Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cooling Off

Last Thursday the temperature reached 38°C (100° F) here as a high pressure area lingered off shore of the Kanto region. During the previous week, over seven thousand people suffered heat stroke in Japan and a few died. Earlier in the month, former Japan international soccer player Naoki Matsuda died, at age 34, two days after suffering a cardiac arrest during training.

One 75 year old man died as he was waiting for an electrician to install an air conditioner in his apartment scheduled for the following day. Not having air conditioning or even a fan, he had suffered heat stroke events in previous years and had decided to do something about it. A day late.

We don't use air conditioning, but have plenty of electric fans. We just stayed indoors with windows shaded by awnings and fans blowing - reading, taking naps, and sipping cold mugicha (roasted barley tea). A tenugui (printed cotton towel) helped to mop our brows - or sometimes we wore one with a cold pack in the folds.

Me wearing a tenugui at Lake Ashinoko in 2007. That's Mt. Fuji that you don't see in the background. If you want to see it, visit this post: Pirates of Ashinoko

Since it was cooler on the patio than in the house, Momo slept under the bench on the front porch which has been cloaked with sun tarps that cut the temperature considerably. I also cool it by wetting down the ground in front of it using a sprinkler. At times, she even has a fan to move the air out there. The things we do for pets.

Meanwhile, at the zoo, our distant cousin, an orangutan, had a similar strategy. We've never visited Tama Zoo, but we hear it is great, with animals exhibited in natural habitats.

"Laugh with glee at a chimpanzee, he reminds you of someone in your family" - lyrics from "Never Smile at a Crocodile" ~ Disney's Peter Pan (1953).

The weather changed drastically on Friday, with rain bringing much lower temperatures 22° C (71.6 F). Quite a drop! Momo, with her summer cut, found it a bit too chilly for her, and spent today in her indoor cage.

The coming week will see slightly higher temperatures , but cloudy weather will keep it reasonably comfortable (29° C).

We have another trip coming up - heading north on the newest Shinkansen train (the only way to fly) for a couple of days in the Tohoku region - yes, the area worst hit by the Great Earthquake and Tsunami of 3/11. Stay tuned...

Until next, sweet sailing,

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Course

I like food as much as sailing, so perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that the blog "Proper Course" was about dining etiquette.

I don't know if this is considered "proper" for a sailing blog, but we have no sailing pics today.

We had thought of sailing with Martin (see Viking Invades Hinuma about Martin) and his brother who is visiting from Sweden, but they made other plans. Good call, as the day is a hot one and the trains and roads they'd have to ride on to get here are crowded with Bon season travelers.

Then we were going to take our niece to lunch as she returns to home tonight and her mom had to work today, so she had naught to do. But then her grandmother brought her sushi, so lunch with us was off. Another change of course.

We decided to go to lunch on our own, to one of the many Italian places we like - Trattoria Buona Fortuna. The set lunch sounded good. We were warned it took an hour or more, but that just made it more appealing to us as we could linger in the air conditioned restaurant longer while outside the temperature was 93°F and the heat index was hitting 100°.

So, today we just have food pics. Choose your favorite course - proper or otherwise.

click on a photo to zoom in

Lovely appetizer plate of veggies lettuce and potato salad topped with prosciutto, followed by spaghetti with eggplant and tomato sauce, trout stuffed with mushrooms, and bread with olive oil.

Dessert was ice cream with caramel sauce, two cakes - one made with earl grey tea, the other with green tea and chocolate chips - and a small pastry.

We did dilly-dally, and spent a good hour and a half. Bluesette will have to wait for a cooler day...

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Three Women In A Boat

Kimie's niece is home for Obon, so we decided to ask her to come sailing with us. Kimie's sister wanted to come too, so we had four people in the boat.


"What we said was, we like nothing better than a good SALE."

There are two things I worry about when taking guests out for their first sailing experience: too little wind and too much wind; too little excitement and too much. Floating around on a glass smooth lake on a hot summer day is no fun. Neither is getting dumped into the lake by capsizing the boat first time out. Somehow the weather cooperated, and although it was a hot day (in the 90s F), the winds were steady out of the ENE (off the ocean) at about 8 mph offering a cooling breeze and enough power for a pleasant sail. Could have used a bit more, but I won't complain.

Four people in Bluesette is a little tricky, as there isn't room for the person handling the jib to move across the boat between the guests up front and the main sheet cleat. So coming about is often less than smooth as I cannot hang on to the main sheet while Kimie crosses in front of me, and I am also up against the tiller until she gets settled. So perhaps any more wind would have been too much. Somehow we managed when Martin and his mystery guest were with us, maybe it was the way we arranged the seating that day.

Not sure how much our new crew liked sailing, but they were very happy with the ship's mess. No salt pork and hardtack on Bluesette of course- we had a late lunch at Mama's Kitchen. We all chose the same thing - spaghetti in tomato sauce with asari clams, squid, shrimp and mushrooms. The salad bar was good too, with freshly picked cherry tomatoes that were exceptionally tasty.



After lunch I presented the new crew with Bluesette sailing caps. While Kimie and I took down the mast and covered Bluesette before heading home, our new crew played a card game with the yacht club owner's granddaughter and two of her friends.

I'll call it a success. There was no mutiny and we didn't lose any passengers, and the food was enjoyed all around.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Let Me Take You Up

'Cause we're going to Lavender Fields.

Nothing is real...

and nothing to get hung about...

Lavender fields forever...

We flew to Hokkaido in an attempt to beat the heat. Momo the Wonder Dog stayed in an air conditioned doggy hotel while we were away. It was only a few degrees cooler in Hokkaido, so Momo got the better of that deal. We did see some beautiful scenery. It was my first flight in almost 7 years, my first domestic Japanese flight, and Kimie's first ever domestic flight as well. (Normally, we take the Shinkansen). And our first time to see Hokkaido. It seems so big! About the size of the State of Maine. It is 20% of the land area of Japan with only 4.4% of the population.

We were gone a week and saw lots more than flowers. Waterfalls, lakes, horses, sea ports, an Ainu village, and more. For those who are interested, see all the pics plus videos and comments, at this page on Picasa: Hokkadio 2011.

Lavender fields forever.

Until next, sweet sailing.

*top photo: John and Yoko, Sean and (?) at Fujiya Hotel (Hakone) in 1978. 2nd photo - Pandabonium and K, same spot, 2007.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Back is Beautiful

We're back, and we're beautiful! (Sorry: Obscure reference to a skit by Firesign Theatre about the Civil War on their album "Everything you know is wrong").


Wonderful day on the lake today. Steady breeze from the Southeast at about five to seven knots. Enough to make it fun, but no whitecaps or chop to soak my crew. We did get soaked with sweat, as the air temperature was about 35 and the water 30. For you folks on the archaic English system, that's 95F air temp and 86F water temp. Uhg. The breeze made it bearable. I was reminded of the much more dire conditions for the crew of the 19th Century Nantucket whaler "Essex". I am reading their story in the book "In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick which was recommended by my friend (and frequent reader of this blog) Arkonbey. Riveting is the word for this book. Thanks Ark.

We took a break for lunch then went back out finishing up at around 2:30 PM. The crew performed flawlessly, especially with docking. I'd parallel the dock, let loose the sheets, bear up a tad, then Kimie would grab the dock line with the grappling hook and "Bob's your uncle".

I was faced with a dilemma at Mama's. Two of three options involved mild curry. The main lunch offering featured curried veggies. Kimie had eggplant and mushrooms on pasta in curried white sauce. Curry in any form puts PandaB off. [Dr. John H. Watson: "I say, we were discussing curry." Sherlock Holmes: "Oh, yes, curry! Horrible stuff!" ~ Movie "Terror by Night" 1946.] The remaining option was spaghetti with tomato sauce, peppers, and sausage. Sigh. I ordered that and gave the slices of sausage to K. What remained was still very tasty.

Dessert was also yummy, as always.


There were few boats out on the lake today. Three jet skis, a fishing boat, that inflatable hybrid sailboat I mentioned recently, and a couple of wind surfers. Where IS everybody? Most of the business for the yacht harbor in the past has been fishing boat rentals. We fear that they may be afraid of radioactive fish. Damn. While I doubt it is a real hazard, I can't very well blame those who may have second thoughts. But there is no reason to stay off the water.

I hope things for the yacht harbor turn around soon.

Until next, sweet sailing.