Saturday, December 25, 2010

No Place Like Mama's For The Holidays


Christmas Day in Japan, we headed up to the lake to check on Bluesette and bring her a present. Weather was fine, if cool, with just scattered cumulus. The yacht harbor was closed as far as boat launching went, but the office was open. The owners' three year old grandson was playing with his new Thomas The Tank Engine pull toy (while wearing his Thomas and Friends T-shirt). We had brought some candies for him and his older sister which made him less shy than usual. The lake was cold and windy, with only a couple of windsurfers on the north shore braving the elements.

It had been many weeks since our last visit and a lot of weather had passed so we knew Bluesette probably needed some clean up. While temperatures in Kashima have gotten close to 5C (40F) some nights, at lake Hinuma, it had been frosty cold. Some of the micromesh rags we had left there had gotten wet and were frozen this morning. Bluesette did have a bit of water in the cockpit and once again the mainsail had fallen off the seat and into the water.

After cleaning up, I tied the mainsail to the jib cleat so it would stay high and dry, and then we installed our "gift" to Bluesette - a plastic tarp to cover the cockpit under the "Sunbrella" canvas cover, so that even if (when) the cover leaks, the water will run down the plastic beneath it and off the boat. Hopefully that will solve the problem for the duration of the winter.

Then it was time to pay a visit to Mama's Kitchen. It was so nice to be back in our familiar haunt. A beautiful white Christmas Cactus in bloom adorned the window bay (see top pic). Traditional Japanese songs played on the stereo - as opposed to the usual pop music, probably because "Papa" was there today. Mama had thoughtfully placed lap blankets on the chairs for customers who felt a chill, though the place felt warm as toast to me.


I braved the spicy red pepper and fish roe sauce for angel hair pasta with mushrooms and scallops. Oishikatta desu. (It was delicious.)


Kimie's lunch centered on "buri" (Japanese amberjack fish).


Mine included dessert which we shared - a nice raisin cake with strawberry, orange slices and a wedge of persimmon.

On the way home we stopped at a farmer's market and picked up some local eggs (from a truly free range farm where the chickens get feed but also eat veggies and bugs while out of doors). The eggs were collected this morning at 10 am! As treats for ourselves and Kimie's parents, we got strawberries and sugared ginger slices. I really enjoy our farmers' markets, which offer fresh, local produce and feature bios and photos of the people growing the food you buy. Yes, it costs more, but as the old Dutch saying goes, "cheap is foolish" - especially when it comes to things you eat!


Until next, sweet sailing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Traditional Japanese Pasta Christmas Dinner


Well, it's our tradition anyway.


Each year we have Christmas dinner at one of our favorite restaurants - "Wordsworth" which is named after the poet. We used to lunch there fairly often before we started sailing and eating at Mama's.

Wordsworth is an Italian style seafood and pasta restaurant. For a few days at Christmas time, they offer special set meals for dinner - reservations only.

Kimie drank Perrie water with ume juice and an ume fruit in the glass (ume is Japanese plum, which is more like an apricot if you ask me, and is primarily used for making ume liqueur).

The meal began with Bagna Calda, a hot dip composed of hot olive oil, garlic and anchovy, along with raw vegetables to be dipped into it. Then came uncured ham with tomato and mozzarella cheese. Kimie had foie gras while I enjoyed stuffed horned turban shell. After that there was a prawn salad, and before the main course, a frothy cup of soybean soup.

For the main course, Kimie had pasta with squid. I chose pasta in cream sauce with spinach and oysters topped with salmon roe.

Dessert - a wine glass with chestnut puree on coconut ice cream, and a long straw-like cookie. Finally, biscotti and gateau au chocolat with coffee or tea.

Another excellent experience at Wordsworth. I wonder what they will dream up for next year? Daffodils?

If you are still hungry for food pictures, you can read about our 2008 Christmas dinner, which featured different dishes, on Pacific Islander blog: Le Delizie Gastronomici Della Festa

Until next, happy holidays, joyous dining, and sweet sailing.

Monday, December 20, 2010


A wish for you all in two parts.

The opening ceremony of the 1998 World Olympics, Nagano, Japan. Beethoven Ode to Joy with Seiji Ozawa conducting the.... well, the whole world!

O Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Pacem in Terrace

It's not too late. If you want it.

Best wishes to all on this Winter Solstice and throughout the New Year
with love, from
Kimie and Pandabonium

*Seiji Ozawa, my all time favorite conductor, after a year's hiatus fighting esophageal cancer, raised his baton once again in Carnegie Hall on December 16th.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Final Countdown


The weather has not been cooperative for sailing this fall. It's too cold for our tastes now, so looks like October 24th was the last sail of the year.

Tourists were out trying their hand at fishing

The day was overcast but not too cool. Winds were light, which gave Kimie the courage to take the tiller again. That gave me the opportunity to try on the crew shoes and reacquaint myself with handling the jib and the whisker pole. Kimie did a good job and I think we both came away with more appreciation for each others efforts.


There were a lot of water fowl on the lake, but we were too slow to get close enough for a good pic of them, though Kimie managed to catch a Grey Heron on one of the docks. Somehow this pic brings to mind O Docker's post about "poop decks".


When we broke for lunch I suggested a break from Mama's, so we went to the Hinuma Hotel next door where we've stayed and lunched before.


Kimie had tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and I had tempura. It was tasty, but somehow not as good as Mama's and of course, the help there doesn't know us. It was a good thing to do anyway if only to help us appreciate Mama's Kitchen all the more.



After lunch we sailed sweet Bluesette until the wind just didn't have enough to give and the day grew late for getting home to walk our dog Momo (peach).


Thank you Bluesette for the joy you bring us. You are the product of the thoughts of many minds and the actions of many hands, as are we all. We look forward to Spring and to awakening you once again to help us experience the wonders of wind and sail and water.


Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cockpit Voice Recorder

Not the airliner variety. Rather, I'm referring to the camera I mounted on the transom of Bluesette. Originally, I was going to edit this recording and substitute music for the natural sound. I've decided to leave it "as-is" so you can hear, if you have a good ear, what went on.

The clip is just the last part of our day on the water on October 17th - see the earlier post "Seahoppers vs Laser". As we approached the dock, there was some discussion as to how far to raise the centerboard so as to obtain some benefit from it, but without risking striking the bottom. As I explain to Kimie, before leaving the dock I always let the centerboard touch bottom and measure (with my hand) how much of the centerboard uphaul line is left so we know where to set it on the way back.

Visually, in spite of heading into the sun, there are some nice frames (in addition to Kimie's smiles) as Yamaha Grasshoppers dock and go up their ramp. I take over the jib, while Kimie gets out the grappling hook to catch the line on the dock.

Mostly it's a pretty quiet 6 3/4 minutes (aside from gurgling water), so if you're looking for action, you may be disappointed. Might be of most interest to you non-sailors out there. Anyway, another nice day on the lake.

Until next, Sweet Sailing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blues and Boats

Newport Jazz Festival 1958

Sonny Stitt - "Blues"

Sonny Stitt, tenor sax; Sal Salvidor, guitar; Gildo Mahones, piano; Martin Rivera, bass; Louis Hayes, drums

*Salute to crew member Martin for this clip.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Seahoppers vs Laser

Sunday, October 17th found us back at the lake. We arrived late in the morning to find that a race was on. Five Yamaha Seahoppers and one Laser were getting ready to start.


As we had done on the previous trip, we got Bluesette ready to sail, then went for lunch before launching. Lunch before launch - that way the crew can't complain about hunger and cut the sailing session short. ;^)

Mama was back at the restaurant this day and we had a delicious pasta dish with crab and mushroom and spicy tomato sauce. Mama also dished up a lovely dessert of panna cotta, chestnut pie, and fruit.



We were also each treated with a small bag of cookies to take home in honor of Mama's Kitchen celebrating its 2nd anniversary. Many Happy Returns, Mama's Kitchen!

Meanwhile, back at the harbor, the racers were taking a lunch break. We found out that our friend Mr. T, who plucked me out of the soup after our capsize last year, had taken 1st in one race and 2nd in the other, as had the other top competitor. There would be more racing after lunch.


The Seahopper is a very close design to the Laser as can be seen in this picture. (Click to get to a larger version of the image).


We had had the lake to ourselves the previous week, and it was nice to see more sails out there.


Kimie casting off the stern line while I raise the mainsail.

There was a good breeze out on the lake - not terribly strong, but enough to have fun. There was no rubbish to pick up (yay), so we just enjoyed cruising about the lake. After a couple of hours, the wind started to fade considerably, so we headed back to the dock about the same time as the diehard grasshopper sailors who stayed out after racing.

Kimie readies the grappling hook for docking with the Seahoppers at their dock in the background.

A bit of video next post...

Until then, sweet sailing.

High Moon ~ Hinuma


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Catch of the Day

A typhoon swept through Ibaraki on October 9th and 10th making for a sail-less weekend. Happily, Monday was a national holiday - Health and Sports Day - and the weather was fine. The air was crystal clear with unlimited visibility. However, when we arrived at lake Hinuma, the air was calm.


Not wanting to repeat our recent experience of drifting around the lake, we elected to get Bluesette ready to sail and have an early lunch while waiting for a breeze. The first order of business was to bail out the large pond of water that had collected in the boat and raise the sails for them to dry out (we no longer keep them in the bottom of the boat). Often, if the weather is fine, the sun heats up the nearby ocean water and creates some nice localized wind by early afternoon, so we were hopeful.


At Mama's we found the daughter in charge again with her sister helping out. Her sister's daughter was there too - a fifth grader who sat quietly at a table doing homework.

We had, would you believe, chicken. Nicely seared, lean chunks. It came with garlic rice, tofu with bonito shavings and shoyu on top, pickled veggies, and miso soup. Salad bar too, of course, and "mini-Mama" (as Don Snabalus called her in an earlier comment) surprised us with a dessert of panna cotta.



Meanwhile, the sun had done its job and though the wind was not strong, there was enough for a pleasant sail. The haze (striped mullet) were jumping and Kimie spent several minutes with the camera trying to catch them on video with no luck. After one long session of this, she gave up and put down the camera only to have fish start jumping close by all around the boat as if on cue.


The storm had washed a lot of trash into the lake and so we made a game of going after the bottles and other odd bits. We collected quite a "catch". This picture doesn't quite show all it. It really p's me off that some people are so careless with rubbish. On the lake, however, it is only after a storm that it is noticeable. We picked up mostly beverage containers of various materials, but also a small ball, a big chunk of styrofoam, aerisol cans of pesticide and air conditioner cleaning solvent. After this picture I also caught an empty glass bottle which had contained Avon skin cream. At least the few things we scooped up will be recycled or disposed of properly.

Catch of the Day

After washing down Bluesette, Kimie called me over to the standpipe by the faucet. Peering down I saw this little fellow:


I filled the pipe with water to get him/her to come out. It glared at me. I suppose it was hiding in there waiting for dinner to drop in and I spoiled the plan. Sorry froggy. It's not that easy being brown.


Just another beautiful day at Hinuma.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Book of Tea


In mid-September we took a break from "everything". Kimie got Friday off from work and drove us up to the northernmost city of Ibaraki Prefecture - Kitaibaraki City (literally "north Ibaraki" - doh!). Along the way we took a detour into the mountains to see a lovely thatched roof temple, Jorenji, built in 858.

Our destination was Izura - a cliffside resort area which was home to famed artist Okakura Tenshin (February 14, 1862 – September 2, 1913) who, aside from writing The Book of Tea and other English language volumes, ran an art school and was at one time head of the Asian arts section of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The area was also home to Ujo Noguchi (1882-1945) who wrote children's poems and song lyrics, many of which are still popular in Japan today.

We have visited Izura twice before, but only on day trips - once by car, once by train - and so had never spent the night before. We stayed at the cliffside resort of Izura Kanko Hotel, close to Tenshin's home and art school, though the latter is no longer there, and walking distance to the Tenshin Memorial Art Museum.

Our suite was on a corner and had views of the cliffs and Tenshin's hexagonal meditation room "Rokkokudo" on the point below his home, as well as straight out to sea to the East and the rising sun which we awoke to witness each morning. (Yawn- it was like O'dark:30 but very much worth the effort.)

The occasion was my 60th Birthday and I could think of nothing more appropriate than to spend it by the sea, with the sound of ocean waves soothing my angst of increasing age. It worked. I felt invigorated by the sights, sounds, and smells of the seaside, which combined to gently take the edge off of the "3 score" milestone, as did a soak in the limestone bath of the spa.

This area has most of Ibaraki Prefecture's fishing ports, so seafood was the order of the day, and the hotel did not disappoint. (I had lost 3 pounds in the previous ten days, and was afraid to look at a scale after the trip.)

I was happily surprised to see, among the myriad fishing boats, a number of sailing yachts in the waters off Izura, parading past the window at breakfast and returning in the afternoon. There is even a small wooden sailboat on display near Tenshin's house - one that he built himself for fishing.

On Saturday, we drove into the mountains again to the end of a road where there is an ancient Shinto Shrine. Set by a mountain stream amidst 600 and 700 year old cedars and pines, Hanazono Shrine is quite stunning for its size - like a jewel in the forest.

There is much more to tell, but I will leave that for a later post on Pacific Islander.

For now, I will close with this thought; it's a quote from The Book of Tea (1906) by Okakura Tenshin:

"Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others."

He meant it on an international level, specifically how Western countries viewed Asia at the time, but it applies to personal life as well, and seems to me to be a concept worthy of our reflection.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Watching Paint Dry?

I hope not. OK, so this video compilation is a bit long, especially for you young whipper snappers out there who have the attention span of a lighting bolt, but I wanted to make the length match the Mambo to which it is set.

We did bury the rail a few times, got buzzed by jet skis and had some nice wing and wing time with a view of Mt. Tsukuba while dodging bamboo poles (well, actually, I hit the first one).

Last Saturday was the first opportunity to sail after our trip up north (next post) because a typhoon blew all week dumping lots of rain. When it left, the sky was crystal clear (CAVU - ceiling and visibility unlimited) and the air was moving at a nice 10 knot clip - enough to really move Bluesette without creating heavy chop on the lake.

The music (Mambo Barbara) features a great trombone solo (of course). Enjoy.

I'm glad I chose the Lido 14. If I had selected a one man boat, I'd be sailing alone and having to do all the clean up by myself. Arrr, swab that centerboard trunk, matey!

And of course, there was Mama's Kitchen afterwards.

Ham for the crew

Clams for the skipper

Desert for us both.

Mama was out, so her daughter was running the whole show and we got to meet her older sister who was there as well (eligible bachelors take note). They had a bumper crop of red sweet peppers (paprika), so we ended up taking home a bag full. I like using that in my vegetarian chili recipe in lieu of green ones for added color.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Embarrassing

My previous post should have been titled "Dancing Alerions".

I hope you will forgive this airplane pilot and son of an aeronautical engineer for thinking the name of the boat was "Aileron" rather than Alerion. Good grief Charlie Brown.

Alerion refers to a noble eagle. Aileron refers to the moveable surface on the outer portion of an airplane wing which is used to induce roll about the longitudinal axis. For me, the latter sprang to mind and that's what I wrote. Since sails work in the same way as wings, I think the mistake is understandable.

Sorry about that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dancing Ailerons

All the weather predictions went out the window on Sunday and with them, our sailing plans. We went to the harbor anyway.

This is rice harvesting season in these parts. Near the lake, there were several farmers cutting it the old fashioned way - well, without a combine anyway - and hanging it to dry on racks in the field. Latter they can winnow the grain and use the stalks for many purposes, everything from mulch to braided slippers and rope, to compost for mushrooms.

Instead of the forecast 5 knots, the wind was 12 to 15 knots, making for some chop and white caps on the lake. Not our kind of day - even the larger fishing boats had come back early. The only sail on the lake was a lone windsurfer.

Our only company was a crab shell. Reminded me of Baydog for some reason. Well, not Baydog himself mind you, but his post with a crab restaurant in it.

The upside was that I got to finish sanding and waxing the transom and putting on the plastic strips which I hope will keep the boom from scratching and nicking the gelcoat. Kimie had brought along a book to read when she wasn't helping me (Anne Frank in English).

I noticed that the bridle to which the main sheet attaches had started to wear at the point where it goes through the deck, so I bought a new piece of line and replaced that. Not into waiting until it starts to look really bad and risk having it let loose while under way - I don't think that would be much fun.

So at least the day was productive. And of course, we had a nice lunch. Kimie had pork curry and rice, and I had pasta with smoked duck (a pit too spicy with ground pepper for my taste, but otherwise nice), asparagus stems and mushrooms.

Alas, poor Daffy! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest...

Mama treated us to her "panna cotta" for desert - made without dairy.

Nice texture and not too sweet. The "mushroom" on top has a cookie stem and chocolate hood.

As I have no sailing pics to share, I hope you'll enjoy this video of "dancing Ailerons" - Aileron 20's showing off to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In" (By Rebirth Brass Band . Nice 'bone and tuba soli!).

W.D. Schock (builders of the Lido 14) makes a day sailor that looks very similar - the Harbor 20 - and it's a good thing we don't live near a bigger lake, or I'd be sorely pressed to resist the temptation to own one. (Don't worry Kimie, as long as you'll be my crew, I'll stick with Bluesette).

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Things Take Longer Than They Do

I had planned to catch up on some maintenance on Friday, while Kimie was at work. Last year I kept an inexpensive bike at Hinuma station so that I could take the train up there and ride the bike to the harbor from the station. However, after only one season the exposed metal was rusted, requiring a complete overhaul. Also, I was always concerned that something would happen with it and I would arrive to find flat tires, or that the whole bike had gone missing.

I haven't been doing much riding this summer in the 90+ºF heat, so haven't needed the bike at Hinuma. I have found a better solution to leaving a bike at the station anyway - a Brompton folding bicycle which I can take with me on the train.

The saddle bag carries a cover (required on trains in Japan). It takes just a minute or two to unfold or fold and is light enough to carry up the station stairs without difficulty. It also has two luggage sized wheels which allow one to pull it along when it is folded. Mine is a 3 speed and it rides even better than the bike it replaces.

Friday was my first trip to the lake with it and it worked like a charm. The weather was nice too, as the temperature had backed off into the mid 80's F.

I had a number of tasks I wanted to complete. First was to check to see if water had gotten into the boat during the storm we had this week - remnants of a typhoon which dumped a lot of rain here. Yes, some had, due to three small holes in the boat cover. Those holes had been previously patched, but the patches were worn out and in need of replacement. I found that the jib, which was laying in the bottom of the boat was wet. So first job, lay out the jib to dry and patch the holes with a more permanent material. I also put some lubricant on the jib snaps that attach it to the forestay to make them easier to use, cleaned up the mast and replaced a worn nylon cleat. An hour gone already! Lunch time.

I rode the bike down to Mama's and though they were curious as to Kimie's whereabouts, was served another great lunch. This time, flounder with a thick, sweet shoyu sauce and slivered ginger on top.

Horenso (spinach), tofu, rice, marinated (spicy) stems of wakame (a seaweed, the leaves of which are used in soup), miso soup with shijimi (lake clams), and karei - flounder (with roe).

With Kimie absent, there was no desert (thankfully) but Mama brought me a delicious glass of iced green tea instead.

Fifty minutes lunch break, so back to work. The next agenda was to try out a solution for Bluesette's dinged up transom. (The transom, for my non-sailor readers, is the "back end" of the boat.)

The classic Lido 14 had a track and car system for the mainsheet to travel on, so a metal track covered the transom and protected it from the boom when one lowered the mainsail. The new model - hull #6000 and above, uses a bridle attached at either side of the transom so the transom itself is unprotected and the boom can, and does scratch the gel coat, especially when you lower the mainsail on a windy day.


An hour of wet sanding with 3 grades of paper and buffing with rubbing compound, I had this:
Better, but not quite good enough

My "solution", once I get the finish back to where I want it, is to lay clear plastic car door bumper strips across the transom. I found some just the right length so that there will be a short one where the rudder cutout is and a longer one on each side. They will no doubt prevent scratches, but the question is whether or not they will stay on. Since they are designed to stick to car doors, I'm hoping the glue is strong enough.

That test will have to wait. As it would take twenty minutes or so just to put everything away, I was out of time if I were to catch the train home. I should have remembered the universal law of time: Things take longer than they do. (Though, paradoxically, the trains here run on time.) As it was, I just made it to the platform as the train pulled into the station. Whew.

We'll be sailing again tomorrow. Sometime next week I'll go back to work on the transom again. This time I'll take an earlier train up and a later one home and hopefully complete the task.

Until next, sweet sailing.