In the end, we spent 6 days in Hokkaido, just as we had planned. Although we enjoyed being there and the people were wonderful, I look back at it as a bit of a letdown after all of the anticipation. As I said, the people could not have been nicer and more gracious. Our local agent, Shiba San, did everything he could to make our stay enjoyable and visited every day to make sure that we had everything we needed. It was just not what we had expected . First of all, to get any place in town, it was a $40 cab ride each way. There was simply nothing around the marina that was within walking distance. We had planned on taking a side trip by train to Sapporo, but Carol had broken her foot and had to take it easy. In addition to that, we had lots of work to do on the boat after being at sea for 5 days. We had lots of cleaning and minor repairs to make before leaving on our next leg. Some of the others went to Sapporo and had a great time and hopefully we can visit there sometime soon. Grey Pearl had it first departure of crew, Kel. We are all sorry to see him depart.
As I mentioned above, Carol had a miss-step and broke her foot while in Russia. We were fairly confident that it was broken but decided to verify it after we got to Japan.
While in Hokkaido, we had our wonderful Japanese agent, Shiba San, take us to the local hospital/clinic. It sure is different than in the US! First of all, there are two waiting rooms. One that you just go in, sign up (by the way, the form is so small that I know that there could not have been all of the disclosures and liability limitations as in the US) and wait to be brought into the next “waiting room, which was about 15 minutes. Here, you have to remove your shoes (even me) and put on these slippers that you pick from the shelf. The largest size is about a man’s size 5 slipper and I take a 10 and a half. I am glad that there were no cameras to catch that moment! Anyway, Carol was taken in and examined in about 10 minutes, then had x rays done which confirmed the break. Since it was not broken all the way through (third metatarsal), they recommended no cast and just to be careful for about a month. We asked if we could have copies of the x rays and they agreed, but told us there would be an additional charge on top of the other fees, which up until this point were undisclosed. We held our breath waiting for the bill. After all, Japan is an expensive place to be. The total bill came to 8500 Yen, which is approximately $85 in US dollars. I would hate to see what that would have cost us at home!!
In preparation for leaving to our next stop, we were delving into the various weather reports that were available to us. There was a Typhoon well to the south that was supposed to move out to sea and it looked like it was actually going to, which was great news to us! We had decided to leave the following morning after our discussions but Braun became concerned as he thought he saw something in the latest report that indicated a bit of bad weather. We quickly arranged another meeting of the owners and as quick as that new weather system had appeared, it had disappeared again leaving a great opening for departure. We left at 3am the following morning in the dark, as we had a fairly long one day passage and we wanted to arrive at our next stop, Hachinohe, during the daylight hours. The sun rose around 4 am and stayed out the whole day. The trip was simply magnificent. It was flat calm and as we headed further south, the temperature of the water was increasing also. Before leaving, we said goodbye to our guests Wayne and Carol. Below is a picture of Grey Pearl in the flat calm seas we encountered after leaving Hokkaido…My kind of day!!
We arrived in Hachinohe at about 5pm, two hours before sunset. Hachinohe is an industrial port and we were not expecting a 5 star dock by any means, but man, talk about a dumpy location (literally!!).
We docked against a very rough concrete pier and the last boat there had been either loading or unloading piles of manure or the creatures that make it!! There were piles of it next to the boat and did it ever stink! I only got off the boat to see what time we were leaving the next morning and Carol did not get off at all!! To add insult to injury, the cost of this dock for one night was about $600 PER BOAT!!! We also said a sad goodbye to Wayne and Pat Davis who left Grey Pearl there to head back to the US.
We left Hachinohe with about the same feeling of disappointment as we felt in Hokkaido, but maybe even one step worse. Is this the place we spent all those months planning for and endure the cold of the Aleutian Islands for ?? ALL of those feelings were simply erased in an instant upon our arrival to our next port, Onahama. The trip from Hachinohe was another spectacular, smooth trip and the outside temperature rose to about 80 degrees. It was almost like cruising again in the BVI or Central America. We did have one period of about 5 hours over a two day period that was rough, so we contacted our agent, Furuno San, in Tokyo and asked him if there was another place we could stop along the way. We asked about Onahama and he told us that it would be the same situation as Hachinohe. Not wanting to pay another $600 to tie to a rough pier, we kept after him until he finally agreed that there actually WAS a marina that we could go to and he could arrange it for $100 per night, which sounded like a bargain to us!! We figured it must be a real dump but at least it was not a shipping pier. As soon as we made the arrangements, the seas calmed down. It was very strange. It was not predicted, but the winds had picked up to about 20 knots, right on the nose and made it a little sloppy but it disappeared as fast as it arrived. The marina and facility at Onahama was just breathtaking! All of a sudden, we feel like we had really arrived in the Japan that we were hoping for. The water was 82 degrees, the air temp about the same and the water was as clear as the Caribbean. The Marina facility itself was first class with a cute little restaurant. There were lots of local people on the beach having picnics under their tents and swimming in the crystal clear water.
All of a sudden, we feel like we had really arrived in the Japan that we were hoping for. The water was 82 degrees, the air temp about the same and the water was as clear as the Caribbean. The Marina facility itself was first class with a cute little restaurant. There were lots of local people on the beach having picnics under their tents and swimming in the crystal clear water.
We left reluctantly the following morning and headed to Yokohama, an overnight passage. One of the difficult things about cruising coastal Japan at night is the occurrence of crab pots and Long Line fishing buoys. They are simply everywhere! We were fortunate to have another calm trip and could see most of them with the radar, but we did actually hit one. It was difficult to see and it was too late when I noticed it. Fortunately, we have weed cutters on the prop shaft and we simply chopped it up! We felt great anticipation as the sun rose and we closed in on Tokyo Bay. This was a real milestone for us for some reason. I guess it meant that we had REALLY arrived. Yokohama is a big city and we were all looking forward to a dose of civilization, but really did not know what to expect as far as a marine facility. Well, talk about a pleasant surprise. The climate here is just tropical in the summer and the marine facility is really gorgeous. It has about 1400 slips and they are filled with all kinds and sizes of boats. We saw numerous Hatteras, Viking, Bertram and many other familiar American brands of yachts. I would say that the average size is a bit smaller than in the US, but there were quite a few boats in the 50-60 foot range. Once again, we were greeted so warmly by the people at the marina. As soon as we tied up, they asked if they could meet with us to explain the facility to us. Our slips are surrounded by a huge shopping complex with kind of a New England flair. Tons of restaurants and shops to visit. Carol is VERY happy here (and so am I).
We had arrived at a unique time at this facility. There was a special celebration that we were invited to that evening. It was called “the burning of the ropes”. My understanding (I hope I get this right) is that the ropes on the old fishing boats were of an “honored” status and when they get old and need to be replaced, they have a ceremony, thanking the ropes for their service and then burning them. It is quite a celebration with drums and dancing, followed by a fireworks display. The management at the marina were kind enough to give our group the only “reserved” table at the celebration, which included about 500 people. To our surprise, we were introduced and asked to get up in front of all of the people to make a speech!! I was really shocked. I had nothing prepared but figured, hey, what the heck? I figured that out of the 500 people there, only about 10 understood what I was saying! Braun Jones, who attended high school here and spoke the language), said a few words in Japanese and I think it was appreciated. I know I was impressed!
It is quite a celebration with drums and dancing, followed by a fireworks display. The management at the marina were kind enough to give our group the only “reserved” table at the celebration, which included about 500 people. To our surprise, we were introduced and asked to get up in front of all of the people to make a speech!! I was really shocked. I had nothing prepared but figured, hey, what the heck? I figured that out of the 500 people there, only about 10 understood what I was saying! Braun Jones, who attended high school here and spoke the language), said a few words in Japanese and I think it was appreciated. I know I was impressed!
Ken and Roberta were off to Tokyo to visit with their son, Chris, who lived in Japan and attended college here. He was here for a few days while we were in Onahama and Hokkaido. He was great to have around as he is fluent in both speaking and reading Japanese. It was VERY helpful at dinner as we had no idea what we were ordering, which is dangerous. I noticed on the other side of the table they were cooking a whole squid (not even cleaned) and a whole fish whose eyes, as it was cooked, seemed to bulge almost to the point of popping. That was right in front of Ken, who is a confirmed steak only eater and was kind of spooked by the whole performance.
Sooooo…..we are REALLY enjoying it here in Yokohama. We plan on being here for about 3 weeks and during that time, if we can find a room for less than $750 per night, visit Tokyo, which is about an hour from here by train.