Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kapoom Theory

The weather this summer has been so uncooperative for sailing that we've grasped at straws and gone out in questionable circumstances.

So, we rolled the dice on October 4th and ended up with more than we bargained for.

By the time we launched the wind was up to 14 knots and while we have sailed in such before in years gone by,  this old Panda has had enough of water coming over the rail and flexing muscles to control the main sheet and tiller full time.

K seemed to think it was fun, if a bit scary. I just thought it was scary. Leaving the dock was smooth enough, but then two striped mullet leaped into the cockpit at my feet as if by cue!   K handed me a bailing scoop and with one deft move I was able to fling both fish over the transom in one go.  There was just a bit of green slime left on deck afterward.

We rocketed across the lake in only five minutes. The sky was lovely and the mountains 20 miles to the west were clear, but with water coming over the rail, this skipper was tiring fast and worried about his boat and his crew, so came about and shot back toward the safety of the harbor.

Once there I tried to come about parallel and close to the dock but missed it and was too far downwind to make it.  We went out a ways for a second try, but I did no better, so at last K jumped over the side with the painter walked us toward the dock handing the painter to Mr. Hakuta.   As we got close, I jumped over the side as well to hand the stern line to the younger Mr. Hakuta so that he and his dad could guide Bluesette to the sendai as K and I walked ashore.

It was that kind of day.

We took Bluesette to a quiet area and gave her a wash.

Only one other sailboat ventured out from Hinuma Yacht Harbor that day, a new Laser.   He didn't stay out for very long either.   I snapped a pic of the Laser before the owner took the sails down.

We'll wait for more gentle conditions...

After a hot shower we went for lunch at the hotel IkoinomuraHinuma before heading home with the contents of my soaked wallet spread on the rear deck of our Honda Vezel to dry out as we drove home.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Bluesette by 廣部好美・北川絵理子 Yoshimi Hirobe, Eriko Kitagawa

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

So Good

Japan has had the weirdest Summer in the nearly 11 years that Pandabonium has called it home. It was as if tsuyu or "rainy season" never stopped. Finally, we were able to align rain, wind, holidays, and K's work schedule to get out on the water today.

Last weekend offered false promises as although the big rains of two conspiring typhoons had subsided, the water level in Hinuma was still so high that it covered the pier which leads from the launching ramp to the floating docks, thus preventing the launch of any boats. Even now, the water level on the river leading from the lake to the sea is so high that most fishing boats still cannot navigate under the bridges to get to the ocean.

Last week the pier was under the surface of the lake!  In fact, Mr. Hakuta indicated that it came to the base of the top right Kanji character in the yellow sign ("no entry").   That is well over a meter above the decking of the pier.

A bit of excitement occurred in prepping the boat as I discovered some passengers while opening the cover. At first I thought it was a little tree frog as we had last year, but on close inspection, it turned out to be a rather large spider. Nearby, there was a ゲジゲジ - "gejigeji" - trying to hide under the out haul line. Gejigeji are a kind of centipede - not as fearsome as those in Hawaii, but very common in Japanese houses (even boats evidently) and while not as poisonous as the centipedes of Hawaii, they do sting. Happy to say I've never been stung by either kind, though both of my daughters were while growing up in Hawaii. I have since discovered that the spider is not harmful to humans. It is called "Huntsman" because instead of catching its prey in a web, it hunts and pounces.

A gejigeji tries to hide under the out haul line.

This female Huntsman spider looked plenty scary to Pandabonium.

Following these discoveries came a lot of yelling by the skipper at the crew to leave them alone as the crew ignored the skipper and attempted to "shoo" them away, which only succeeded in driving them further into the boat. Isn't sailing fun? Well, yes it is. The trouble arises when you don't sail often enough and freeloaders take up residence in the boat. Lesson learned. Visit the boat and clean it every few weeks, whether you go sailing or not.

I thought we would have winds of about 10 knots from the get go today, but even though we arrived in late morning, the wind was nearly calm.

At last, we launched onto a fairly flat lake under the power of our new paddle in the hands of K. After a few minutes of slow going, the wind started to pick up and we spent our remaining time on water with a lovely 6 or 7 knot breeze under clear skies with unlimited visibility.  


 While putting Bluesette away, I decided to take some pics around the launching ramp.   I glanced at K who was taking down the jib and could not resist taking her picture.

"And now for my grand finale..."
Perhaps it was the camera that took her focus off of what she was doing...  but instead of unscrewing the jib, she accidentally disconnected the fore stay, causing the mast to fall backward!  The mast hinge and the boom kept the mast from completely toppling over.

Critters and mishaps notwithstanding, it felt so good to get back to sailing...

Until next, sweet sailing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sailing - A Deal With The Devil?

I saw this boat at Otaru Shukutsu Marina Yacht Club in Hokkaido, Japan in July and loved the name. "Mephistopheles" is, of course, the demon of German folklore and central to the story of Faust trading his soul for unlimited knowlege.

We sailors all seem to make a sort of "deal with the devil" when we decide to purchase a boat, don't we?

For me, it is not one I would wish to recant. I think most sailors would agree - I can see it in their eyes and read it in their blogs.

Daina Krall, Live in Paris singing "Devil May Care" - enjoy.

Until next, sweet sailing!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

For Peat's Sake?

The Scottish castle looking building of the linked post was one of the places we planned to visit on this trip to Hokkaido.   It is the site of the original Nikka Whisky Distillery, founded in 1934 by Taketsuru Masataka.

Masataka was born to a family which had distilled sake since 1733, but in 1918 he went to Scotland  to study chemistry at the University of Glasgow.  He also worked in a number of whisky distilleries while there and in 1920 married Jessie Roberta "Rita" Cowan of Middlecroft, Kirkintilloch.

Rita and Masataka in 1920
Returning to Japan with his bride, he helped establish a whisky distillery for a company which would later become Suntory.     He started Nikka in 1934 and sold its first whisky in 1940.   The reason for choosing Yoichi, Hokkaido as the site for his distillery was that he thought that the location most resembled Scotland in its climate.  The fact that Hokkaido has plenty of peat - burned to dry the barley and thus add flavor to Scottish whiskies - may have played a role in that decision as well.  Oh, for peat's sake, why would a person want to live in a climate like that of Scotland?   Give me the tropics any day.

K with the barrel head sign inside the entrance.
Whisky is not of particular interest to either of us, but I decided to take K up there because she had enjoyed watching an NHK Asadora (morning drama) called "Massan" which was based on the lives of Masataka and Rita.  Because of the drama, the distillery has become a popular destination for Japanese tourists.  Tour buses roll in and out all day long.  Visitors can stroll around the original distillery buildings on a self-guided tour (with signs in Japanese and English) or take a guided tour at specified times during the day.   Admission is free.

The original buildings make for an interesting tour, while on the adjacent land, Asahi runs the modern distillery.

Still life?  Ahem.   From these stills, the whisky was decanted into large vats in the next room, and ultimately, into oak barrels for aging.  A large screen at the entrance to this room plays a video showing how these stills were operated.

Inside one of many warehouses, there is a display of aging barrels along with audio-video and step by step  displays showing how barrels are made and what the pieces look like at each step.

After visiting an aging room, K seems hardly to have aged at all. ;)

Named for Rita, this was the management office in the center of the plant.

The Taketsuru home.   Originally built in 1935, it was rebuilt by Yoichi town after WWII.  Short commute, eh?

 K inside the Nikka Whisky museum, which is filled with personal and distillery artifacts.  There is also a bar in there where you can purchase whisky samples.

Some of the photographs and other memorabilia on display.

The Taketsurus.

At end of the self-tour, K went into the sampling room and had free samples of whisky and the apple wine which they started producing while waiting for the first single malt whisky to age.

Pandabonium at the monument to Masataka Taketsuru

In July of 2015, Nikka Whisky won several awards at the International Spirits Challenge in London, including Distiller of the Year and the Best International Blend Trophy along with six gold  medals for individual products.

Rita passed away in January of 1961 at age 64.  Masataka passed in 1989.

We had lunch at the distillery restaurant which was quite good.   Our timing was just right as some tour groups were arriving just as we were leaving.   We then visited the gift shop before heading to the train station to go to our next stop - Otaru City.

The distillery as seen from the Yoichi train station.

JR Yoichi parking lot.
Sittin' at Yoichi Station, got a ticket for my destination....

All aboard!
つづく (to be continued)

Until next,  sweet sailing.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Curses!, Thwarted Again

And Bluesette doesn't even have thwarts.

Last Saturday the weather turned against us once more.   It seems it is either raining or too windy whenever we have a day free to go sailing.   Tomorrow looked really promising with winds of 5 to 10 knots and sunny skies.  K made the call this evening to the yacht harbor to let them know we were coming.

Alas, the weather tomorrow will be excellent as I expected, but due to the typhoon rains of the last two days (which many of you have seen on news casts around the world) Lake Hinuma is filled nearly to the top of the levee and the yacht harbor launching ramp.   Our pier, which leads from the launching ramp to the floating dock,  is underwater.   They won't be launching any boats until the lake's waters recede.

While our neighborhood was spared the heavy rains and flooding of Typhoons Etau and Kilo, just 40 miles to our West the city of Joso was inundated when the levee of the Kinugawa River was breached.    Scenes of people by rescued by helicopter from rooftops filled the news.

We are thankful that we have so many helicopters to deal with such situations around Japan and that the cities and prefectures stage practice emergency drills which keep everyone involved ready to help.  (K often participates in such drills in Ibaraki as an Japanese/English interpreter.)

I have a new respect for typhoons.   Just days ago I was downplaying their potential for damage as they are often a low energy event - like a tropical depression or storm.   But while they don't always pack the winds of a cyclone or hurricane, they can still bring huge amounts of water.  

Until next, sweet sailing.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Beat The Heat

In July of this year, 24,567 people in Japan were taken to hospital by ambulance due to complications from the heat (mostly heat stroke).  39 of those people were dead on arrival.   Fortunately, Pandabonium had planned an escape for us up north to Hokkaido, where temperatures were ten or so degrees Fahrenheit lower for the last week in July.

K drove us to Narita in her Honda Vezel (sold as HR-V in the USA).   This was the first time she had it on the Expressway since getting it last September and she was a little nervous as her previous car, the Honda Insight, felt a bit unstable at those speeds.  To our relief, the Vezel behaved well - rock solid in fact - though the fuel efficiency dropped from her usual 52 mpg  or more to around 30 mpg at around 65 mph.  Oh well, it was only a 40 minute drive.  We left the car with a car park company which gave us a ride to the airport just a few minutes away.

Must be fun to work on the ramp in the blazing sun. Not.

The cabin crew finally boarded and we were soon to follow.  Note that the pilot has put up a shade in the cockpit windows.

We took an inexpensive ride in a crowded Airbus A320 (with apologies to my youngest daughter, who works for Boeing).   It was a quick trip, just 1.5 hours to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, from where we boarded a JR train to the JR Sapporo station.

Why didn't we take the Shinkansen?,  you may ask.   Well, I for one would have loved to, however, at this time the Seikan Zuidou - the tunnel which connects Honshu and Hokkaido - is not wired with the high voltage necessary for a Shinkansen line.   So far, people have taken an overnight sleeper train from Tokyo to Hokkaido.   That train will soon be removed from service when the higher voltage wiring is installed in the tunnel. 
he sleeper trains are also being eliminated because ridership is off something like 80% of what it was in the 1980s.  

So sometime in the next year, you will only be able to reach Hokkaido by rail on a Shinkansen train.   Many people will be sad to see the romantic "Blue Sleeper" trains (the Cassiopea and the Hokutosei) go.  But it takes 16 hours from Tokyo to Sapporo and for us, 16 hours is time we don't have to spare on a short vacation - nostalgia or no. 

We stayed at a hotel Hotel Monterey Sapporo, which is just a five minute walk from the JR train station.

Our fourth floor room had a view of sorts of the Sapporo TV Tower.

In the morning we caught a highway express bus (at the train station) for Yoichi City - about an hour and twenty minutes with some scenic shoreline for the last 20 minutes or so of the ride.

Within minutes of getting off the bus, we were standing in front of what looked for anything like the entrance to a Scottish castle.  What is this thing doing in Hokkaido of all places?

つづく (to be continued)

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Shelter From The Storm

While we have a more substantial garage than the average Japanese household, it being a fully enclosed one car type, it isn't exactly spacious.  With three bicycles and a car in there, along with various tools and stored items, we were pretty much at the limit, so adding a recumbent trike was not going to work.   I needed another shelter for the trike.

Bicycle shelters are not uncommon here, but they usually are erected over bare ground or gravel which results in humidity problems (read "rust").    So I went about building something with a raised floor.

A year or so ago I had replaced Momo's large bench with a smaller one which is easier for her, as an older dog, to jump onto.  The old bench was set aside and was no longer in use.   I unbolted the legs of the old one which left me with two 90 cm square platforms with rails on the bottom.

I purchased a suitably sized shelter kit made of aluminum tubing and vinyl covering.  Well, I should say that most were too small, being designed for one bike and some were too large.   I went with "too large", but it worked out fine.  I bought three sheets of 90 x 180 cm plywood (painted on one side, as suggested by K) and cut them into pieces with a circular saw to make a floor for my "trike garage".  The floor with base is heavy enough to prevent even high winds from moving it.

I screwed a center strip of plywood to hold the two platforms together, then added two larger pieces to form the front and back of the floor.   Then, I attached the base of the aluminum tube frame of the shelter to the edge of the floor using some electrical conduit straps.  I drilled countersunk holes for the flooring screws so that the floor is flat with no screw heads sticking up.

K and I carried that into position and added the rest of the frame and the cover, which is held down by elastic cords that go through gromets in the cover and are wrapped around the frame.   The garage measures about 160 cm wide by 220 cm long.   There is a zippered roll-up door at one end and the opening roughly matches the car garage awning width so opens right onto the concrete pad in front of the car garage.

The interior is about 170 cm high along the centerline.
I cut some left over ply to fit into the back of the garage as a shelf, coating the bare wood portion with urethane varnish along with some plywood strips to reinforce it in the center and at the side edges.

I found some plastic ramps at the home center which make it easy to roll  a bike or the trike into and out of the garage.    Now I have a shelter which holds my Raleigh and my trike.   The bottom of the floor is about 11 cm above the ground.   My bike and trike are high and dry in any weather.
Air pump and windscreen fairing (rolled up) on the shelf in the background.  Gekko FX 26 parked inside.  Ramp along the front base for easy entry and exit.  The flag pole has a connection just below the flag for easy mast shortening.

I keep the Raleigh bike along side the Gekko trike.  This gives us a bit more room in the car garage.  When we're not home, it's easy to link the bike and trike together with a security cable and lock.   Of course, most of the time, the door is zipped shut.  The project took about a day to complete. 

The project only took a day to complete.

Saturday's weather lools very promising for sailing (knock on fiberglass).

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, August 31, 2015

What Is One To Do?

August is usually hot for the first three weeks (close to 100º F) and cools off to around 80º F the last week.  But this year was different.   It was in the 80s from around the tenth and there was lots of rain and an overabundance of wind due to a couple of strange typhoons that straddled Japan to the East and the West.  Sigh.

Last month I took delivery of a new toy - an HP Velotechnik (based in Germany) recumbent tricycle which I ride almost daily now - rain or wind be danged.

No doubt I will be ordering another one for you-know-who (and I don't mean Momo).

Momo prefers to sit it out on the bench and watch as Pandabonium and K entertain.

The weather is expected to be beautiful and sunny for September sailing on weekends so I've got my hopes up.  It has been a strange summer weather-wise.

Until next,  sweet sailing!

HP Velotechnik:
Utah Trikes (a distributor in the USA):

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cool Reunion

Back on the water with clouds shading us and light breezes propelling and cooling us.  Finally, a long rainy season had come to a close.   We launched on Saturday, July 25th.  Happily, I remembered to bring the tiller this time.

A boat towing a waterskier and a few jet skis shared the lake, otherwise it was very quiet.   On the far shore a some fishing boats had been tied together and a floor and roof attached over them to form two party platforms.   Adorned with lanterns and flying the Hinomaru flag, the beached craft were ready for an evening of sake, food, and song.   They can be seen toward the end of this 5 minute raw video. Go for the full screen...

Lunch at Ikoinomura Hinuma Resort followed.   We do miss our friends and food at Mama's, but 仕方がない (shoganai)  - it can't be helped.   The resort's restaurant has been renovated with new wood floors and ceilings, and they added some partitions.  The partitions are nice, but it makes it hard for the staff to see the patrons.   As a result, the service is slower than it used to be. 

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Dry Run

As I've said before, Japan has four seasons: Too Cold; Too Wet; Too Hot; Too Windy.

Right now we're inthe middle of too wet, with 4 of the 5 last Saturdays offering rain.   Usually, this season (called "Tsuyu", written 梅雨, literally meaning "plum rain" in English) starts June 8th for us and gives the Kanto plain around Tokyo about 12 rainy days in June, lasting until mid to late July.  This year, as we had 22 rainy days in June, it seems longer than it is.

When the forecast offered a rain free, if cloudy, day, I jumped at the chance to finally get in our first sail of the year.  After breakfast I walked Momo around the block (in a very light rain) packed up my gear and cajoled K into the car.

By the time we reached the harbor, it was overcast, but not raining.  We went through our usual drill of preparing Bluesette for the wind and water.

New ball float on the mast head - check.  Life vests? check. Wind Vane on the mast head - check.  Raise the mast, attach the jib and tie it down, attach the boom, attach the main out haul and main halyard, partly raise the main.  Almost ready.  Whisker pole? check; new combination paddle and grappling hook? check; rudder? check; tiller?  Hmmm.   Where is the tiller?   I'm sure Tillerman doesn't have it.  Oh, yeah.  I left it in our garage where I had taken it with the intent of cleaning and lubricating it.

After that discovery, some sailor talk followed, then K cheerfully said, "It was good practice for us, anyway." 

We took our fruit and Oolong tea up to the club house and had a break.  After that we went back to Bluesette and "practiced" stowing everything and covering her up for next time.  

Dry Run on a Gloomy Day

When we finished we went to nearby Ikoinomura Hinuma Resort  and had a soba lunch before heading home.   Along the way, K stopped at a garden center and bought some flower plants for her flower garden.

Not a bad day considering we never even launched.  Now it's raining again.   More of the same forecast...  

We hope you readers in the US enjoy your 4th of July holiday.

Until next, Sweet Sailing!   (and don't forget the tiller)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Spit and Polish - Mood Indigo

Well, not "spit", just a bucket of water. And in lieu of polish, I used waterproof sandpaper - between 650 and 1500.

The mission was to clean up the hull of Bluesette which had some sun damage on parts of the gel coat.

We took Momo along for company and drove to the Hinuma Yacht Harbor, stopping along the way to pick up some lunch and give Momo a little walk.

Momo found a shady spot under Bluesette's stern and we put her food dish and water dish nearby.

Sanding away at the gel coat was a drag. Uhg! By the time I started it was close to noon and pretty hot. I concentrated on the front port quarter of the boat,as it gets the most sun. It may take another trip or two to finish restoring the finish on the entire hull.

We took a break for lunch on a blanket that K provided.

There were other folks around for the licensing test that was being held that day. One of them had come in a Chevy Suburban and his wife stayed in the car with the air conditioning and motor running the whole time. Yikes. You'd have thought that gasoline were free and climate change a non-issue! Or maybe they just didn't think at all. :0

In the end, unfortunately, I didn't have any rubbing compound to finish off the job. Next time. And next time I'll also be sure to come up on the train early in the day and do the work before it gets so danged hot! And then too I will be able to cover it with wax to protect it against the elements for a while.

On the bright side, the SLO Sail  Canvas cover has performed flawlessly and kept the upper part of Bluesette dry and protected from all the elements. Considering the length of time we've had Bluesette, the amount of work we've had to put into maintenance is pretty minor.

Small price to pay for all the joy we get from sailing Bluesette every year. I try to do the maintenance work in deep gratitude. :)

Indigo?  Well, Bluesette's waterline is indigo in color, so I guess as I worked away above the waterline, my mood was Indigo.

And if you are in that mood...  Here's Doris Day singing Mood Indigo.  Wow.  Some nice trombone licks too!

Until next, Sweet Sailing!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Panda Bears' Picnic 2015

The first Sunday in May we decided to take Momo to one of her favorite parks - Suigo Prefectural Forest Park - for a picnic.  It's on the other side of Lake Kitaura from home and is just a 20 minute ride by car.

The park has nice foot paths through lots of trees and around and over a small lake.  There is also a large grass area for picnics, play, and even outdoor concerts.

They used to allow fishing in the lake, but no more. After we had walked around a while and crossed the suspension bridge we found out why:

This sign warns of the presence of "Mamushi" - a poisonous pit viper common to Japan, Korea, and China.  Two to three thousand people a year get bit by these things in Japan every year and about ten people die from it.    Yipes! I'm glad that Pandabonium and K kept me on the path. - Momo the Wonder Dog

We found a nice spot for our picnic out on the grass under the shade of a young tree.   Pandabonium and K brought things to eat of course.  I had my water dish and bottle.  K shared some of her boiled chestnuts with me!  Yum.

Bananas, a bag of chestnuts, spiced kabocha, and apples.
"A family nearby had brought the kids' bikes.  I heard them say they thought I was "kawaii" (cute)." -Momo 
"As always, it was great fun to picnic.   By the time we were done, I was a little tired and happy to go home for a nap."  - Momo
If you go down in the woods today you're sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today you'd better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today's the day the Panda Bears have their picnic

Every Panda Bear who's been good is sure of a treat today
There's lots of marvellous things to eat and wonderful games to play
Beneath the trees where nobody sees they'll hide and seek as long as they please
That's the way the Panda Bears have their picnic

Picnic time for Panda Bears
The little Panda Bears are having a lovely time today
Watch them, catch them unawares and see them picnic on their holiday
See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout
They never have any cares
At six o'clock their Mummies and Daddies will take them home to bed
'Cause they're tired little Panda Bears

If you go down in the woods today you better not go alone
It's lovely down in the woods today but safer to stay at home
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today's the day the Panda Bears have their picnic

Until next, Sweet Sailing!