Nagasaki to Amami North
We were a little sad to leave Nagasaki. We were only supposed to stay for a week but it seemed that every time we planned on leaving, one of us would come up with an excuse to stay. Not that it was hard to convince the rest of us!
As usual, we planned the passage to our next destination, an island south of Japan called Amami. The forecast called for calm seas and we ended up with just enough crappiness to make the trip a little uncomfortable. It was a 33 hour passage, the kind I hate. For some reason, three and four day passages are easier for Carol and I to do by ourselves rather than a single overnight. The first night of a passage is the most difficult and after that you get into a rhythm and things go much more smoothly. Add a little choppiness to the single overnight passage and it becomes kind of an irritation.
We arrived in the first Amami anchorage , dropped the hook in calm water, had dinner and went to bed. The next morning we left for our next anchorage, in southern Amami to wait out an impending storm.
Amami North to Amami South
Our trip to the southern part of Amami was uneventful as it was a 40 mile passage on the leeward side of the island. We arrived at our “designated” anchorage in the afternoon. By “designated”, what I mean is that in Japan, you cannot simply pull into any harbor and drop your hook. The Coast Guard decides where you will go. Unfortunately, the designated anchorage was kind of open to the impending storm and would have been dangerous to us. Therefore, we looked at the charts and found what we thought would be a safe (and great little) anchorage. We all dropped the hook in about 45 feet of water and realized that we had found a real gem! Of course, a bit later on, it appeared to be Ken’s turn to entertain the Coast Guard. “Anchorage closed! Must move now” was the word that Ken got from the Coast Guard visitors on his boat. To make matters worse, during his conversation with them, while trying to convince them that we needed to stay put, Ken forgot that he was filling his hot tub on the upper deck and it started overflowing and spilling down on top of the Coast Guard guys! I think it was then that Ken turned to Braun on the radio looking for guidance with our Japanese officials. Braun, ALWAYS a quick thinker, informed Ken that we needed an anchorage no more than 50 feet deep to allow enough scope for the impending heavy winds, knowing full well that EVERYTHING nearby was deeper. It is always good to evoke the “safety issue” when all else fails, or for that matter, if you happen to be drenching your official visitors with hot tub water!!
Amami turned out to be a great place. We did some diving with Ken’s gear under our boat to remove some excessive growth on the running gear. Carol scraped the waterline (see below) and got enough mussels for a dinner for two (if we were so inclined, which we were not!).
Braun and Tina had gone for a walk on the Island and told us about a “fish farm” about a mile down the road. Carol and I went there the next day and met a guy who worked there. It turned out to be a Tuna research facility. They started with eggs and after they hatched into small tuna, they moved them to larger and larger bins until they were old enough to survive in the largest enclosed pen. Inside the pen was a 700 lb tuna that was 12 years old. Usually they do not keep them that long but simply release them into the wild.
Amami to Okinawa
Our trip to Okinawa was another one of those single overnighter pains in the butt. It was 155 miles and the only stop we could make along the way was a closed anchorage where you needed permission to stop. That permission usually takes a week so we decided to keep going to Okinawa. To add to the misery, we really, for the first time in our trip, had no place to go when we arrived. Our agent, Furuno san, tried just about everywhere, but they all maintained that they were too full, too shallow or just no how, no way! There was a flurry of emails and satellite phone calls during the passage and we pulled every string that we could. Ken found an American, John Rutherford, who told him that he thought he could get us into Ginowan Marina. We called Furuno san, who called the management there and they informed him absolutely not. We were getting closer and closer with no place to stay. Furuno san finally got us a pier near downtown, but it was not available right away. We still needed a place for the night. John contacted Ken again and basically told him to ignore what the management said and just come into Ginowan when you arrive. We had a conversation on the radio between the three of us and decided to go with John, a guy none of us really knew. I am not sure why we did this other than we were desperate. John met us with his boat outside the harbor and led us in the winding narrow channel. I am glad he was there. Fishing your way into that harbor for the first time would have been difficult on our own, to say the least.
Ken was the first to dock. I came second and just before pulling up to the rough pier, Ken called me on the radio and said there was a problem. “Steven, the immigration guys just told me that we are not approved to come into this harbor and must leave now”. I asked Ken exactly what they said and Ken replied “ they said ‘wrong harbor, must leave now!!’ “ I asked if they were polite about it and he said “no”, which is REALLY unusual for this culture. Braun got on the radio and said “lets just pull in and worry about that later”. It was a bold move and the officials seemed very upset that we were doing this after they told us to leave. Fortunately, we were able to get the local agent on the phone and he convinced them that we would get an “official change of location” shortly, which we did.
John, a retired US Military guy, turned out to be a terrific guy, who had lived in Okinawa for 30 odd years or so. He set us up with all kinds of information and introduced us to his friend, Myagi (as in The Karate Kid!), a local who befriended us and actually gave us his car to use for the week.
Okinawa was fun. It was also one of the few places in Japan where people did not seem overly impressed in any way with Americans. Its not that they were rude in any way. They were typically Japanese in their politeness and manners. They are FAR more casual than mainland Japanese people and the island is filled with American military people. You read a lot about the anger that they feel in having our military bases there and we were expecting the worst in treatment. Quite the opposite. Everyone went out of their way to help us in any way they could.
At this point we had been running our generator for the better part of a week, shutting it off only at night while at anchor. Okinawa was different. It was VERY hot and humid. We found that we needed air conditioning 24 hours per day and never shut the generator down. As it turned out, the situation did not change until we got to Taiwan. That meant LOTS of oil changes, one every ten days. People have asked if the generator noise gets irritating after a while. Number 1, it sure beats roasting to death and Number 2, after a day or so you almost do not hear the generator any more. I don’t know if it actually gets quieter, but it seems to. We had a new 16kw Northern Lights generator installed before we left Seattle and it is markedly quieter than the old unit that it replaced.
Thanks again to John Rutherford and Myagi, who made our stay in Okinawa a great deal of fun. Thanks also to Furuno san, our agent for his efforts. He flew down on official business and we had a chance to have dinner with him, John and Myagi at a local restaurant before we left Okinawa.
Okinawa to Zamami
Zamami is an island that we were REALLY looking forward to. The satellite pictures showed sandy beaches and clear, blue water, similar to what you would see in the virgin islands, complete with coral beds and white sand. As usual, we had limited information to go on as to where we should anchor. The best plan was to look at the charts, the expected wind and the
Here is what we found and how we had to tie to them. Since Braun had two others on board, he lowered his tender and had Wayne motor over to the “mooring ball” and tie on to it. As it turns out, it was a monumental task (see below). They were about 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet high, more suitable for a ferry boat than a small cruiser.
Ken watched what was going on and meandered over to a beach about a mile from where we were attempting to moor. After about half an hour, Wayne had us secured to our mooring. We didn’t like it. It was a complex hookup and we felt that at some point if the wind picked up we would chafe through the line or swing back into the large ball. It was also kind of rolly. Meanwhile, Ken called on the radio and said that it was perfectly calm where he was and he planned on dropping the hook and staying there. He mentioned that there was plenty of room if we wanted to move, and we eventually did. What a great decision that was. Braun on Grey Pearl was soon to follow. Where we ended up was a calm, crystal clear anchorage with great snorkeling and diving. This is what we were all waiting for and we had no intention of leaving for at least three days…….but then…..
The weather gods decided not to sympathize with us. The following day, at about 4 pm, we had a radio pow wow. The weather was turning bad again and if we did not leave right away, we would be stuck for a week or more. Arrrgghhhh…..! Not that I would have minded being stuck there for a week, but we had to arrive at Ishigaki to pick up our guest, Jeff Merrill from Nordhavn and his son, Jonn, who would be travelling with us to Taiwan, where our boat was built at the Ta Shing factory. Sooo…..off we went , into the sunset once again.
Next stop – Miyako