We are well on our way to Japan by the time you read this. We have been out for three nights and have two to go. I expect we will arrive in Hokkaido by late Monday or early Tuesday.
Russia was actually fun for us. Completely the opposite of what we had heard to expect also. We heard that the town was infested with criminals, dirty and dreary (well, it IS a bit dreary). The people we met were friendly and genuine, always willing to go out of their way to help. The whole deal was frightfully expensive considering we only stayed for 5 days and I am sure we could have booked a 5 star hotel in any city in the US for a fraction of what we paid to dock in Kamchatka. The accommodation for yachts is VERY rough.
We went out to dinner most nights and actually found some decent restaurants. One was a Sushi restaurant. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. The other was a place called the Korea House. Carol and I went there with Ken and Roberta and I would have to say that the food was about the best we have had on this whole trip so far. It was not cheap though. You could compare the prices to good US restaurants but the food is also equal or better. Braun, Tina and the Grey Pearl group came in just as we were finishing. They were told that they had no room for them at any time that evening. We had to resort to the old trick of losing our people one at a time at our table and replacing them with one of theirs!! Eventually there were six at the table where at one time there were only four, so they figured it out, but after a bit of begging and good tipping, they relented and let them stay.
COME IN TO MY PARLOR, SAID THE SPIDER TO THE FLY
We were supposed to have round the clock security next to our boats, which we paid for in advance, but unless they were garbed in stealth, I could not say that we had any guards at all. What we did have were two barking (large) dogs, kind of mangy and growly. One of them we made friends with quickly after I fed him biscuits and after that, he welcomed us with whimpering and wagging tail. The other dog, we were warned to stay away from and I had no problem with that as he bared his teeth every time you got close. Both dogs were on leashes and runners so movement was limited. One night we decided to feed the nice dog. I, of course, had these old biscuits from a few years ago and our friends had these gourmet dog treats that I was even tempted to eat. So we each fed the nice dog.
Soon, the other dog, (the mean one, which you can kind of see in the background) noticed that his buddy was getting all of the treats and decided to change his tune and became a tail wagging whimperer too. One of our group, feeling sorry for him, walked over and started tossing him the treats. His whole personality changed and he started inviting her to come a little closer, keeping his fangs well hidden under a kind of phony looking smile. When she came closer and started feeding him from her hand, he lunged out attacking her arms, snarling and biting. We heard the scream as she came around the corner with blood pouring from her arms. Most of the damage was superficial but there was a large, deep fang puncture that would not stop bleeding. We got her onto the boat and after a bit of work, we controlled the bleeding. We immediately called a US doctor in who said that she needed to clean the wound well (we already had), apply an antiseptic and get her on antibiotics right away. Between the three boats, we have enough medical supplies to take care of a small platoon and we of course had about 10 different antibiotics to choose from. The doc prescribed the strongest of the lot and saved us a trip to the hospital. She was in pain for a few days but is feeling fine now.
A Few Observations:
I have to say that the Russians (at least in Petropavlovsk) know how to hold their liquor. At night, it is very common to see many people walking down the street with various forms of liquor and doing a little bit of staggering.
I will say that the standard of living for Russians has improvedDRASTICALLY in the last 25 years. The town is crowded with privateautomobiles. Conspicuously missing were Russian made vehicles. 95% ofthe cars we saw were Japanese. I saw a few Mercedes and BMW’s but theywere an exception as were American cars. Before I forget, I imaginesome of the guys reading this would want to know about the Russianwomen. Well, forget the old stereotype of the heavy woman with thebaggy dress and the babushkas on their heads. Well, you did see a fewof them, but for the most part, they are very attractive, slim andstylish. The new generation of Russians, both male and female, are veryattuned to what the latest styles and fashions are in the West.Internet is readily available and they are not living in a cocoon anylonger.
Carol and I went to the Open Market one day and I was really surprised at the great fruit and veggies that they had. Prices were reasonable and the quality was quite good. They had clothing, games, meat and fish also.
FUELING FOR DEPARTURE
One of the reasons we went to Russia was we were concerned about going all the way to Japan without fueling. Our agent, Sergey, had arranged for us to fuel up and to our surprise, they brought the truck right to the dock! I think the price worked out to $3.35 per gallon which is less than we were expecting. The nozzle was somewhat larger than the fill on Sans Souci so they had to improvise by t aking a piece of old fire hose, clamping it to the nozzle and then putting another, smaller nozzle on the end of that. It took the better part of the day to fuel up two boats and Grey Pearl had to wait until the next day to get their fuel. We had to filter it after it got into the tank as there was a bit of sediment in the fuel but it worked out just fine.
Language turned out to be the biggest problem. Almost no one spoke any English at all. We all learned a few Russian words and phrases and that helped us. I think it is mostly the young people that are learning our language but we did not meet many of them. Of course, our Russian agent, Marina, spoke very good English and that helped a lot. We were fortunate to have her at our beckon call. She even offered to go to the restaurant with us just to translate when we were ordering.
We are looking to our arrival in Japan with great anticipation. We are just a few days away and are already making plans to spend a few days in Sapporo and traveling around Hokkaido in general. We have an agent there that we have not met other than a few phone conversations and numerous emails. He seems to be arranging everything for us in advance which is a great help to us. After our time in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, we plan on a three day voyage to Yokohama, which is only a short train ride from Tokyo. We also have slip reservations for there, thanks to Furuno San, our agent. I am not sure how long we will stay there but I would imagine it will be at least a week. All of us are very excited about visiting Tokyo. After that, we head south once again to our final destination in Japan, Ashiya, located between Kobe and Osaka. We have reservations to keep our boat there for at least six months. It is a first class marine facility with American style electricity and brand new floating docks. Ashiya will be our base of operations for traveling about Japan by Bullet Train and air. As winter sets in, more than likely we will be leaving the boat and heading toward warmer climates, but we as of yet have no firm plans.
Next update…..from Hokkaido, Japan