Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Song For Japan

Trombonists from Japan and around the world perform for charity and to maintain awareness of the on going efforts to recover from the tragedies of March 11. "A song for Japan" is a beautiful piece, I think you will agree, written by Belgian trombonist Steven Verhelst. Enjoy.



Whether you play trombone or not, be sure to visit the website http://www.trombones.jp for more clips, information, free downloadable sheet music, t-shirts, artwork and tools to help you contribute to the cause through music. All profits go to the Japan Red Cross.



Special thanks to my high school buddy and fellow trombonist, Larry, who sent me the link.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Impermanence

Now you see it.
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Now you don't.
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The old disappearing clubhouse trick. Too badly damaged by the March 11 earthquake, the 38 year old clubhouse had to be taken down. Hopefully business will pick up at some point and allow a new clubhouse to be built. That isn't likely to happen unless and until the Fukushima Dainichi power plants are brought under control and people are no longer afraid. At present, bookings at ryokan in neighboring Oarai town and port are down 48% from a year ago and the major aquarium there, Aqua World, is said to look like a ghost town.

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Clubhouse or no, we're here to sail. It's "tsuyu" in Japan - rainy season. Last Monday we had a break in the weather and Kimie had a day off from work. Winds were forecast at about 6 mph - a nice breeze that moves Bluesette along, but doesn't create enough waves to get Kimie splashed.

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The winds were not to be found in the morning. As we sailed lazily upwind toward the west end of the lake, the crew complained of the slow pace. There is a certain range of wind speed which my crew likes. It lies between about 4 and 7 miles per hour. Below that, she gets bored. Above that, she gets splashed with water which she doesn't like, but as long as we are not in danger of capsize, I think she'd rather have too much wind than too little.

I was enjoying the peacefulness of it all. There were no other boats on the lake save a solitary open fishing boat tending to nets. As we came about to return eastward, the wind died completely. Nary a ripple was to been seen on the lake's surface. The crew went beyond boredom to mutiny, refusing to just sit with nothing to do.

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I had to do something, so I broke out the paddle. This gave the crew something to do - take the tiller while I paddled. Then we traded off for a while, giving Kimie the paddle while I steered. As we got closer to the dock, a puff of air came up and we soon docked, brought down the sails, and went for lunch, hoping for more wind in the afternoon.

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Tomato sauce, mushrooms and snow peas for me...
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Ham and cabbage for Kimie...
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Fruit roll for dessert for both of us ...
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Back on the water, the wind did indeed pick up a bit and we had fun in 6 to 8 mph of the stuff. No time for pics though.

While we were out, some personal watercraft licensing students were getting in some practice. I'm not fond of these things, but glad to see the yacht harbor get some business.

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It wasn't the kind of day we had expected, but still nice to get out on the water. Any day sailing is better than ...

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kayakers Rescued Off Aomori

I learned of this rescue while researching another, totally unrelated story.

Three weeks ago a married couple and two other men, all serving with the US Air Force at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Japan (the far northern prefecture of Honshu island), rented some kayaks and launched into the ocean.

When they did not return by late afternoon, an informal search was started. When they were not found by next morning, authorities were contacted. The US Navy sent up a C-12 aircraft (Beech King Air for us civilians) which was flown at lower than usual altitude in hopes of improving the chance of spotting the kayaks. The JMSDF launched a P-3 Orion along with Sikorsky UH-60J search and rescue helicopters, while the Japan Coast Guard sent out surface vessels.

Bottom line, the four were found and pulled aboard a Japan Coast Guard boat after being spotted by the P-3 and C-12 and then helicopters.



They were clinging to their overturned kayaks some ten miles (TEN MILES!) out to sea. For an inkling as to how hard it is to see objects on the surface of the ocean from an aircraft, take a look at the US Navy photo below taken from the C-12 and showing the kayaks being approached by a helicopter and the Japan Coast Guard boat.



The kayakers were suffering from hypothermia after so long in water, which I would have to guess would have been around 50 to 55°F, but happily had no other issues. (A fellow pilot of mine on Maui spent a similar amount of time in the water in a life vest after ditching his single engine plane and suffered the loss of bits of flesh from his legs and feet upon which large fish had nibbled).

After this rescue, the US military made sure that restrictions on ocean activities, which the Japanese government had initiated after the March 11 tsunami, were applied to US military personnel as well. Yes, they can go to the beaches and bays manned by Japanese lifeguards, but open ocean adventures in the quake affected area are out for now.

More importantly, the lessons we should take away from this incident are to never engage in a moderate or greater risk activity (anything on, in, or over the water in my opinion) unless you are experienced with it or accompanied by someone who is, and have a plan and a schedule that you leave with someone on shore who will notify authorities if you don't get back on time. These folks were lucky in that their vehicles were found on the beach where they launched, giving rescue units a starting point for planning search patterns. In addition, the US military and the Japanese government responded with an amazing array of equipment and rescue personnel who prevented this outing from ending in tragedy for several families.

Be safe out there.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gaggle of Kayaks? Goofy Us.

Lake Hinuma was as a high water level today. Lots of ocean water was in the lake due to a very high tide early this morning. The winds were from the north east for a change at about 7 mph. The direction made launching and docking much easier as the dock is aligned north-south. The breeze was just enough to give us a good ride and cool us from the 77°F air temperature. Water temp was 75°F, so no need for a wetsuit. Indeed, I was is shorts and Notre Dame (alma mater of my #2 daughter) polo shirt . Of course, I had a "splash guard" - Kimie - so I didn't even get wet much. Skies were overcast and we were on the alert for possible thundershowers, but they never materialized.

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Hey Dude!

Due to the high water level, large fishing boats from Hinuma Yacht Harbor could not navigate under the lower bridges which cross the river on along the route from the lake to the sea. No other sailboats came out to play either. That didn't mean we were entirely alone, though, several "jet skis" were in the water when we arrived. (Happily we neither saw them or heard them while sailing, except for a few where were anchored during lunch hour).

Also, a bevy (brace? gaggle? school?) of kayaks left the Yacht Harbor as we were setting up, for a paddle across the lake. Kimie learned the expedition was part of a course at Ibaraki University. Cool.

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Stake City

We braved the new bamboo fishing net stakes dotting the north part of the lake, which Kimie refers to as "stake city", and took a leisurely downwind cruise along the northeast shoreline to scope it out close up. This required a couple of jibes to stay between the stakes and the shoreline. Well, it was leisurely for me, but Kimie wasn't so confident in my abilities and thus rather anxious, but it all went smoothly.

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The university bunch was off having lunch somewhere on the north shore

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Fishing boats and what looks like a Laser (left) or SeaHopper stored on the bank.

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It's good being skipper.

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A buoy marking the location of a radiation monitor. Lake Hinuma is about 125 km or 78 miles from Fukushima Dainichi power plant. So far, no worries.

After docking, we put Bluesette in her parking space and took down the sails, leaving the mast up. It was well after 1 PM by then and we were hungry. Mama's Kitchen would take care of that, and we'd tidy up after.

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I had spaghetti with mushrooms and spiced cod roe while Kimie opted for the teishoku which featured stuffed peppers. Mine included dessert, about which 'someone we know' was envious.

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After lunch we headed toward home, stopping at a garden center to pick up some potted flowers, and a grocery store for dinner and odds and ends.

After the shopping, I settled back into the passenger seat again. I felt tired and thought of the unloading and other chores we'd have to do at home - Kimie's turn to walk Momo the Wonder Dog, my turn to cook dinner. Then it struck me - (smack) Ooof! * - we'd forgotten to take the mast down and cover Bluesette. A half an hour later, we were done and back on our way home, feeling kind of "dinghy" for our lapse, yet happy that we realized it before getting much farther from the yacht harbor.

Until next, sweet sailing.

*Firesign Theatre, "Nick Danger, Third Eye"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blue Lido 14

To Japan where we reside
We brought a sailboat new and pristine
And she taught us how to sail
In the class of Lido 14s

So we sailed Hinuma Lake
On Sweet Bluesette we made the scene
Hull of blue and sails pure white
A most lovely Lido 14

We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, blue Lido 14
We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, Blue Lido 14

And our friends are all on board
Mama’s Kitchen awaits on shore
And the band begins to play













We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, blue Lido 14
We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, Blue Lido 14

[Trim the jib, Kimie, trim the jib
How’s that Panda? How’s that?
Prepare to come about, ready?
Ready!
Ready....about!]

As we live a life of ease (A life of ease)
Mama’s Kitchen serves all we need (Serves all we need)
Pasta lunch or fish supreme,
In our blue (In our blue) Lido 14 (Lido 14, ha, ha)

We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, blue Lido 14
We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, Blue Lido 14
We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, blue Lido 14
We all sail in a blue Lido 14
Blue Lido 14, Blue Lido 14