We just survived Typhoon number 2 while in Japan last night. Ken and Roberta on Sans Souci and Braun and Tina on Grey Pearl have long gone back to the US, storing their boats here for the winter months.
You usually get three or four days of warning before the Typhoons hit you here and there are many good websites that show the storms, their projected tracks and the intensity. They all are a bit different but if you look at them all, you get a pretty good idea if you are in trouble or not. This one started heading toward us with 195 mph winds and the projected track was about 100 miles to the east of Ashiya but a day or two before its arrival the track had shifted about 40 miles to the east and became a concern as the Typhoon winds were projected out from the center at 90 miles. Time to batten down the hatches…..We have been through the drill many times over the years and knew what to do. More lines, more fenders, tidy things up and stow any loose items on the decks that could (and will be) blown around by the winds. We were in constant contact with Braun, Tina, Ken and Roberta and offered to secure their boats too. We did these two days before the arrival of the storm so we were ready. These types of storms tend to take FOREVER to get here and time starts to slow down to a crawl as it approaches………..agonizingly slow! About 8pm on Wednesday it started to get breezy and several hours before that the rain started to come down fairly hard. We had Carol’s brother Tom visiting us and a friend from the US, Holly also. We all went to town (Ashiya) that afternoon to pass the time away and got back just as the rain started. About 11pm it really started to blow and the boats were really moving around and by 3am, we were starting to rock and roll!! I never got out of bed as it didn’t seem too severe, but Carol got up to look around and saw that Grey Pearl was REALLY moving about and the rain was horizontal. The highest wind we saw was only 57kts which was a relief! By morning everything started to calm down and we saw that there was no damage to any of the boats, just a bunch of debris which had blown onto the boats from shore. I would say that the choice of this marina was a good one!!
Getting back to Ashiya, our home for the winter months and which marks the official end of the Great Siberian Sushi Run……Our trip to get here from Yokohama………
We had some weather concerns and there are really not a lot of places to stop along the coast of Japan. There are a lot of commercial ports that allow you to dock, but since they are used to large ships, the fees are extraordinary. For instance, one stop that I mentioned in a previous blog cost each boat $600 for one night!!! We have learned from that experience that it is nice to know people…. Our friend Kohta, who we met while in Yokohama, arranged for us to dock at a small float in Shimoda, a fishing port about 70 miles from Yokohama. The price was right (free!) and the owner of the marina and his wife were wonderful hosts. We were once again taken out to a local Japanese restaurant and treated to a traditional dinner. I think that my days of sitting cross-legged under a 1 foot high table are in the past. Getting down was not the issue…..getting up after dinner was!! We did, by the way, end up voluntarily paying a minimal fee for the slip as we felt it was right to offer that. We also gave gifts to our dinner host and the owner of the dock. I guess it is a Japanese tradition to make sure gifts were wrapped and I did not do this. They were accepted graciously but Carol reminded me of my faux pas.
The next stop was Omaezaki, which is a small fishing port. In the past, we would have paid $600 to tie up for the night and had to have a local agent do all of our paperwork, but now we knew better. Our friend in Shimoda called his friends at the fishing dock here and arranged for us to stay for free! It was a beautiful trip with flat calm seas arriving only to find that none of us knew the name of the fisherman that we were supposed to contact. We then walked from building to building trying to find someone to help, only to fall into the trap of the local authorities (We had a hard time reading the sign on the outside of the building). They spoke as much English as we spoke Japanese, but somehow, between Ken, Braun and me, we got the message across that we wanted to stay for a night at the pier. They got across to us that they could only offer that if we were running from a Typhoon or had a mechanical breakdown, the latter being REALLY stretching the truth. There WAS actually a Typhoon nearby and with a wink and a nod, including the authorities; they allowed us to stay for free.
First thing the next morning we headed for our next port, Hamajima, where there were no available docks and questionable anchorage. We inquired with our agent, Furuno San, who called the Coast Guard, who then recommended an anchorage in a small indentation on the coast. Looking at it on the chart and with Google Earth, it looked to us like there was no protection from the waves, but we decided that we would look at it upon arrival. When we got there, the anchorage recommended looked more like a straight piece of coastline and there was no way we were going to anchor there. Inside the harbor, near the small boat pier, there was an interesting looking anchorage and we decided to give it a try. Sure enough, there was just enough for the three of us and VERY good holding for the anchors. Not soon after we anchored, the Coast Guard zipped out to Ken’s boat to let him know that a Typhoon was coming and we should leave. We deliberated back and forth and decided to leave at first light, chased by yet another Typhoon.
Furuno San recommended a small port called Katsurra, a picturesque harbor that was well protected, although a little hairy getting into. Because of the impending bad weather and the beauty of the town, we ended up staying for several days. I will post a picture here, but pictures are such a small part of the enchantment of Japan and do not do it justice. It’s really about the people and their kindness, friendliness and humility. Language is an issue, but between the smiles, the bows and the “Konichi Wa’s”, we understand each other just fine.
After leaving Katsurra, we made another call to Furuno San, who was able to set us up with slips at a marina called Suntopia, in a small town about 40 miles from Ashiya. We deliberated a bit about continuing on and getting to Ashiya late in the day but….
- We were concerned about not making in before dark to Ashiya
- It was our final GSSR destination and we wanted a short, fun ride, getting there early in the day
Going into strange ports used to really bug me because of the unknown, but we have been doing just that for the past 5 years and although we still need to be careful, it does not bother us as much anymore. This one was a little hairy though, to say the least. The chart did not match the actual harbor in any way and there were buoys missing. Adding to that, the sun was just setting and was aiming directly in your face where we were supposed to enter the harbor. Kens charts were actually worse than mine so I volunteered to be the Sacrificial Nordhavn. In all fairness to Ken, he has the record for holding that position on the GSSR! Okay….since I could not see very well but it was getting dark and the visibility was getting worse, I pushed the boat into forward and headed for what I expected to be the opening (and I was right!). Not much excitement after that except for a couple of naked people hopping out of the hot tub at the entrance. We docked, had a great night’s sleep and looked with anticipation on our impending arrival the next day in Ashiya.
We left Suntopia Marina at about 10am on an absolutely gorgeous, sunny, calm day. The trip took about 4 hours and we arrived at the marina early in the afternoon. We were greeted by a small boat and guided into the harbor to the main dock, where we were to tie up and get slip assignments. The marina was filled with a scattering of smaller sail and power boats but NOTHING like our fleet. I got the impression that they really did not understand our needs as far as electricity and space as we bantered back and forth through Furuno San, our agent and interpreter. We settled upon a Guest Dock on the far side of the marina, which you can see if you look at the Our Location icon on the website. We docked directly in front of a wedding facility, which is huge and does nothing but host 2 to 3 weddings per day. We had not been docked for one hour before we realized that there was inadequate electricity for the three of us at the dock. There was plenty of dock space and lots of electrical posts, but they were made for the boats at the marina, not us. Sans Souci ended up moving to another dock and that ended the problem, which was ok, but we really were hoping to be docked nearby each other. Hopefully by next springtime they will have hooked up the unused leg of power for the dock.
I must say that the staff here at Bellport Marina has been just great to work with and they have done everything they could to make our stay comfortable. We picked the right place!!
This marks the end of the Great Siberian Sushi Run but not the GSSR. Yep, the “Wrong Way Gang” actually made it! The trip was a total of 5938 nautical miles. It was a challenging trip at times but I can say from all of us, it was a blast. The most amazing thing was how well we all got along. I cannot recall a single major disagreement between the three couples and we all remain good friends. We are already formulating our plans for next year as a group. There will be no more cruising until April of 2010 but I will be posting a few blogs with our goings on here in Japan and our plans for next year.
Thanks for all of your support throughout the trip. The hundreds of emails were appreciated and we looked forward to them every day.