Saturday, December 31, 2011


Peter Kräubig with the German jazz group "Room 4" singing Bluesette at a charity concert held in Dyckburgkirche Münster (Dyckburg Church) in 2009. Münster, Germany is about 75 km northeast of Essen*.

Peter Kräubig is an accomplished pianist and composer.

I like this group. They remind me of "Les Doubles Six" of Paris back in the 60's.

Good music to listen to while letting go of 2011 tonight and embracing 2012. Happy New Year!

Dare we hope that the Dragon is more kind to us that the Rabbit has been? What have we got to lose?

Until next, sweet sailing.

*I've never been to Münster, but I did play a concert in Essen back in 1971 with the University of Redlands Concert Band and Jazz Band along with trombone soloist Murray McEachern.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter Solstice

The "reason for the season" is of course the Winter Solstice. We've turned the corner from the days getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, and hence forth we will get more sunshine (for a time). Celebrations lasting a few weeks help us get through the darkest of times (literally speaking) and different religions find various reasons to celebrate, but basically they do so, I believe, at this time of year to help us all get through the lack of sunlight. For me, vitamin D supplementation and a dose of wide spectrum artificial light each day does the trick.


One celebration we partake in around the Winter Solstice each year is a special dinner at Wordsworth Restaurant. This year it was extra special, as the restaurant was damaged by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, but has survived, as have we. (Life goes on, despite the odds.)

This year's menu included Bagna Calda, Parma ham with mozzarella and tomato in pumpkin sauce, foie gras, seafood salad, soybean soup, baked stuffed Homard lobster, pasta with greens, and for desert, apple compote with cookies and chocolate.

PandaB does not eat foie gras (click here for why) and a very special thing happened this year. The waitress came to our table before we began our meal and asked if I would like a substitute instead of foie gras. They had remembered my preferences! So while they served K the foie gras, they brought me a special dish of baked turban sea snail in olive oil with chopped greens, covered with tiny croutons. It was a delicious alternative and I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness of Wordsworth in offering it to me.


After dinner we went down to Kashima Jingu train station to see the light display.


All the best from Pandabonium and K this Winter Solstice season - no matter how you celebrate it - and may 2012 bring us all peace and understanding.

May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety.
All living beings, whether weak or strong,
in high or middle, or low realms of existence,
small or great, visible or invisible, near or far,
born or to be born.
May all beings be happy.

-A Buddhist Metta

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nadezhda - Missed Hope and an Icy Bottom

Our Swedish Bluesette crewman Martin emailed me to let me know that he had seen Nadezhda at Yokohama the other day. Nadezhda is a 22 year old beauty (very tall and not too broad in the beam if you get my drift) from Vladivostok and I was keen to see her in person!

Her name means "hope" in English and I was full of it (ahem). As our roof is in the midst of repairs (at last!) of the earthquake damage, it would be a chance to escape the noise and flying roof debris. There was the matter of providing tea and snacks for the workers at break times, but K's mom offered to come over and take care of that.

Good thing I did some research about Nadezhda before we went to Yokohama - especially before setting the alarm clock for O'dark thirty to go meet her. Nadezhda you see is a Russian tall ship which has been on a tour of the Pacific. When I found her on on Friday, she had already left Yokohama and was off shore of Ibaraki heading north at 6.7 knots. Ah well, Martin got some pics with his cellphone which I get to share with you here.

At 360 ft length, 46 ft beam, she is much larger than Japan's Nippon Maru training vessel (307 ft long, 42.5 ft. beam) which I saw when it visited Maui around 1970-ish, and which is now on permanent display in Yokohama. Both ships are quite beautiful of course, but Nadezhda is rarely in my backyard.

Thank you, Martin!

So, today, instead of going to Yokohama, we headed for lake Hinuma and Bluesette. Along the way, we spotted a good sized sailboat on Lake Kitaura - a rare sight. My Canon camera had trouble focusing today for some reason, but the boat looks like a Catalina 27 to me. Must be quite old (like from the 70's) as the sail number is 247. I think it is docked at a little marina that we once considered which caters to bass boats on trailers. Kitaura is quite a narrow body of water for such a large boat - much longer than Hinuma, but only half as wide.


We didn't leave until after the roof workers had their morning break after all, so first order of business was lunch at Mama's. Sorry if regular readers tire of this routine, but we don't. :^)

I had spaghetti with a spicy tomato sauce and olives with tuna, K had the same but with bacon rather than tuna. Desert was roll cake with banana and grapefruit.



The task for the day was not to sail. It was a beautiful day, if a tad cold, but we were there to change out the boat cover and other minor maintenance. The "Sunbrella" cover has lost it's water repellant properties and has been growing a bit of green something or other on its top. We switched it out with a plastic tarp temporarily so we could take the Sunbrella home and clean it with a pressure washer and spray it with water proofing anew.

We were not surprised to see a little water in the bottom of the boat - about 3/4 inch - but we were surprised at the ice. It has been a cold December for us so far. More like January or February weather.


The club house is nearly finished, but for some concrete work around the outside for walkways. That will have to wait until warmer weather. Meanwhile, they will start moving in tomorrow. It is a bit smaller, but very well built and of course, it's *new*.


On the way out, we stopped to say hello/goodbye to Mrs. Hakuta in the temporary office where she was watching three grandchildren. Two granddaughters were playing with a "Hula Hoop". Reportedly, they have set a local record of 438 revolutions in one go!

Until next, sweet sailing... and hula hooping.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


We watched the total lunar eclipse last night. It started at about 22:00 our time and we watched until 23:45 (when we were getting too sleepy to continue). As the moon was nearly directly overhead, we soon tired of straining our necks, so we spread a blanket on our pebble drive and laid on our backs to view it.

Skies were thin clouds broken to scattered at first, but it later cleared. Due to a rain storm that passed recently, the air was very clean and since we're in a relatively rural area, there was not much in the way of light pollution. It was a little chilly out (about 39°F), but we were dressed for it.

It was the most beautiful sight either of us has ever seen in the night sky. Jupiter was out too and with binoculars we could see some of its moons. When a large patch of sky was clear, the stars added to the spectacular show - the moon was in Gemini with the Pleiades (Subaru in Japanese), Taurus with its red giant, Aldebaran, and Orion offering a lot to enjoy with the binoculars. (Nikon 10x50mm 6.5° field of view).

As Martin mentioned to me in an email today, with the moon fully eclipsed, it looked very three dimensional against the backdrop of stars. I think the brightness of a full moon normally makes for too great a contrast for us to see it as a sphere.

I didn't get any pics with moon partly in shadow, as early on I didn't think they would come out at all (I haven't had much luck photographing the moon). Later I decided to give it a go anyway. I took several pictures, but only a couple of them were worth saving - they were ones taken with the camera on a tripod and tripping the shutter with the timer so as not to vibrate the setup. Canon Powershot S3 IS was on full zoom. Not an astronomer's choice of equipment, but good enough pics to jog my memory of this event in the future.

As I walked back to the house to go to bed, I turned to take one last look, and as I did so, a meteor streaked across the sky to the southwest. Perfection.

*syzygy: Astronomy . an alignment of three celestial objects, as the sun, the earth, and either the moon or a planet

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Almost As Good As S...ailing

It looked like it would be too windy for us to go sailing today, and besides, after the rain we've had it was a full morning of catching up on laundry, with warmer weather and crystal clear skies.

For lunch, we treated ourselves to Wordsworth Restaurant in neighboring Kamisu City.

I had spaghetti with oysters in a spinach cream sauce, topped with salmon roe.


K went for the pasta soup with seafood. Scallop, clam, oyster, mussel, crab, prawn and squid.

So good. Or so I was told. ;^) K finished the whole thing.

No, we don't usually eat out twice in one week. We'll need to take a break from it, as we're thinking of having the special Xmas dinner at Wordsworth again this year.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Boys Go To Jupiter

..."to get more stupider" - or at least, so the playground rope-skipping rhyme goes. (In case you're wondering, girls go to Mars to buy more cars - which is pretty stupid too, if you ask me.)

Anyway, the Jupiter in this post is Jupiter Instruments, an American company that makes musical instruments in Taiwan using machines made in Japan and Switzerland - and they ain't stupid. They've got Harry Watters playing demos for their trombones, and he is simply awesome. Here is Harry "sailing" through (what else?) Bluesette:

Damn. Maybe if I practiced more? .... Nope. Not in a million years - or 928,081,020 kilometers*.

Until next, sweet sailing.

*max distance between Earth and Jupiter