to zero friction as I have found. In a flash I was on my butt. Then I made my second big mistake - I tried to get up and walk out of the water. This time I slammed face down, catching the fall with my forearms. Man it happens fast. Let's see, the acceleration of an object under the influence of Earth's gravity is 32 feet per second per second. I am under 6 feet tall, so all of me is on the ground in less than .2 seconds give or take. Damage didn't seem so bad - scrapes and cuts on the forearms was about all. We finished putting Bluesette to bed, and I went for a shower and a bit of doctoring at the clubhouse before heading home.

By the time we reached home, the "after effects" of my gravitational encounter with the ramp had kicked in. I now feel like I walked into a moving truck, with multiple joints and deeper muscles around my shoulders complaining of abuse - particularly my right arm, but oddly enough, not my previously sprained wrist. Another lesson learned the hard way. Now I know why the Hakutas don't wade into the water when pulling a boat out of the water, but just control things through the bow and stern lines and a bamboo pole. DOH!

Luckily, so far, we have not had any serious consequences from our mistakes. Hopefully, we will keep learning from the minor ones and never have any major ones.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Swedish Bluesette

Here is the wonderful Swedish Jazz singer, Monica Zetterlund, singing "Bluesette" ~ 1966. I was a teenager at that time and not aware of her as I was too busy swooning over Astrud Gilberto. Monica recorded with Louis Armstrong, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, and Quincy Jones. Enjoy.

(A Capt. Panda salute to Martin Frid for this video)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What A Difference A Day (or so) Makes

On our way to lake Hinuma Monday morning we were stopped by the latest in Japanese law enforcement. Forget "Robocop". Always at the cutting edge of technology, Japan has a super light weight, quickly deployable alternative that is much cheaper, more mobile, and effective (providing you have a compliant citizenry). It's "Inflate-o-Cop"!

Well, actually there were two of these next to a Mobil gasoline station. I admit they are effective in catching one's attention, if only to elicit a laugh. Obviously, the location has a visibility problem and so has invested in numerous signs, flashing lights, and even "Inflate-o-Cops" to garner what business they can.

A hand held anemometer, similar to mine. It displays temperature and wind data (chose from m/s, ft/s, knots, mph, kph). It will also provide peak gust and average speeds.

The weather was quite a change from last Thursday - scattered cumulus, loads of sun, and According to my anemometer it was blowing about 4 - 4.5 meters per second - 9 to 10 mph. That's about as much wind as we've sailed in before and had it been blowing harder I would have opted to stay ashore. For more experienced Lido 14 sailors, 10 mph is no big deal. For me, it is a learning stage, and frankly, wind speeds much higher than that (say, 15 mph) are not conditions we plan to sail in anyway.

Hobie Cat mast float. Obviously, the logo had to go.

Today, we left off the wind vane at the top of the mast and installed in its place a Hobie Cat mast float. Hobie Cat is a brand of sailing catamaran. Because of the geometry of catamarans, they are very difficult to right if they happen to capsize. The mast float, which they call "Baby Bob", is a teardrop shaped float containing 14.5 liters of air, which sits atop the mast. It displaces 1.45 kg of water - 32 lbs. - when submerged. In the event of a capsize, the float is there to keep the mast from sinking and the boat from turning "turtle" - completely upside down.

Now, in our case, turning turtle is not a possibility. Why? Because the lake is shallow - 2 or 2.5 meters in most areas we sail and the mast is over 5.5 meters tall. But that is not necessarily a good thing, for if we capsize and the boat starts to turn turtle, the mast could dig into the muddy bottom, making righting the boat very difficult and introducing the possibility of bending the mast or doing other expensive damage.

I know of no other Lido 14 with a mast float, but this can be attributed to the fact that most of them sail in places like West Coast harbors or in lakes where there are lots of other boats nearby ready to assist. It also adds a little weight and drag. Also, a well trained crew may be able to right a boat before the mast sinking becomes a problem. However, I know it happens, and for us, the situation would be a serious one. Thus, the mast float.

This sort of planning may seem overly conservative to many sailors, but it comes from my many years as a private pilot flying a single engine airplane over rough ocean channels in the Hawaiian Islands, and having known someone who ended up spending the night bobbing around in his life vest. I don't cut corners or let my ego get in the way when it comes to safety.

Note the new float atop the mast, (looks like a Zeppelin flying over). Oh, and K readying the jib.

On a more calm day, I will wade into the water and pull Bluesette over on her side (with sails raised) to see just how much the buoyancy and protection the float offers. Other people with similar sized boats have reported good results using the Hobie Cat float.

With more wind things happen much more quickly in a sailboat and right off we had a problem with the wind having twisted up the jib sheets at the dock. K had to untangle the mess as I let the main way out to keep us slow and level until she got it straightened out.

We made several close hauled tacks upwind and generally had a good time. K was getting splashed by the spray off the bow with each choppy wave and before long was soaked. We had a few mishaps, as when I slipped while coming about and lost control of the tiller, but had the presence of mind to pop the main sheet from the cleat so we didn't test the mast float quite yet. On that occasion my knee slammed into on our combination grappling hook/whisker pole, putting a dent in the aluminum pole and breaking the head off of it, something I didn't notice at the time.

Another time, I didn't give K enough warning and just called "ready about" and started to turn without waiting for her response. The jib was still cleated and K scrambled to the other side while trying to free it. Again, we recovered, if not so gracefully. My bad.

Wing and wing.

After a time, we turned downwind and set the sails wing and wing - main on one side, jib on the other. I wanted to try out my new, homemade, whisker pole. For non-sailors that is a pole which attaches to the mast and the clue (aft corner) of the jib to hold it straight out so that it catches more wind. It was then I discovered that I had broken it in my earlier fall.

Ah well, the down wind leg would give us a bit of a break, a chance to sip some cold tea, and to make sure everything was ship shape and properly adjusted. Also a good time for the crew to make use of the new bailing bucket to rid us of the 5 cm of water in the cockpit. The old bucket was made from a laundry detergent bottle and was too stiff and too large. The new one is rubber, conforming to the shape of the bottom, and much smaller so easier to use.

We were really flying downwind, keeping up with the waves. A lighter boat, such as a Laser, would be planing. We went quite a ways toward the west end of the lake, but I decided to cut it short as we would spend a lot of time tacking back into the wind to get back to the yacht harbor. A few wind surfers were the only other sails on the lake.

A soaking wet K looks down at our broken whisker pole as a windsurfer zooms by to port. (click to enlarge)

As we approached the dock, a motor boat was in our path and had a group of children nearby playing in the water. I decided to go back across the lake and see if they moved. They did and had tied up at the dock. I briefed K on how we would approach in these winds, so she could be ready to grab the line at the dock. She would need to do that by hand, as I had broken the grappling hook. We would need to parallel the dock going toward shore, then swing around toward it in a 120 degree turn into the wind, luffing the sails. If my timing were off and we didn't make the dock, rather than sailing off and coming in to try it again, I would used the "Hakuta method", which I have seen other sailors do here. That is, jump in the water and walk the boat to the dock!

As it happened, I did come up a half meter short of the dock and we started to drift away toward shore and the docked motor boat. I slipped over the side into the one meter deep water, took the painter from K and walked us to the dock. I should have had K take my picture. (After that, K wasn't the only one who was soaking wet.) It was so easy that I think I'll do that whenever the wind is strong and the water warm.

After a shower and change of clothes, we talked about what we had learned and laughed about some of our mistakes over a pasta lunch at Mama's Kitchen. K had broccoli and thin ham slices and I had tuna and veggies with tomato sauce. Each came with a desert of cheese cake souffle that was nice and light, with pear and orange slices, and Bluesette berries .

On the way home, we stopped at a hardware store and I picked up a new painter's extension pole from which to make a new grappling hook/whisker pole. This one has 3 segments instead of two, so collapses to only 81 cm. It will be much easier to stow and less likely to be broken by a clumsy skipper.

Lots happening this week, so it may be several days before we get on the water again. Meanwhile, we're doing more book study in our effort to keep improving. It's all good.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bluesette Berries

HappySurfer recently requested a picture of K's blueberry bushes and after we spent this morning "beating back the jungle" in our front yard, I decided to go ahead and comply. Before I could do so, K came in the house with another container full of them.

So, HappySurfer, just imagine all those ripe berries back on the branches and you'll get the idea of what the bushes looked like beforehand. There are four bushes, two were planted a year or so ago, two of a different variety some months after that. All of them are doing well and we're amazed at how much fruit we're getting from them.

Until next, sweet sailing (and berry picking).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Smooth Sailing - If You Get My Drift

Tropical Strom Etau having passed, we headed for the lake on Thursday expecting mild conditions. We didn't realize just how mild they would be.

As we drifted from the dock, I had K take the tiller while I broke out our trusty "American Trader" canoe paddle to give a push off the dock and then paddle our way past some fish nets into the open lake. The only other sailboat on the water was a Laser, which had launched just before us and was sticking close to the yacht harbor.

The water was flat and were it not for the little bubbles of foam drifting by here and there, it would be easy to think we were not moving at all. The overcast was reflected on the surface making any attempt to peer into the lake a dizzying and dangerous illusion, luring one to peer ever deeper. The wind vane atop the mast drifted lazily about the compass. The sails sagged and were moved more easily by their own weight as by the barely noticeable movement of air molecules.

Crazy time to go sailing? Not at all. An excellent time to learn how read every hint of where there might be wind, try to see it on the sails, feel it on the skin, and to figure out how to get some forward movement from whatever puff one found. Near the dock it was a time to practice the OTHER ways to move a sailboat - paddling and "sculling" - working the rudder back and forth like a fish tail to propel the boat forward.

It was also a time to enjoy the natural surroundings. Striped mullet of every size were jumping out of the water. (Later, Mrs. Hakuta would tell K about a striped mullet jumping out of the water and striking a sailor in the eye, leaving a nasty bruise!). Black loons flew low and fast above the surface, hawks circled almost without effort, as if defying gravity in the still air. The sun was visible as a white disk through the overcast and its UV rays made its heat felt. So calm it was, I could rest my thermos cup of cold mugicha (barley tea) on the seat without fear of spilling it.

I headed for the north shore and a little village I wanted to investigate. At one end there is a small harbor from which jet skis operate, taking people on rides on a four passenger inflatable "banana". Jet skis annoy me. They are like a motorcycle on the water. Safer, yes, but just as noisy and polluting, and at least the motorcycle can claim to actually be used for going somewhere. Sailing, canoeing, kayaking, all offer transportation, but also a more cerebral, contemplative sport that brings one in touch with nature. Ah well, peak oil may take care of those gas guzzling pests soon enough, and meanwhile, I have the right of way.

Long, wooden, net-fishing boats with outboard motors sped here and there to check their nets in various parts of the lake. Not so noisy as the jet skis, and making short, yet purposeful, trips. Not so many decades ago, these were powered by sail and oars.

Off to the northeast I could see the signs of wind on the water, but I resisted a desire to turn toward them until I had finished investigating this section of shore. It had taken us 45 minutes to cross the lake - distance of less than 2 km.

We then headed for the ripples being made by the wind and were soon on a nice windward tack making some speed. We worked our way up the northeast end of the lake where it empties into the river until we reached a point where the bottom starts to get shallow. I elected to turn around before we ran the risk of going aground.

Returning was once again a bit boring for K, but not for me. In deference to the crew, however, I made some extra turns along the way just to put us on speedier courses that, while making the way home longer, would give K the illusion of more speed over the water. I also entertained her by cutting it close to the bamboo net stakes, missing them by a few centimeters.

Mind the fish net stakes.

The wind did pick up a little during our three hours on the lake. It seemed concentrated in the northeast corner, probably due to the topography of the hills. Good to know.

After we came in, I had a nice compliment on my repair job by Hakuta-san who got to see close up what I had been doing for all those hours I spent on it. And of course, after we put Bluesette to bed, the sun finally burned away the overcast, and the wind picked up a bit. Three Sea Hoppers had launched and were across the lake in no time. I'm not complaining. We had another good day sailing.

Bluesette can be seen against the far fence (left of center) as Sea Hoppers sail in the distance.

I brought home the pole we use for grappling the dock and will use it to make a whisker pole. With a change of the screw on head and a minor adjustment of length we will be able to switch back and forth from grappling hook to whisker pole (I hope). We'll go out Monday to test it out. According to the weather oracle, there will be more wind then. So far, the weekend has been beautiful, so I am hopeful.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Racing A Tropical Storm

Sunday, August 2nd, Bonnie of the blog "frogma", played tag with thunder storms to squeeze in a kayak paddle in New York, frequently checking the weather and interpreting the radar images in the days leading up to the planned outing. While others dropped out over the preceding days, she and one other kayaker stuck with it and were rewarded with some good paddling time on the water. You can read about it here: "The Best Trip I Ever Canceled".

One week later, on the other side of the world, we ended up doing the same thing. Tropical Storm Etau has been moving up the Japan archipelago threatening thunder showers and high wind. The question facing us Saturday night was whether or not it would start dumping rain on us Sunday as many weather sites were predicting. Like Bonnie, I turned to weather radar images, in my case on the Japan Meteorological Service website. They have a neat feature which analyzes precipitation and creates a video loop for the preceding six hours and a prediction of the next six hours. Watching that, I was convinced that the cells would pass far to our north and we should go to the lake and check it out. The worst case would be that I was wrong and we'd have a nice lunch at Mama's Kitchen and come home.

Well, I was right. (OK, so it was the Japan Meteorological Service that was right). We had a nice two hour sail on the lake, with moderate winds of about 5 knots. K liked that, as it meant we could sail along at a nice clip, but without a lot of spray to get her wet.

The "After" picture, as in after the repairs - just need to clean the smudge off the rubrail where she struck the dock.

I had come up on the train on Saturday and did the final touch up work on the bow repair. I can now reveal the before and after pics. Not a perfect, professional repair, but sturdy and unless one makes a close inspection one would never know I had plowed into the dock. K had gone to an Ibaraki International Association lecture in Mito City about the Ukraine that morning and joined me about 1 pm for lunch. We left the repair to dry out over night.

It is Obon season in Japan, the Buddhist holiday when people often visit their home town, place flowers and incense on family graves, and attend a dance to welcome home the spirits of those who have predeceased us. As a Buddhist "Sunday School" teacher of many years in Hawaii, it is one of my favorite times of year. If you ever get the chance to attend a Bon Dance, do so, they are a lot of fun, very colorful, lots of food, and everyone is welcome to come.

Bon odori - a Bon Dance in Kashima City, Japan.

Click above to hear the Bon Dance song "Tanko Bushi" (a coal miner's love song) courtesy Kelowna Buddhist Temple, B.C., Canada.

It is also a time when people have vacations in Japan and that means the yacht harbor can get very busy. And it was. Lots of folks out fishing, sailing, riding personal water craft, water skiing. Along the shores in certain places, scores of people were wading out into the lake to collect "shijimi" - small fresh water clams. Kids played near the shore on inflatable Orca whales and other toys.

People collecting shijimi clams near the shore.

When we arrived on Sunday, we were amazed to see the parking lot of the yacht marina full of cars. On the large grass area, there were tents set up where some people had spent the night - one of the perks of the club. We got Bluesette ready to sail in about 20 minutes or so and launched without much ado.

The winds allowed us to tack farther to the north and east than we had been before. For practice on the way back we did two jibes. We made a long run down wind, though I think it started to get boring for K, even when I used a length of small line, throwing it in the water to show how fast we were moving. So, that's when I did the first jibe and put us on a reach which would take much more time to get us back on a longer course, but would seem faster because of the wind and our speed in the water. Whatever makes the crew happy!

Among the sailboats out Sunday was this one with what appears to be a cicada on the sail - Utsusemi in Japanese - about the same size as a Lido 14. Perhaps Semi or Utsusemi is what it is called, I'll have to find out later. The striped smoke stacks in the background belong to the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute.

There are 4 campgrounds on the lake and this one on the north shore appeared full. Click to enlarge and see the crimson "torii" - a gate marking a Shinto Shrine.

High school students were out on their Flying Juniors, one of them sporting a spinnaker.

And here is the ugly "before" shot of Bluesette's bow after I hit the dock some weeks ago. It took several "surgeries" but she is much stronger now and looking much better. Hopefully a trauma never to be repeated!

We came in and docked, and all went smoothy, we dropped the sails and got ready to have Hakuta-san put Bluesette on the sendai and haul her out of the water. It started to rain. A passing shower only, but it continued all through the process of putting Bluesette to bed, soaking us. That was easily rectified by a shower and change of clothes, but I was glad that it didn't happen while we were on that long downwind leg - I would have never heard the end of it. (Just kidding, K!)

Bluesette ready to be covered and tied down before the storm arrives. Oh, and K, of course.

Next time I hope to try out my homemade "whisker pole" (for non-sailors, that is a pole which is used to hold the jib out while sailing down wind).

Another wonderful meal at Mama's Kitchen followed before we headed home. We are getting better with every sail and enjoying it more as well. We're looking forward to getting in more time on the water before K has to go back to work at the end of the month and hope the weather cooperates.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back In The Saddle

We made a run up to the lake today and I "finished" the bow repair - at least enough to make do. I have some cosmetic touch up measures to do, but we're good to go as far as sailing.

Weather has been odd. The week I was off with a sprained wrist was rainy - making me feel not so bad about it. But "rainy season" was supposed to have ended and it seems to be back. Today started partly cloudy and gradually turned overcast, but the temperature was not too hot and wind was nice at 6 knots.

After the repair work, we took an early-ish break for lunch, since we didn't want to interfere with Mr. Hakuta's lunch by asking him to launch us. We went to Mama's Kitchen, of course. I didn't take time to snap shots of our dishes, but it was delicious as always. When we ordered, all the selections came with some kind of meat, so K explained to "Mama" that I would prefer to skip that. No problem, they could adjust the meal to suit my needs.

Later, the cook came out to inquire further on my tastes and K told her that I am not a strict vegetarian, but that pretty much, the only "meat" I eat is seafood. I ended up with a pasta dish with lots of different veggies that was excellent. Toward the end of our meal, "Mama" came by our table with complementary glasses of veggie juice for us. Japanese businesses are known for customer service, and Mama's has certainly taken good care of us. What a country.

I did take a pic of the desert which we shared. The blueberries reminded me of the ones K harvested yesterday from her four bushes and which we had in our oatmeal this morning. Loads more to come.

OK, OK, I know, you're reading this blog for the sailing. Well, I agree that sailing is important, but so is food. It's all good!

The winds were blowing 6 to 7 knots. We launched Bluesette with the jib fully clipped to the fore stay and the mainsail ready to raise as well.

Mr. Hakuta gets Blusette tied up after launching her. We would have the lake to ourselves except for a few "jet skis" such as the one in this picture being used by Mr. Hakuta's son Yukihisa to conduct a lesson.

Once in the water and tied to the dock, I boarded, lowered the centerboard 1/2 way and attached the rudder, then put up the sails. Not being able to lower the centerboard fully at the dock due to the shallow bottom is a bit of a hassle, especially upon return when it must be partially retracted. On the way out though, I have to keep in mind to pause and fully lower it to avoid a catastrophe. I'm going to do some measuring by first getting a good depth at the dock, then lowering the centerboard to the right depth while on land and marking the centerboard line so we can do a more accurate job when in the water. Striking bottom a little isn't a big deal as the bottom is mud and if all else fails, it is so shallow that I can get out and WALK the boat in or out.

We spent an hour and a half tacking toward the east end of the lake and having a good time, then coming back down near the yacht harbor to start again. I didn't want to get too far down wind - toward the west end of the lake today, as it would mean having to beat our way back to windward. We didn't have all day, though sometime I'd like to explore the west end.

There seemed to be lull zone in mid-lake. Note the water on the fore deck - lots of spray of which K got the most.

There were some bamboo stakes and buoys which we used as points to practice coming about. Even with the modest wind, K was getting quite wet from the spray off the bow. I acknowledged my appreciation for her sacrifice in keeping me dry, but that didn't seem to mollify her, so I suggested that it was a good reason for her to learn to sail so that she could take the helm and I would be the one getting the bow spray. (I may live to regret that suggestion. ;^) )

How the jib sheet can get caught in the shroud adjuster.

One of the things I did last trip was to put a piece of plastic tubing over the shroud adjusters. This prevents the jib sheets from getting caught between the adjuster and the shroud when the downwind shroud slackens (see the pics). It works like a charm, though I think I could have used smaller tubing.

My solution, a length of plastic tubing. I could have used a much smaller diameter and just covered the upper part. Maybe I'll change it later, but it works fine as is and doesn't trap water which might otherwise cause corrosion.

We had a couple of screw-ups toward the end of our sail. Par for the course for us at this point on our learning curve, but nothing we couldn't handle and learn from. Which is to say, we managed not to capsize or crash into anything. The first occurred when we were in a kind of critical position between sets of fish nets and needed to come about smartly and smoothly. (As mentioned in an earlier post, the lake has many fish traps in places, laid out near the shores, which we must steer clear of.) My fault for putting us there and being over confident on our abilities.

K pulled the jib across a tad too soon and it "back winded", causing us basically to "heave to" and fail to complete the turn. I popped the main sheet which kept us from going over, then we fell off, regrouped and tried again, coming about without a problem. Such excitement.

I'm sure experienced sailors will find our antics not such an interesting read at these times, but you know, K had never sailed before we got Bluesette, and I....well it has been some 40 years! Then consider the language barrier - K is very good at English, but still, everything I say she must process in her mind in Japanese. All things considered, I think we are doing very well.

Then there was a problem with the grappling hook, which, as mentioned in previous post, I cobbed together using a paint roller axle and extension pole. I forgot how to tighten the extension pole and so we made an extra tack to work it out. I managed to inadvertently come about while wrestling with it at which time K convinced me of the wisdom of letting her deal with it while I sailed the boat (doh!), and she figured out what we both had been doing wrong and soon had it working perfectly.

The last snaffu was upon docking. With the centerboard half up, Bluesette develops a considerable drift downwind. I got close to the dock on my first try, but not close enough, and then communication quickly broke down when I asked K to back-wind the jib, which maneuver she had forgotten. We ended up drifting a bit before I established a new course (close to the shore) and immediately ordered us to come about. In the confusion with things happening too fast, the jib did not get addressed in time and so we had to go out in the lake once more to get organized and try again. It's all good - we laugh at our mistakes while at the same time discussing them to see what we can learn.

The second try went much more smoothly with K catching the line at the dock with our grappling hook, and soon Bluesette was nestled in her "sendai" again and being winched out of the water. As my first flying instructor told me "any landing you can walk away from is a good one". Well, to be honest, I always thought he was a little nuts, but I still agree with that sentiment to a point.

Walking toward the "sendai" (dolly), Mr. Hakuta has the painter while his son Yukihisa takes the stern line.

All in all a good day. Nice to be back on the water. My sprained wrist? Probably too much work for it today, but don't tell K. I promise to keep it rested by avoiding yard work until we can go sailing again (hehe).

Until next, sweet sailing.