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.
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.