Monday, July 29, 2013


Is what the Japan Meteorological Agency calls the rainfall that Japan is receiving.   Lucky for us, we're getting an amount that our garden likes.  In other prefectures though, such as Yamaguchi and Shimane, downpours have swollen rivers and caused floods, mudslides and destruction of some roads and homes.   There is one known death and two people are missing.  In Hagi, Shimane Prefecture,where 1600 residents had to evacuate, they received 138.5mm (5.5 inches) in a single hour!

As good a time as any to be unable to sail, I suppose.  K is taking a raft of university exams - two down and more five to go over the next several days, while  I am on sick leave from  having somehow (I don't really know what I did) torn a muscle or ligament in my lower back last Friday.

Our okra plants like the rain we've been getting.   Stubborn to get started, I've been waiting week after week for them to grow beyond scrawny little twigs,  they have suddenly taken off.   I noted the beginnings of fruit several days ago.   Today each plant had a flower and to my surprise the fruit had grown rather huge.  I cut off four of them as they were already too large to be good for eating.    Fortunately there are lots of little ones  and I'll keep a watchful eye on them so we harvest them in time to eat.

This is my first attempt at growing okra.  I didn't know they were such beautiful plants.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Lido - 2010 Super Bowl Charity Regatta

When I was in 8th grade I could barely pass the required Physical Education class.  Then, in 9th grade I had a PE teacher who inspired me.  I don't know what it was about Mr. Vineyard; his infectious smile, sense of humor, kindness towards his students or his own fitness; but he inspired me to make the effort to improve.   No "pep talks" like Bill Cosby describes in the following clip, just consistent encouragement.

I started working out in my own free time.  Situps, pullups, running laps at lunch hour.  I worked at it all semester long.  The results were amazing.  No, I didn't come in first in some competition - though I could usually place 2nd or 3rd in running a 440 or an 880 yarder - but I did go from a "D" to a "B" in those few months.  Mr. Vineyard considered that success, and so do I.

Do you remember the Olympic Summer games of 1992 in Barcelona?

"Unlike Carl Lewis and Daley Thompson, Derek Redmond is not a name that conjures up memories of Olympic gold medals. But it is Redmond who defines the essence of the human spirit. Redmond arrived at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona determined to win a medal in the 400. The color of the medal was meaningless; he just wanted to win one. Just one. Down the backstretch, only 175 meters away from finishing, Redmond is a shoo-in to make the finals. Suddenly, he heard a pop in his right hamstring. He pulls up lame, as if he had been shot. As the medical crew arrives, Redmond tells them, 'I'm going to finish my race.' Then in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions of people since then, Redmond lifted himself up, and started hobbling down the track. His father raced out of the stands, and helped his son cross the finish line to the applause of 65,000 people. Redmond did not win a medal, but he won the hearts of people that day and thereafter. To this day, people, when asked about the race, mention Redmond, and can't name the medal winners."

These days, I don't enter competitions.   My race is against the clock of age and my focus is on being present, diet, and exercise, which if done right have been shown to slow the clock and make the added time more meaningful.  Out on the water our objective is to have fun, enjoy each other's company, and improve our ability to manage Bluesette.

I understand those who have a desire to compete, and don't knock it.  But one needs to find happiness regardless of the outcome of this race or that, and to appreciate others whether they win or don't.    Tillerman of Proper Course displays what to me is a sensible attitude toward racing.  He likes to compete, he works at his skills, and he'd like to win.  But at the end of the day, win or lose, he knows what really makes his life worthwhile.

Further reading: Psychology Today Why Do We Have an Obsession With Winning?
from which I took the story of Derek Redmond.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Floating Fish Bowl

Excellent sailing on lake Hinuma today.  We were late getting going this morning and the harbor was somewhat busy.   A couple of students who we used to see sailing with their school club, were back for some fun with Sea Hoppers.  A Laser was also on the water.  The students have moved on from sailing with their school and now learning to handle commercial fishing boats on the ocean.  Tough career choice with the world's tuna stocks over-fished and fuel costs going ever higher.

I measured the wind at six knots gusting to seven as we shoved off.   The air has been cooler in recent days - 24ºC instead of the previous weeks of 34º.    Much more comfortable, if a little too cool when soaking wet, as we we eventually found out.

No video this trip as I have misplaced the "shoe" which attached the camera to its mount.  In addition, I had left the camera set for high speed and flash - neither of which was good for taking the best pictures.

As we tacked across the lake, a *bleeping* speed boat came up the river from the ocean.  Why they would want to run a speed boat on such a small lake, I don't  know, but its wake and smelly exhaust were annoying.

We set up on a long downwind run with sails wing and wing so K could serve up cold tea and water and share a peanut butter and oat bar as it was after lunch time.

As we skirted the north shore we admired two new houses.   Lakefront homes with boat ramps - nice set up.  Dream on...

We decided it was time to start a beat to windward to get closer to the harbor again.  The wind was picking up with white caps forming, more splashing through the waves, water over the rail, and work.    We soon had about ten or so liters of water in the boat.  That's when a small striped mullet about  20 cm long jump over the transom and into the water inside the boat.  We were now a fish bowl on the water.   I eased the main so K could bend down and scoop him out.  From then on we were too occupied with sailing the boat to be able to take pictures.  The wind was now about 10 knots.

Soon after that we started to come about but for whatever reason - the skipper not using enough rudder quickly or the crew trying to pull the jib across too soon - we stalled in mid turn and started to go over.  K let the jib go and scrambled to the windard rail and I, already on the leeward side with water pouring over the lee rail, popped the main sheet.   We manged to prevent a complete knockdown, but the boat was really swamped now.  We let the sails luff as we bailed a goodly amount of water out.  I then  pulled in the main just a bit to give us forward motion as K continued to bail.   When we had gotten enough water out, we gave it another go making sure to enter with enough speed and waiting until the bow was through the wind before pulling the jib across.  Back in business.  A topic for later discussion and education between us.

A few more tacks and we were back at the harbor at the precise time we had put down on the log-out sheet.  A nice safety feature at Hinuma Yacht Harbor is that boats sign out and give an ETA for their return.  If you don't show up, they start looking for you with the binoculars.

As Bluesette was pulled up the ramp, Mr. Hakuta pulled the drain plug on the transom and
let bucket loads of lake water drain out.  We must of had 20 liters still in the boat.

We washed Bluesette, put her away, and got showered off ourselves, finally arriving at Moma's Kitchen at 2:30 PM.   Accommodating as always, the let K order the set lunch even though is passed the time they normally serve that.  She had salad, a tray with fried chicken, rice, tofu, cucumbers, and miso soup.

I enjoyed pasta with tomatoes, zucchini, and komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach)  and a nice combination of herbs.    At home I would have made whole grain pasta and wouldn't use any oil, but Mama does her best to meet my plant based diet needs.

K had a dessert of cake and fruits while I finished my pasta and iced tea.

As we went to pay there were fresh bagels cooling on the main counter.  K bought some to take home as well as a ponytail hair band which was hand made by Mama.  Another satisfying end to a fun and exciting day on, and almost in, the water.  

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sailing on Marine Day

Marine Day, 海の日 (umi no hi) is a public holiday in Japan established in 1995 as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and for hoping for the prosperity of our maritime nation.   Good day to go sailing!

The day started out very warm with little wind.  Wasps had once again started to build a nest on Bluesette - this time on a tie-down line - so we had to deal with them before getting the boat ready for sailing.  Ended up killing two of them (namu amida butsu), but it was self defense.  We also reluctantly resorted to spraying insecticide on the line to discourage a return of any wasps. 

After we launched, the winds were pretty low, perhaps 2 or 3 knots.   Soon we found a bit more breeze and that made all the difference in the heat.  K looked like "the sailing nun" in her spf 50 rash guard hoodie...

There were some jet skis out on the lake, but for the most part they gave us a wide berth.  

The clouds were gradually building up as was the wind.  On one tack I wanted to get a picture of Gilligan's "Minnow" - a derelict power boat which was a victim of 3/11/2011 that remains along the shore as a reminder of that day.  As we approached, K got this pic which captured a fish on the surface on our bow and a duck taking off as well as the wrecked boat.

I'm surprised that no one came to take at least the outboard motors, which though probably worthless at this point, might have been worth a considerable sum when the boat first wrecked.

Another couple joined us on the lake in a Yamaha Semi (Cicada).  It's a similar sized boat as the Lido 14, but has slightly less sail and a lighter, more shallow, hull.    The wind at this point about 8 knots and we were really enjoying ourselves.

Soon after that however I couldn't take photos as the wind continued to build to about 12 knots and whitecaps started to form.  We began taking a little water over the lee rail even as I continually let out sail.  We've both lost weight in the last year and we are now below the normal crew weight for a Lido 14.  Perhaps we should get a sandbag or two for ballast?

Anyway, I knew the weather forcast called for more wind and chances of rain.  The clouds were continuing to build along with the breeze, so pretty soon I turned down wind to gradually bring us closer to the harbor.  With the whisker pole out and the centerboard raised we made good time toward the north shore.  K asked if we should think about returning to the harbor, to which I replied that that is what I was doing, but as we were sailing, it could not be done in a straight line, a concept which she understands perfectly well.  She was just checking to make sure we were both on the same page.

As the character Harry Callahan said in the movie "Magnum Force", "a man's got to know his limitations".   While I'm not a big fan of those movies, the quote is dead on, and I do know our limitations and try not to push the envelope.

Finally, on a beam reach we flew across the lake toward the dock.  We raised the centerboard sukoshi to make sure it wouldn't hang up when we reached the shallow waters of the dock.  K readied the grappling hook and I took the jib sheet from her.  When we got close, I let loose the jib, gradually let out the main, and finally, with both sails luffing, turned upwind toward the dock so K could catch hold.   To folks ashore, we looked like we really knew what we doing. ;)   We even got a compliment from the harbor owners who had been watching our sailing earlier from the club house.   Made my day.

By the time we had put Bluesette to bed, the wind was pretty strong and white caps dotted the lake.   More weather than we care to handle.  Three sailboats were on the water including a Laser and a Sea Hopper who were really enjoying the strong breeze.

After a shower and change of clothes, we were off to Mama's Kitchen for lunch.

K started with a salad of lettuce, string beans, cucumber and tomato.

K's main course was rice, soup, potato croquet, fried chicken, salad, cucumber and tofu.

I just had pasta with a spicy tomato sauce,  cucumber and asparagus slices.

K finished with a dessert of banana tart and fresh fruits.  (Where does she put it all?)

On the way out, K bought a couple of freshly baked bagels to take home.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

50 Meter Tall Sails

The University of Tokyo has designed a sail system for use on cargo vessels utilizing collapsible hollow rigid sails. The system could shave up to 30 percent off the fuel needed for a typical voyage.

(Credit: University of Tokyo)
The gigantic sails telescope so can be automatically controlled to provide maximum assistance according to wind conditions.

Further improvements in fuel consumption could of course be made by slowing down. Already many ships are sailing at reduced speeds, slowing from 25 knots to 20 knots. Maersk, the world's largest shipping line, has slowed all the way down to 12 knots - less than the speed of pure sailing ships in 19th century. The has resulted in 30% less fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions and saves them tens of millions of dollars per year in fuel costs. So imagine combining the two strategies.

While a return to pure sail will come in the long term, an advantage to the University of Tokyo system is that it can be retrofitted to existing ships. They are hoping to start seeing them in use by 2016.

Irony of irony if we start shipping fossil fuels using sail powered ships.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Toshi Seeger (1922 - 2013)

Toshi Seeger, wife of folk singing legend Pete Seeger, has died at age 91.

New York Times article is here.

In 2007 she was executive producer of a PBS documentary "Pete Seeger. The Power of Song" which happily for us can be watched today on YouTube:

You youth who don't recognize the name will surely remember the group "Peter, Paul, and Mary".

Toshi was the person who taught Pete to sail. Their sloop "Clearwater" has sailed the Hudson River educating people about environmental issues since 1969  becoming a serious force for change.

As comedian Norm Crosby used to say, "Behind every great man, there is a great woman. Pushing him, nagging him, saying 'go ahead stupid!' "   :)

Toshi was the woman behind Pete Seeger.  Rest in peace.  And thank you.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stroke, Stroke, Stroke

Heat stroke.

It's been hot in Japan.  On Sunday (July  7th) it was already 34°C  (93° F) in 65% humidity as we set up Bluesette at 10:30 AM.    The wind was much less than I'd hoped for, making matters worse.    Seven Sea Hoppers and Lasers languished on the water waiting for a breeze so they could get on with qualifying for the Nationals this year.

The seventh sailor was feeling heat stress and had come back in to wait for the wind.

Across Japan, hundreds of people get hospitalized with heat stroke on days like this - from school kids doing athletics, to over zealous joggers, to old folks who simply don't have air conditioning.  Sadly,  a few die.

As we sailed down wind after launching - feeble wind though it was - K wondered aloud how long it would take to get back.   I was just sailing away from the race area, and was outwardly pretty confident that the wind would pick up.   In my mind, however, I was recalling another scorcher of a day in 2010 that saw us breaking out the paddle to get home.  I named that post "Pancake Hot Cake Sunday".

Happily, I soon started to see some ripples on the water, and as I changed tack toward the wind, we picked up speed.  For the rest of the day the wind was about 8 knots giving us good sailing conditions and some reprieve from the heat.  

Here are 8 minutes of unedited sailing of one of our tacks across the lake.   Lots of striped mullet were jumping and one slammed into the jib and bounced off the fore deck - ouch.

For those who missed the mullet hitting the jib (hint: it happens before the 5 minute mark),  here it is in slow motion:

We came back to the harbor at 1:00 PM.  Two hours was enough this day.  As we washed down Bluesette, I came across a wasp nest under the port rail!  They didn't seem very happy, especially when I removed their nest.  Luckily, it was very small, so there weren't many wasps to dodge.  Sorry my little friends, no hitchhikers.

I was really beat by the time we got Bluesette put away and headed for a cool shower.  The air conditioning of the new club house was most welcome.  

Mama's Kitchen was the next oasis along our way.  

K had a salad, pasta with spicy roe topping, and desert.

I enjoyed a teishoku tray of green mellon and blueberries (in lieu of fried chicken); onigiri (rice ball),  pickled kabu (turnip), tofu, and iced sōmen (thin wheat noodles) with tomatoes and cucumber and iced tsuyu to dip it in.

Mama's Kitchen bliss...

Our sweet doggie Momo (the Wonder Dog) was waiting for us with a wagging tail when we got home.  She had spent the day on guard duty - laying in the shade - and was ready for her second walk of the day. 

Thankfully, K walks Momo in the evening.  I was ready for a nap.

Until next,  sweet sailing.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kristen Au - Wow!

Kristen Au plays saxophone and clarinet and also sings - as she does in the following rendition of (what else?) Bluesette.

Kristen has a Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto and of Education from the University of York.   She has been commissioned as Band Officer of the Air Cadet League of Canada. (Note for Canadian youth: the recruitment queue forms on the left...).

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sailor Spud

I harvested our potato crop recently.  Did pretty well for a novice I think.  We netted 7 kilograms (15 lbs) from our mini-garden.  Everything from ping pong ball size to large fist sized ones.    Very tasty and no pesticides, or insecticides used.

Sailors and potatoes go way back.  In movies involving American military life, there is often a scene of sailors peeling potatoes (though I prefer to eat the skins whenever possible).

I had a neighbor - Merle - when I was at university who had served aboard the BB-38 USS Pennsylvania during World War II.   He was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  At the time, the Pennsy was in dry-dock, but still received battle damage.

When they got underway again, they went over to Maui and anchored in Lahaina Rhodes, a sheltered area between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, to re-provision the ship.    Merle was sent ashore to find potatoes.  The Pennsylvania was the largest battleship that US Navy ever had, with a compliment of over 1300 officers and men, so they could go through a lot of potatoes in a hurry!   And Maui didn't grow a lot of them as you might imagine - mostly sugar cane and pineapple.   So basically, they got every potato on the island.

How many sailors does it take to peel a potato?

Potatoes were first cultivated by the Inca about 2300 years ago.   When Spain conquered the Inca in the early 16th Century, they brought some back to Spain and eventually families of Basque sailors raised them in northern Spain as a staple that could be taken to sea.

Sir Walter Raleigh planted some 40,000 acres of them in Ireland in the late 16th century, from where they spread to other parts of Europe.

Speaking of Sir Walter - here's Bob Newhart in 1961 doing a skit about him:

Potatoes are the fourth largest food crop in the world after corn, rice, and wheat.  The diet of every successful civilization has been based on one of those starches or variant thereof.  In the case of Pacific Islanders it was sweet potatoes and taro/kalo/dalo.

Of course so called "French fried" potatoes, while the most consumed vegetable of Americans (No, I'm not making that up), is not in the same category being filled with fat, trans fatty acids, sodium, and acrylamide (a carcinogen). 

My corn is blossoming and I'm looking forward to that small crop - just 20 or so plants in three stages to spread out the harvest.   Other veggies are doing well.  We are starting to get really nice zucchini now, and are eating broccoli regularly. 

Sailing again tomorrow (I hope!).  

Until next, sweet sailing.

From the 'everything you know is wrong' department -  It was the Frenchman Jean Nicot, from whose name the word nicotine is derived, who introduced tobacco to France in 1560, and it was from France, not the New World, that tobacco reached England.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cloudy With A 70% Chance Of Striped Mullet

Saturday June 29th was hazy with one of those skies that begs the question "will this clear up or is will it rain?"  The wind was looking OK, so we went to the lake.  I have a new friend here who is a Doctor of Science in Meteorology, so maybe I can get him to teach me to be a better judge of conditions.

Along the way we stopped to pick up drinks at a 7-Eleven where we saw their delivery vehicle, a Toyota Coms EV electric vehicle.  One seat, capacious trunk, top speed of 60 kph (10 kph over the local limit) and range at that speed of 50 km on a six hour charge.  Excellent for local deliveries in a rural area with an aging population.  Easy on the environment too - though let's not forget that the electricity for an EV has to come from somewhere and the materials and manufacturing require mining, smelting, machining, etc. - no free lunches in this universe.

When we got to the lake, K was a little worried at first that the wind would be too much for her liking, but I pointed out that there were no white caps on the water and my hand held anemometer was showing 5 to 8 knots.     The wind was coming from the east making for easy launching from the dock which points north into the lake.  Also, when the wind is coming from the east it is more steady as it is coming off the sea.

A patch of blue* and a happy crew....

After about five minutes we passed a red buoy with a flag marking where there was a monitor of some kind on the lake bottom - probably checking the radiation level.

The sky played games as we sailed, getting bright and showing some blue, then clouding over and sending down a light rain - "pineapple juice" my father used to call it on Maui.  Actually, conditions were very good (we were sailing!  that was good!),  though both of us were a little chilled by spray, light rain, and wind.  The air temperature was a comfortable 23°C but the wind on our damp clothes made it feel much less.

The  striped mullet were very active, jumping a meter or more out of the water.   I caught a large one on video as we passed at a distance of only one meter or so.

Here's the video clip:

A small striped mullet leaped into the boat.  K grabbed it and I reached for the camera.   Interesting features don't you think?   Here's his film debut:

These fish are rather slimy due to all the algae in the lake (a result of farm runoff) and it left a green mess on the seat for us to clean up.  K's gloves smelled pretty bad too - it's good to be skipper at such times.  ;)

After we took Bluesette out of the water were taking down the sails and washing her off, directly overhead there was a loud boom! - cloud to cloud lightening.  K commented that we should get the mast down.  Uh, good idea.  Lightening is not something I'd care to encounter while sailing a plastic boat with an aluminum mast and boom.   Did I say "boom"?!   I say Nay, nay.

Next stop, the showers and of course, Mama's Kitchen.

Tofu with sesame, kabu (turnip), sweet potato, veggie rice pilaf.

Another perfect day - aren't all of the days one spends sailing perfect?

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sailing photos by K, videos by Pandabonium
Trivia: *A Patch of Blue (1965) was an academy award winning film starring Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters, and Elizabeth Hartman.  If you've never seen it, I recommend that you do so.