Saturday, May 28, 2011

If The Rain Comes

Typhoon Songda (Songda is Vietnamese for tributary) which yesterday was a category 5 storm, is heading our way. Presently a category 2 storm it is blasting the southwesternmost islands of Okinawa Prefecture with 95 mph winds and creating 26 foot high waves at sea.

Lucky for us it is still a long ways off and is expected to have diminished to no more than a tropical storm by the time it reaches Ibaraki Prefecture in the wee hours of Monday. Also, it is projected to pass just south of us, saving us from the brunt of whatever winds and rains it is carrying at that point. Typhoons usually track even further south than predicted, so there is yet more hope.

Our friend Martin with Bluesette in the rain - 2009

Kimie pointed out to me this morning at breakfast, however, that should we get hit by a major typhoon this summer it will be a disaster for the entire area. As I have mentioned and documented with pictures in earlier posts, the earthquakes have left a lot of roofs everywhere in northeastern Japan, including our own, seriously damaged. Repairing all those roofs anytime soon is out of the question, especially with aftershocks still occurring frequently, and rainy season already upon us.

If the rain comes - not the rain we'll likely get this week, but a serious blowing downpour - many of those roofs will leak and cause even more damage to the homes under them. One may hope the patches are sufficient, but it is worrisome, none the less.


There is a saying in Japan: seiko udoku. Literally, "clear sky, cultivate, rainy, reading". So, "Farm when it's sunny, read when it rains".

It is already raining, if gently. Kimie and Pandabonium are reading this weekend instead of cultivating our garden or sailing. And what do sailors read on rainy days? Hopefully not obscure subsections of Rule 18, but rather great stories of sailors and sailing.

Kimie is reading Michael Green's "The Art of Coarse Sailing", that hilarious, laugh-out-loud-while-reading tale of a sailing holiday with friends on the Broads, which was recommended by Tillerman back in February. It's a great antidote for the rainy day blues. You can read more about it at the link.

Pandabonium has been reading another true tale; this one of an amazing rescue filled with high seas adventure and global political maneuverings. "The Emerald Whaler" takes place in the 1870s and tells the story of the jail break and rescue of six Irish Fenians who had been sentenced by England to a life of labor "beyond the seas" in Freemantle Prison, West Australia, for their parts in the uprising of 1865.

In a most daring plot, the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States raised vast sums of money to buy and fit a whaling ship - the Catalpa - and hired a Captain who would initially and for much of the voyage be the only person on the ship to know its true mission. Pretending to be on a whaling expedition, the Captain hired officers and crew and sailed her from New Bedford, Massachusetts all the way to Australia where, with help of conspirators sent undercover by rail across the United States and then by postal ship across the Pacific to Perth to aid in the prisoners' escape (yes Virginia, there really are conspiracies), managed to free all six of the men and take them to America aboard the Catalpa. The Emerald Whaler was very well researched and written in a most engaging and exciting style. One of those books you can't put down.

If that's sounds interesting, I have good news. You can read it or download it as a PDF file, free online. "The Emerald Whaler" by William J Laubenstein, 1960. I have a first edition given to me by my dad, who besides being a sailor, loved to shop used book sales.

The online version is at this link: Internet Archive - Emerald Whaler or copy and paste the url:

Erin go Bragh

Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines
It's just a state of mind

And until next, sweet sailing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Doko Desu Ka

Where are we? A Google map for lost readers to help you find Lake Hinuma and some of the places most oft mentioned in my posts.

View Hinuma in a larger map

And here's a nice map I "borrowed" from a fishing website showing the bottom contours of the lake. The black numbers are for meters and I have added blue numbers for feet.


Thouhg the draft of the Lido 14 is only 1.3 meters with the centerboard down, it does strike bottom at the dock. I carry a laminated copy of this map in Bluesette to help keep me from running aground while exploring shallower parts of the lake.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, May 23, 2011


More (wonderful) normalcy. The 15th delivered even better weather than the previous Sunday. The wind was still from the south, but a little stronger and more steady. Four Flying Juniors were on the water as well as some Lasers and Grasshoppers Yamaha Seahoppers (thanks Doc). Come on everyone. Life goes on - despite the odds! (click pictures to enlarge)



A gorgeous day with cirrus clouds and moderate winds greeted us at the lake. We launched as early as we could as the wind was likely to increase throughout the day and get a bit strong for our tastes in the afternoon (15 knots).



Still, we did have a few gusts that nearly knocked us down and Bluesette gulped several gallons of water over the rail at one point (which the crew dutifully bailed out), but mostly we just had a fun.

The big gulp came as we were sailing along and the wind died down prompting us to drop back into the cockpit. I was looking at the water and it seemed very calm relative to what we had been seeing, then I saw lots of ripples ahead and started to say to Kimie, "there's a strong wind about to hit us..." and before I could say it, or even get ready for it, we were healed over and taking on water. I kicked the main sheet out of the cleat to keep us from capsizing. Note to self - less talk, more action - sooner.

Of course I saw Laser capsize more than once that day, but it seems that is something Lasers are very good at. :0



Deciding to go to lunch before we "ran out of talent" as my brother would say, we made for the dock and after a good approach, Kimie snagged the dock line with the hook.



The Hakuta grand-kids were trying to catch "treasures" with hand nets along the shore just as they were last week, but this time we saw that they were in fact catching some fish! Shirauo - a tiny white/clear fish that has been caught in Ibaraki's lakes for centuries (see my Pacific Islander post "White Sails on Kasumigaura" about the sail powered fishing boats that did that).


After quickly washing Bluesette down, we parked her but left the mast up and went to lunch - we were hungry and would attend to the mast later.

I'm sure you are all curious about where we went for lunch, right? Well, it was a splendid little family owned place called "Mama's Kitchen". Imagine that!

Things were hopping at Mama's and we didn't get our usual table. The whole crew was there - Mama, Papa, mini Mama and her brother. I had spicy spaghetti with shrimp and Kimie had the teishoku (set lunch) with hamburger.



As we visited the salad bar, I recognized the music coming from the stereo. No, it wasn't "Bluesette". It was a song by Japanese pop star Akina Nakamori who I used to listen to back in the 1980s. Well, I still do sometimes. J-pop blast from the past.

It was her first single record in 1982 and was very popular in Japan. It's called "Slow Motion" and is about falling in love at the beach.

"The sweet feeling of love suddenly ran up my spine."

"The slow-motion encounter
Enough to invite mild vertigo
The slow-motion encounter
People reflected in the eyes"


After lunch, mini-Mama brought me a dessert and Mama gave Kimie a huge bag of mizuna - a leafy green used in salads, stir fries, and soups. Mama had more than she could use. What she gave us was more than WE could use, so we left some with the Hakuta family at the Yacht Harbor and gave some to Kimie's family and to one of our neighbors as well.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lost Comments

Due to "blogger" losing several comments during the past few days, I decided to reconstitute them myself using the copies sent to my email. Reader comments are reproduced as submitted, though maybe not in precise order. My replies have been condensed into one comment.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Grace Kelly and Bluesette

I love Grace Kelly movies. I even wrote her a letter when I was in college - not a fan letter, it was business/politics. That's another story. This post is not about the actress/princess ...

There is another Grace Kelly today. A young saxophone player. If you are not yet familiar with her music and are a jazz fan, you will be soon enough. Here she is performing "All the Things You Are" and "Bluesette" with the man himself - Toots Thielemans (Kenny Werner on piano).

Of the experience, Grace writes,
"Wow!! Toots Thielemans and me. It was such an amazing and surprising night at Scullers Jazz Club. I got to sit in with one of my biggest musical inspirations that I have been listening to on recordings since the beginning of my musical career. I went to Scullers to see the show with Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner on Wednesday and got to meet them. They had heard of me but had never heard me play. They asked if I would like to sit in with them the next night. I said of course. I stepped on stage for their last number. That was the first notes we played together, not even a sound check. It was magical!! Toots is the sweetest man and very funny too. We had a ball hanging out after the show too. Another indelible memory for my memory book." - April 1, 2011

"Memory book" she says. She's all of 18 years old, so she has a while yet to compile that "book". But she's certainly got the talent for it to be quite a book before she's done. She's off to a hell of a good start. Her website is here: Grace Kelly.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Butterfly Emerges

The blue butterfly with white wings - Bluesette - has emerged at last from her chrysalis for another season of sailing.

The weather has been faking us out for the last few weeks - warming up on weekdays, but turning cold or rainy or blustery on weekends. Sunday, May 8th, it finally offered the weather we wanted for our first sail of the year - broken to scattered cumulus, a high of 80° F, and winds in the 3 to 6 knot range.

Due to the many earthquake-related bumps, patches and cracks on the road to the lake, which have gotten worse from aftershocks since we went up there last, Kimie was driving a little slower than usual and managed to average 29.6 kpl (70 mpg) for the trip. With gasoline in these parts up to ¥149/liter (US$7.00/gallon), I was happy to see that.

From the start, the first day back on the water was complicated by little things. The liner tarp I had installed to back up the leaky Sunbrella cover, had come loose and one side slid down into the boat, filling with water. So while technically it kept the water off the deck, it still needed to be emptied.

The wind, which had seemed so nice as we stood in the parking lot, refused to cooperate. It was blowing from the south - down the dock toward the lake. It was shifting from one side to another, and we ended up with Bluesette on the east side of the dock, only to have the wind shift favoring the west side as I tried to raise the sails. I made a lot of mistakes getting the sails up - first day back. Hopefully I'll do better next time.

The level of the lake was quite high and I was surprised to find that we could lower the centerboard at the dock all the way down without hitting the bottom. I had Kimie back the jib and let go the painter and we were off! Wait. We weren't. Apparently the bottom is bit shallower a few meters away from the dock and we soon got hung up in the silt. We raised the centerboard sukoshi (a skosh) and finally got under way.

The wind was very fickle. It seemed a nice little breeze, but as happens when the wind is from the south on Hinuma, it was turbulent and constantly shifting - 45° to even 60° at times - and gusting from 4 knots up to 10 or more. One minute we would be dawdling along and the next, the lee rail was in the water and we were scrambling to hike out. I didn't mind too much. The crew wasn't happy about it though. And for both of us it became a lot of work, constantly adjusting sails, course, balance. More of a workout than we had bargained for.

One good thing about this time of year - there aren't nearly as many bamboo stakes for fish nets to get in our way. We went as far west on the lake as we dared - it gets shallow out there - and also explored a bit of the north shore, where we found that some new post-earthquake construction was going on. We beat our way back toward the yacht harbor and Kimie noticed that the club house, which is still closed, seems to be listing to starboard a bit (ever so slightly tilting toward the east).

Shifting southerly winds can make returning a bear, and this day was one of those days. Our tack would seem to be taking us to the dock, but as we got closer, the wind would gradually swing and send us off to the east. Coming about we would try to make progress toward the dock for the next attempt, but just as we'd pass the harbor, the wind would shift once more and put us on a course which barely made any headway toward our goal. I was watching the koinobori (carp streamers) over a house next to the yacht harbor and found that they would swing about 45° back and forth, often being at odds with the winds we were experiencing even though we were only a couple hundred meters down wind of them.

Koinobori - flown to celebrate Children's Day. There is a top streamer for the family, then one carp for every family member.

Still, it was very warm and the scenery was lovely. Ducks and Coots were flying and paddling about while striped mullet were jumping everywhere - including right over Bluesette - and banks of billowing cumulus clouds made picture-perfect mounds worthy of a painter's study. I was wearing my new eyeglasses (I am mildly nearsighted and for periods of years don't need them, but now find that they aid in my enjoyment of the view). (Oh Magoo! You've done it again!).

Close to the weather shore, the wind is blanked out by trees and so when at last we came close to the dock, it wasn't quite close enough. Through a combination of quick tacking using every puff of wind, sculling the tiller, paddling, and Kimie's great skill with the grappling hook, we landed. We made fast to the dock, brought down the sails, and headed for Mama's Kitchen. It was past 1:30 and we were both physically tired and very hungry.

Next to the dock, the Hakuta grandchildren were playing along the shore. Nets on poles in hand, they were scooping what they might out of the lake - fish? clams? well, mostly pebbles it looked like to me. Having a fun time is so easy and natural to children. Why do most adults make it so complicated?

Lunch was excellent, as always. By the front door, Mama's container garden of veggies and herbs is coming right along. Inside, Mini-Mama was cooking and her 20 year old brother was helping out, while Papa was seated at a corner table watching a dvd featuring Louis Armstrong.

We skipped pasta this time and had the teshoku (set lunch) of the day - rice, tofu, bamboo shoots, miso soup, cauliflower, and charcoal grilled Pacific saury with shimeji mushrooms. Just as we finished - Mama arrived. In the meantime, Mini-Mama had somehow managed to bake a couple dozen anpan (pronounced ampan) with raisins (rolls filled with azuki bean jam and raisins) and had them cooling on the rack, so Kimie bought some to take home with us.

Then it was back to the yacht harbor to pull Bluesette out of the water, clean her and put her away until next time.

Looking back on last year's first sail - May 3, 2010 - I recall that the wind was also from the south and played tricks with us, though it was much stronger over all. And at the end of that sail, Kimie jumped into the water to walk us to the dock. Last year was also not so warm, with Kimie wearing a wetsuit.

We enjoyed the day, even if it was more challenging than we had anticipated. As always, we learned from it. Most of all, it was nice to do something "normal" again - sailing Bluesette and having lunch at Mama's Kitchen.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Getting Lost On The Way To The Geographer

Oh, the irony!

Last Wednesday we headed for the Shibuya ward of Tokyo to see the Geographer. We had been there twice before in the last several years and I thought I knew the way well enough. (Such assumptions are always a mistake. It is the reason that airplane pilots at every level always use a written checklist. It doesn't matter how many times we do something, we are fallible.)

I should have looked at a MAP before leaving home (what a concept! - looking at a map to find a geographer). Shibuya has a lot of curved streets that fan out from the train station and make for forks in the roads. It is also an incredibly noisy place with huge video screens on buildings, stage performers on street corners, and stores blaring music and/or advertising messages onto the sidewalk - very disorienting. (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). I took a left instead of a right and as we walked, and walked, and walked, and as our destination failed to appear (we were on a road which curved away from it), we realized I had, uh, goofed. At least the route I chose had no retailers with blaring bull horns and had lovely trees on either side instead.

Finding a crude map on a construction sign, we adjusted course. Once again I screwed up! (Here I blame the lousy map). But we were getting closer. Sort of. Another turn and we finally arrived after a few more blocks. Whew. What should of been a 7 minute walk had turned into, well, let's just say ... a long morning adventure.

The place we were going was the Bunkamura art center - a building that offers music, drama, cinema and art plus shops and restaurants under one roof. The "Geographer" we went there to see was the painting of that name by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer van Delft (1632-1675).

This painting was centered on a wall with a 17th century map on the wall to the right, a globe and compasses (dividers) dated 1700 in one corner, and a globe of the heavens in the corner to the left of the painting. To me, Vermeer was the master of masters when it came to controlling light. A favorite of ours, we go to exhibitions of his works whenever they come to Tokyo.

The event is titled Vermeer "Geographer" The Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish Paintings from the Städel Museum and so in addition to Vermeer's magnificent work, there are ninety-four other works by 17th Century Dutch and Flemish painters with the following categories: History Painting and Allegory; Portraiture; Genre and Interior Scenes; Still Life; Landscape & Topography (which included several painting of sailing ships).

Before we went in, I treated Kimie to a lunch of soba and tempura in the adjacent department store as an offering of apology for getting us lost, and after seeing the exhibit, to coffee and dessert. She forgave me.

Coffee and dessert at Bunkamura: ¥995 yen each (the cost of an entire lunch at Mama's Kitchen). Forgiveness for getting us lost on the way to the Geographer: priceless.

Next time, you can bet I'll be sure to plan ahead and carry a reference map of the area we will visit with me - even if we've been there a dozen times before!

Until next, sweet sailing!