Thursday, July 29, 2010

Camp Hinuma?

The following is dedicated to Baydog, who in spite of perhaps a decade of age difference (he's the younger) and a continent of distance between us in our misspent youth, (half a world now!), seems to have experienced many of the same things in the same way as Pandabonium.

Here's Allan Sherman singing "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" in 1963 - oh, how I remember it so well.

And if you can't get enough of Allan Sherman, be sure to visit Pacific Islander.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunday Crescendo

Sunday morning we found the winds were taking it easy at about 3 knots or less.

Two "Semi" (pronounced "seh-mee" - Japanese for cicada) were set up in hopes of attracting renters, but the only other sailboat that went out was a Sea Hopper (Yamaha version of Laser).

Soon after casting off, the wind picked up some to perhaps 5 knots, which made for some nice leisurely sailing. We made our way to the northeast corner of lake Hinuma, where it starts to narrow to become the Hinuma river.

A water skier was headed our way, so we changed tack to stay well out of the way. There was an accident involving a collision of two PWCs (aka Jet Ski) last week, so I'm being extra cautious about the proximity of power boats. Those cumulus building up was a sign of things to come later in the evening.

Near Hinuma Nursing Home (not a bad spot for one), the shore was lined with people looking for a place to cool off.

We took a break for lunch at Mama's. Didn't bring the camera, so you'll have to take our word for it. We had pasta with eggplant and tuna in tomato sauce, the salad bar and the desert which was a very light cheese cake with fresh fruit.

When we returned, Bluesette had been moved to the end of the dock to make room for stink pots other boats.

The all new "Belchfire 90"!

Bluesette looked so dainty next to these gas guzzling brutes.

We went out for another hour and a half. All the while, the wind kept increasing until it was up around 9 knots with higher gusts, but nothing really scary. On our way back in, we were often close to the Sea Hopper and I was glad for the windows in the new sails.

We had to tack a few times as we waited for the stink pots other boats which had returned ahead of us to be pulled out of the water. After giving Bluesette a bath and taking showers ourselves, we settled in the yacht club for a tall cool one.

Kimie had an interesting conversation with Mr. Hakuta who reminisced about his college days, cruising on sailboats around Japan and learning to sail dinghies on the lake using just sails, without touching the rudder, during winter when the air is more dense.

He showed us a copy of Minoru Saito's book, which he got when Mr. Saito visited Hinuma Yacht Harbor while raising funds for his present voyage around the world. (see my recent post about Saito-san "The Old Man and the Seas").

Later in the evening, the weather continued to crescendo until we had a full blown thunder storm. Our dog Momo asked to come inside, and soon thereafter we lost our internet connection and for a short while all electricity.

Winds and percussion. The great orchestra of the weather.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Shave Ice and Kyudo

The morning after our sail, we awoke to the sight of long fishing boats crossing the lake to check nets. The yacht harbor is closed on Tuesdays, so this would be a day for a different sort of adventure than sailing.

miso soup, nori seaweed, salmon, egg, bean sprouts and ham on the little stove, banana and orange slice, raw egg, pickled veggies, natto (fermented soy beans), rice, and salad.

After breakfast Kimie drove us to Kasama Inari, the third largest Inari Shinto Shrine in Japan. Inari is the kami (god) of fertility and agriculture which is said to reside in the mountains in winter and in the rice fields during growing season. Worship of Inari spread during the Edo era. The shrines dedicated to Inari have many statues of kitsune - pure white foxes that act as Inari's messengers. Kasama Inari was founded in 651.

The town of Kasama still has an old feel to it with narrow streets, low rise buildings and shops fronting the shrine.

main entrance to the shrine

purification fountain used to rinse one's hands and mouth before entering the shrine

main gate

East gate - 1814

main building or "Haiden"

behind the main building is the "Honden" which is where an object of worship is kept. This one dates to about 1854-1861

The sun was merciless and after viewing the grounds and buildings, we decided to cool off with a treat.

A press squeezes out long thin strips of cold jelly made from tengusa seaweed. Vinegar dressing, green tea powder, and horseradish are added. The result is called tokoroten, and has been a summer treat in Japan for over 1300 years.

Kimie cools off with a peach flavored shave ice.

It was getting close to lunch time, so we headed for JA Pocket Farm DokiDoki - a farmers market and restaurant operated by the Ibaraki farmers association. The "Restaurant in the Woods that serves Home Food" is a favorite of ours, as the food is all local, fresh, and of high quality. Martin gave this 5 stars last time he visited. He wrote, "What I really liked was the friendly atmosphere and the focus on local, Ibaraki-made ingredients. All dishes in the different stations had memos explaining what the dish contained, and many also the name and photo of the farmer and the chef who had created the food."

Then it was on the road again, following the eastern edge of Japan's second largest lake, Kasumigaura, through Itako City and along the Tonegawa river to Katori Jingu in Chiba Prefecture, the ancient Shinto Shrine that we visited last year for sakura viewing (posted as Katori Jingu Sakura).

Katori Jingu, with its forest of ancient cedars, was much cooler than Kasama Inari and we enjoyed wandering the paths.

This anchor belonged to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force training ship, Katori, which was built in 1970 and was named after the shrine. In 1995, it was replaced by the Kashima - named for the related shrine in our town. (The Kashima is now in Baltimore, by the way, with two other Japanese ships and the crews will pay a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery.)

Martin stumbled upon their Kyudo Dojo. Kimie made an inquiry, and we were welcomed in to watch them practice. In Kyudo (the way of the bow), the targets are just 36 cm (14 inches) in diameter and placed at a distance of 28 meters (92 feet). They were most gracious in making us comfortable, serving us drinks, and explaining various aspects of how Kyudo is done. For more about Kyudo visit Zen's Sakai 1 - if by land.

A cool drink, the quiet pace of Kyudo, and the songs of cicadas made for a relaxing end to the day's adventures.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Two Plus Two

Wide awake for blogging today, as we were shaken from our sleep this morning at 6:06 AM by a 5.3 earthquake centered just 10 miles away.

Bluesette had guests this week, sailing with four aboard for the first time. I was interested to see how that would work out. I made sure we kept our weight toward the front of the cockpit and was happy to find that she sailed just fine.

Beautiful day on the lake with Mt. Tsukuba clearly visible some 38 km (23 miles) in the distance.

The weather was good, if hot (32°C or 90°F), and winds were a comfortable 5 knots - enough to move us along, but not so much as to make weight distribution an issue.

First stop, of course, was for lunch at Mama's Kitchen. Three of us had pasta with nasu (eggplant) and horenso (spinach) with a spicy sauce that was just right, while Kimie satisfied her carinvore urges with a stir fry pork dish and some sausages.

Then it was on to the harbor and a full afternoon of sailing.

Martin has been sailing with us before - back in November when it was raining cats and dogs.

Our other guest was camera shy, but Martin grabbed my new Olympus and took several shots of Kimie and I and the scenery while I was busy at the tiller. With four in the boat, I would change sides when we came about, while everyone else stayed put. If the wind picked up while Kimie was on the lee side, she would just crouch by the centerboard trunk to help balance the boat. It worked out fine.

Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's.... a wind vane.

After sailing, we checked into the hotel on the lake, Ikoinomura Hinuma, to relax in their bubbling onsen spa and enjoy an excellent dinner.

Our Japanese style rooms overlooked the lake.

Sunset on Hinuma

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You Don't Need A Weatherman

To know which way the wind blows.
~Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

But a wind vane comes in handy.

Mt. Tsukuba in the distance

The wind on Saturday was gusty at anywhere from 6 to 9 knots. The tricky part was that since it came from Southwest, it was turbulent from going over buildings and trees, so constantly shifting and even swirling at times. The yacht harbor's owner, Mr. Hakuta, told us that on such days sailing lessons are cancelled. Still, it was a beautiful day.

To save time, instead of visiting Mama's Kitchen, we stopped on the way to pick up bento lunch and ate in the yacht club. Mrs. Hakuta served us some iced coffee to counter the 30°C (86°F) heat.

This time I did manage to capture some video -

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Can't Reveal My Name

But Eggplant Is My Game

A sailor has got to eat. Why not eat well?

My first recipe for eggplant (college days) was eggplant Parmigiana. Like most Americans, perhaps, I always associated eggplant with Italy and so tended to use it in Italian recipes - fried or boiled, added to pasta sauce, etc. There are of course others like ginger or curry eggplant. (Sorry, I don't do curry, which is ironic since eggplant originally grew wild in India, then was cultivated in China around 500 AD, and later spread to Africa, and only later to Italy.)

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Eggplant is a most beautiful vegetable, but maybe not the most inspiring taste-wise, I will grant you that. However, its mildness lends it well to complimenting other foods. It is also a very healthful veggie, with lots of fiber and vitamins and minerals, and also phytonutrients that have been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Lab animals with high cholesterol given eggplant juice showed a reduction in blood cholesterol, while the walls of their blood vessels relaxed, improving blood flow.

Eggplants are also rich in antioxidents and "nasunin", which is not only a potent free-radical scavenger, but is also an iron chelator. Too much iron in your blood is a bad thing. Green tea and soy beans inhibit iron uptake, by the way, which is believed to be one of the reasons that people in Japan have the world's longest health longevity (years without disabilities or need for therapeutic drugs). In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes.

Bottom line, this vegetable helps the body fight/prevent aging, rheumatism, cancer, and cardiovascular disease so is something very good to include in your diet. Of course the word is "helps", not "cures", but compared to the "atomic cheese doodle" kind of crap we in the industrialized world tend to eat, eggplant is pretty amazing stuff.

After coming to Japan, I was happy to learn that this country is one of the five major eggplant producing nations. Japanese eggplant are long and thin, often curved (like Italian eggplant), rather than, well, egg shaped. Kimie cooks them in a miso sauce, which tastes pretty darn good, though I think the miso flavor kind of overwhelms the mild eggplant a bit much, and they loose something when cooked to the point of being limp. Also, Japanese eggplant, when cut into quarters lengthwise, remind me of those giant worm "graboid" monsters in the movie "Tremors", but Kimie doesn't like me to play with my food anymore than Mother did. Sigh. Women have so little tolerance for imagination at the dinner table.

Part of the humbug with most eggplant recipes is the the amount of preparation - slicing them into little pieces, salting them and laying them up to draw out the moisture, frying, etc., but a few years ago I found a recipe that is really simple to prepare yet very delicious. I modified it to my taste of course. I hope you'll give it a try.

Here's "Steamed Eggplant Pandabonium":

4 Eggplants - any of the purple kinds will do and there are lots of varieties. (I'm growing two varieties in pots this summer and a neighbor just gave us a bag full - thus, the inspiration for this post.)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) rice oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 mm) honey

  • (Please ignore the space that follows. It isn't due to any influence from O Docker's posting style, but rather is there because I've never figured out how to write a table for blogger that doesn't have a space after it.)

To prepare, just take the stalk off, cut into quarters (first in the middle, then lengthwise), and steam for 5 minutes.

While it's steaming, wisk up the other ingredients - get them really well blended. When the eggplant is served, just spoon the sauce over it. Et Voilà! That simple.

*I do not recommend substituting other kinds of vinegar. Chinese and Japanese rice vinegars are much sweeter than what Americans are used to. Whatever else you may change (like using sugar because you're out of honey, or substituting another kind of oil), please stick with rice vinegar without fail.

You may also enjoy listening to Michael Franks' song "Eggplant" while preparing or eating this dish. I wanted to share it with you within this post as well, but the YouTube embed feature is not allowed. So click here to listen:

Bon Appétit!

and until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Banned In Boston

After lots of rain this week, Saturday turned out to be sunny and warm (28°C 82°F). Folks around here call that "hot". I call it Hawaiian or Fijian weather -perfect.

I have a new camera I wanted to try out - An Olympus µ Tough 8010 waterproof compact - which I bought to replace the µ Tough 8000 that went to the bottom of the lake when we capsized last November. (The new camera has a floatation wrist strap.) I also have a new "Camzilla" mount with which I can attach the camera to the boat with a suction cup or clamp for hands free shots/movies.

So, after getting Bluesette set up, less sails, we headed for Mama's Kitchen for a pre-sail lunch. We had rice, miso soup with shijimi clams, vegetable stir fry (Kimie's with pork), stuffed fish cake, pickles. Oh, and in the square bowls are tiny fish called "shirauo".

The Tough 8010's flash was designed for taking underwater images and as a result is too bright for terrestrial use, as the following pic illustrates.

Back at the harbor, the owner of a 17 foot daysailer two boats down from us was working on his boat. First time we'd ever seen him. He wasn't sailing today, but appeared to be getting the boat in shape after a long hiatus.

The sailing was great. The winds were perfect at around four to six knots. Some other sailboats were out on the lake, and the haze (striped mullet) were jumping. I set the camera up on the Camzilla which was mounted with the suction cup in the far aft port corner of the cockpit. I secured the camera strap by another large suction cup, such as we use for holding down our paddle and whisker pole, and the mount had another tether on it as well. After we were well underway, I reached back and started the movie mode of the camera.

Here's the exciting result:

Well, the movie isn't actually censored, but what I said when we got home and I tried to download it certainly is! I had no movie on the camera to download. Now, I know what I did wrong. Next time I'll get it right. I'll also take along the other camera for taking still shots, so we'll have SOME sailing pics to post no matter what.

Until then, sweet sailing.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Froth of July

The Mayflower's destination was Virginia, but the boat landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. A passenger's journal for Dec. 19, 1620, explains: "We could not now take time for further search or consideration; our victuals being much spent, especially our beer ..."*


Happy Independence Day, America. Be safe out there.

and Until next, sweet sailing.

*from Time Magazine 1977,9171,945768,00.html#ixzz0shgCwRK0

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Old Man and the Seas

Recently, Tillerman was unhappy about a tag to a link to his website which read "From a sailor in his 60's". He pointed out that he is younger than Bob Dylan. Of course I had to comment that everyone is younger than Dylan, which is of course not true. (I'm hardly one to poke fun, since I'll join the 60's crowd myself later this year.) Here is someone who is NOT younger than Bob Dylan, and is a sailor to boot:

Minoru Saito has circled the globe seven times solo on a sailboat. The last time he did so he became the oldest person to sail non-stop around the world solo. He was 71 years of age.

So where is he now? Well, he has spent the last two years sailing around the world for the eighth time! But this time, instead of taking the usual route going west to east, he is going the "hard way" - east to west. This route has taken him against the prevailing currents, waves, and winds, especially in critical areas such as the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. The few sailors who have attempted rounding Cape Horn east to west solo have compared it to climbing mount Everest alone - without oxygen.

Saito-san has paid a price. His boat has been badly battered, its sails torn, the auxiliary engine overheating, his body broken (a gash in an arm, broken bridge of three front teeth, emergency abdominal surgery). After making it around Cape Horn on the second try, he refused to abandon ship as demanded by the Chilean Navy and was towed 400 miles to port where he spent the winter in a small fishing village making repairs.

He is now in Hawaii, 87% of the way around the world. The boat is getting more much needed repairs, thanks to his many online friends, for the final leg of his voyage which will return him to Yokohama, Japan. Saito-san is in a hurry, for the typhoon season in Japan starts in a matter of weeks, and he must get home before then.

To see a local Hawaii news interview of Saito-san, click here: KITV News, Honolulu; or here: KHON News

Asked what he misses most, he answers "hot springs, ofuro (Japanese bath), nice tempura and sushi".

When he arrives, he will be 76 years old, and most probably the oldest man to have sailed around the world alone. Saito-san says this will be his final voyage.

Recently in the news, Abby Sunderland, who was trying to set the record for being the youngest person to sail non-stop around the world, met with disaster in the Indian Ocean and had to abandon her boat. Happily, she was rescued. While she is to be admired for her attempt, somehow, to me, being the oldest person to achieve such a feat carries more weight than being the youngest. Youth has quick wit, strength, and vigor to apply to the task, while the aged must muster all their waning resources to make such an attempt.

Saito-san's journey has been most difficult, but his age has not stopped him. He is a reminder to us all to never stop dreaming and doing.

On the other hand, considering the troubles of this latest trip, perhaps the message is "learn to quit while you're ahead". ;^)

His websites are here: (English/Japanese); Logbook Blog -

Until next, sweet sailing.