Minna Jima

“Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”

So, I do not have any quarrels, except maybe with the toubib who told me that there was nothing wrong with my knee as I hobbled around for 6 weeks. Forgiveness and redemption. However I crave adventure.

Look at that!

Look at that!

Who would not want to sail Dileas to Minna Jima? It is a tiny island off the west coast of Okinawa and I have to go there. I head for that huge inlet /bay which is so obvious on Google but as you will hear not so in reality.

It is summer in Okinawa and the best place to be is on a sailing boat. As I head North  the sun blazes, the sea is a very fine blue and score of flying fish erupt in front of my bows, indeed from all over the place. Where are they going ? Do they know? Their gay abandon,  as they launch themselves out of the water and glide with the wind for 20, 30, meters, fills my heart with joy as a soft, but adequate breeze pushes me onward.

If you click on this phot you may be able to distinguish a pyramidical island in the far distance. That is where I am going.

If you click on this photo you may be able to distinguish a pyramidical island in the far distance. That is where I am going.

I sail for 3 hours and make good progress in an unambitious sort of way. I pass interesting craft.

Huge barge carrying stone from the quarries in North. It is hauled by tug and they go real slow.

Huge barge carrying stone from the quarries in North. It is hauled by tug and they go real slow.

But then the wind just stops.

I am reduced to taking photos of myself

I am reduced to taking photos of myself

It sit around but the  current is slowly pushing me backward. I am quite far out at sea and getting nowhere, so I have lunch.

I have brought a box of nigiri, some squid and rice. It is all I will eat for 2 days.

I have brought a box of nigiri, some squid and rice.
It is all I will eat for 2 days.

I determine that if the wind does not come back by 1:30, I will abandon my invasion and turn for home. 1:30 a very stiff breeze blows offshore and we hurtle off,  all a quiver. The waves get up and Dileas is close hauled bounding straight at Minna Jima.

As I approach, I see sands that are clearly the bay I am headed for. I am very confident as I know that once into the bay the wind will be blocked by the landmass and Dileas can calmly choose an anchorage in shallow water.

In fact I hurtle towards a beach and crash over a reef. The wind is strong and Dileas is very sporty. A few yards from the beach,  I head up wind and I try to take down the sails. This a thing that I am not very good at as I am essentially one-legged and hopping agiley around the boat as she is pushed over coral in a vigorous swell is not something  for me just now. I lumber  over the side and finally manage, after several duckings, to get Dileas aft on to the swell and rush her up the beach.  Okinawan beaches are preceded by coral. This can be flat or this can be canyonesque with metre deep holes that open up when it is least expected. Anyway it is razor-sharp, lethal stuff as any contact therewith results in blood.

This photo totally fails represent the drama.

This photo totally fails to represent the drama.

Anxiety and sailing are joined at the hip. Now I am safe on land, how am I ever to get off again? I came in on the high tide so Dileas is stranded on a beach and the sea disappears way back. The only way I am going to get her back into the sea is to wait for the next high tide and be there to drag her back into the water. She is a heavy boat and I will not manage to drag her off the beach unless I am there at the right time. Even then there are unknowns of swell, darkness and of course coral to factor in.

I do not know when the next high tide will be. I take a hobble around the island. There is nothing  here beyond a couple of soba stands waiting for tourists, of which I see none. I love it. There is absolutely no noise. I walk towards the  harbor as lizards, butterflies and a legion of cicadas, grasshoppers announce my progress.

The harbor on Minna Jima. This is where I will land next time. Ie Jima in the background

The harbor on Minna Jima. This is where I will land next time. Ie Jima in the background

My reconnoitre shows me that I totally missed the bay I was headed for whose entrance is very well disguised unless you approach from the East. I hobble back to my bivouac.

Seek adventure.

Seek adventure.

OK to get off this island I have to get Dileas into the sea. The only way to do this is to be there when the tide rises up  and  reaches the boat, then I can use the swell to turn her and push her out into the sea.

High and dry.

High and dry.

So I sit on the beach and wait for high tide.  I do not know what time that will be. They also serve who only sit and wait.  This brings me to a reflection on solitude. Much though I enjoy society, chatter gets in the way of observation. I love to sit and watch and not talk about it. This beach is humming in activity. The restless Black Browed Tern is fishing just offshore. A group of 4 Roseate Turns fly past in a very determined way just a few meters in front of me. I eat.

Same as lunch but with a beer that I bought at a soba stall near the harbor

Same as lunch but with a beer that I bought at a soba stall near the harbor

As soon it gets dark, dozens of big hermit crabs er, walk, crawl, is there a word in English for the movement of a big hermit crab?- from the mangroves to the beach in search of devilry. No phone, no internet, no electronics just time to sit and watch. I like this.

There are hundreds of these. They are about the size of a small apple, a big strawberry, a tangerine or a tomato.

There are hundreds of these. They are about the size of a small apple, a big strawberry, a tangerine or a tomato.

I am exhausted and as soon as it gets dark, around 8:00, I lie down on my yoga mat and fall asleep.  I sleep outside. There seems not reason to go into a tent. It must be 30 degrees.

At 10:30 I jerk awake and hobble down to the boat. The seat is crashing into her stern! I succeed in dragging her round and then pull her out into the East China Sea. Hooray! Dileas is freed.

So, the plan is to anchor her offshore where she can ride through the night.  I drag her out over the coral until the water is at my chin. There I drop the anchor.

A small diversion about stars. It is a dark, dark, night but over my head the sky is ablaze with stars. We rarely see this nowadays due to the light pollution from all our lights. What a tragedy. Standing shoulder-high in the warm East China Sea, looking up to a canopy of dazzling stars beats er, most stuff.

OK, Dileas is moored but coral is a terrible slasher of rope and indeed chain. What if  the anchor rope is caught on coral growth and gently incised until, snap,  she drifts off into the night?

I cannot see her from the beach. I cannot sleep. At 1:00 I swim out with my biking light that flashes very satisfactorily. I lash it to one of the side stays and swim back to shore. Stars and amazing lightning to the West. The lightning worries me. What if a storm charges through during the night and whisks Dileas away? Anxiety and sailing.

I lie on my mat, soaking wet but it is hot and so what as Dileas is flashing out there. I know she is OK.

At 2:30 I jerk awake and check on Dileas. I see no flashes! The rope is cut, she is half way to China. I immediately rush into the sea and swim out. Soon, thank God, I find Dileas but the wind has changed  so she has turned on the anchor and the torch is flashing but no longer  towards the beach but out towards Taiwan. I lash, with some difficulty, the torch to the anchor attachment on the bow of the boat . It is 2:45 and I am swimming. What makes all this possible is that the sea is delightfully warm. Could not do this in Scotland.

I get back to my mat and watch Dileas flashing reassuringly. I sleep, but experience something very strange. I am cold. At 5:00, I am awake and shivering. It is true that I am sleeping outside on a beach in soaked T-shirt and shorts but I never thought that I  would feel cold.

Who cares, it is time to go. Dawn is rising as I load up  and raise sail in a silent, windless morning. Can I get away from here? The tiniest zephyr pushes me away from the island into  the wild and wistful ocean. Success!

6:00 as I ease away from Minna Jima after little sleep.

6:00 as I ease away from Minna Jima after little sleep.

Then, a soft but constant wind blows behind me and propels Dileas on a broad reach homeward.

I am on the high sea

I am on the high sea

By 9:00, I am close to home and all is well with the world. Then the wind fails. I spend 3 hours drifting, flapping around windless whilst in sight of my final anchorage.  I did not bring a motor. This is dull. Wait. Did I say dull? Ok there is a finality about reaching home but frankly sitting in a boat a couple of miles off the coast of Okinawa in bright sunshine and remarkable coloration, is pretty good. It all comes back to watching.

Suddenly a wind introduces itself. Regrettably straight offshore. After hours of precise tacking, I get over the reef and get very close to my mooring but after 6 hours at sea I cannot bear the idea of a series of manoeuvres to make  the last 30 metres to the buoy, behind which the breeze is blowing straight towards me.

I flop overboard and,  on one leg, walk Dileas to our anchorage.

Quelle histoire! Next time I will bring a motor.

 

 

 

 

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I Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

So for a month or so I have had a very swollen knee that has given pain and necessitated frequent visits to a long queuing clinic for draining. See: http://quietripple.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/crystal/

The very nice doctor there refused to believe that I had damaged my knee but appeared to be convinced that I had gout. I tend to be very trusting but some weeks later as I dragged my wooden-leg-like leg to work I thought it would be a good idea to consult my learned brother Ian who is a distinguished medical person.

He came back with a diagnosis of  a torn meniscus and suggested a MRI scan. Today I do just that.

What fun! A visit to a Japanese medical clinic is always worthwhile, if not for the treatment, then for the experience.  I do not mean to say that the treatment is bad – on the contrary – but more that each visit is an adventure. First, I have an X-ray.

The doctor, the learned Shima sensei, said I had a beautiful knee for a man of my age. I blushed.

The doctor, the learned Shima sensei, said I had a beautiful knee for a man of my age. I blushed.

Then I have a MRI scan. I have never had one of these before and I realize the medical world offers a whole new range of first time experiences. A new bird in ornithological activity is very rare these days but the medical forest is pulsating with first views. I did not know that a MRI takes a long time and of course I fell asleep. I was  in the midst of a complex burial on the West Of Scotland that involved me, as a young boy, hiding under a horse-drawn hearse, when I was shaken awake by grinning MRI guy.

OK, this is a slice across my knee. in the gap between the two bones, on the right hand side, you can see two black areas. essentially they should be one such as you see on the left hand side of the gap. This indicates a bucket handle tear to the meniscus.

OK, this is a slice across my knee generated by the MRI. Thank you physicists. In the gap between the two bones, on the right hand side, you can see two black areas. essentially they should be one such as you see on the left hand side of the gap. This indicates a bucket-handle tear to the meniscus. How cool is that?

There's a hole in my bucket.

There’s a hole in my bucket.

This means surgery. They want me to go to hospital for 2 days! I think I will ask Ian for a second opinion as I rely on my health to do my job well and frankly I do not trust doctors.

Anyway, seeing as  I am  there, I get my weekly knee drain. There is a wonderful nurse, Satoko san, who has the same camera as me. She offers to take the pictures.

Satoko san, the Hollywood nurse.

Satoko san, the Hollywood nurse.

IMG_0731

Shima sensei sucks out the venom

In the former clinic the doctor just produced a syringe and stabbed it into my knee. This time it is much more elaborate with careful disinfection and  a carefully placed cloth that masks my grotesque knee.

Grunt

Grunt

Looks like olive oil

Looks like olive oil

The much beloved Satoko san makes charade style movie signs, she kindly understands that I am handicapped in Japanese.  I say Hai!!  Here is the result.

http://youtu.be/40W40DUIRXY

You can’t beat the Okinawans when it comes to fun and  kind devilry.

 

 

 

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How Many More?

I wake up on this Tuesday morning and, Lo!  it is the most beautiful day in the history of recorded time.

7:30 on the 15th of July. Listen to Dileas calling siren-like as I drink my coffee on the deck.

7:30 on the 15th of July. Listen to Dileas calling siren-like as I drink my coffee on the deck.

So, how many more days like this will I live through? How many days like this; with gentle offshore wind, with glorious clarity, with  a willing boat, with a warm inviting sea, with a clatter of unexplored islets within reach, will I have the good fortune to exploit?

Gey few, methinks.

Alas, the stern mistress of duty takes me to work where I grumble about conference budgets and stuff, all the while dreaming of the foaming wake.

In the evening, I leave duty behind and as the sun is setting, I take Dileas for a walk.

The breeze is very light and moving away from the mooring is gentle stuff. Once away from the wind shadow of the hill behind my house, the ideal after- a -day -at- work-breeze is revealed.  Under full sail we cruise into the sunset.

No caption

No caption

Dileas is a very fine light wind boat. Not much action on the wind front but she drives us on with gaiety.

Thank you mainsail

Thank you mainsail

After watching the sun go down, watching the terns dance and the flying fish er fly, I head homewards. What wind there is, is against me. Are we downhearted? No!

A long series of tacks brings me close to my mooring buoy. Close, but not reachable and in the end, I flop seal like into the warm sea and  swim over to attach the anchor rope.

On my way home

On my way home

I take down the sails, stow stuff, and make Dileas shipshape.

By now, night has fallen and the stars are there. All tasks done, I swim back in warm water to the prospect of a cold beer.

Eheu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

Sailing Dileas in and out of my bay depends a lot on the state of the tide. At low tide the reef creates a fortress of coral around my home mooring. There is however one deep water channel that allows brave souls to sail through the jagged coral reefs. Finding it is the challenge as you hurtle in.

Yesterday, we, Poncie, Micheal and I, take Dileas out having rolled her down from her typhoon hidey-hole. The tide is still pretty high when we leave but after a very windy sail, heavily reefed, I am surprised to see that the tide has like totally gone out and access to the home mooring is pretty much blocked by murderous coral. I head for the channel but of course miss it and we scrape over the top of the reef with much banging of center board and rudder. Fairly stimulating.

Safe

Safe

This was the first time Micheal had been in a sailing boat. He was remarkably stoic.

Today the wind is even higher, so I spend the morning changing the main sheet and generally fumbling around. Realizing that going out would be foolhardy, I go for a swim.

Save the rainforest

Save the rainforest

World Cup. Do you know, I have not watched a single game.  Probably the first time since 1962.

World Cup. Do you know, I have not watched a single game. Probably the first time since 1962.

Anyway I resolve to go for an evening sail, as by that time, the tide will have risen thus obviating risk of crashing into reef and hopefully  the wind will have dropped a bit as tends to happen in the gloaming.

Why are the Germans so good?

Why are the Germans so good? Can you see the flying fish?

At 5:00, I go for a truly wonderful sail. The wind is still high but with a reef in the mainsail I manage to control the boat fairly well. What defines the amazingness of the trip is the shoals of flying fish that erupt around the bows and glide off  some 20 meters away. Then there is a cloud of Black Browed Terns – very rare – through which I sail  as they fish determinedly.

Okinawa from the sea

Okinawa from the sea

As the tide is high, I can bring Dileas over the reef and home to the mooring without too much trouble.  I like this.

That will do pig

That will do pig

As I shower off the salt water, a gecko starts to run around.

Gertrude the Gecko

Gertrude the Gecko

I still have not used the motor. Did I waste my money?

 

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Afterwards

“It’s now the storm is over and we are safe on shore
We’ll drink a toast to the Holy Ground and the girls that we adore.
We’ll drink strong ale and porter and we’ll make the taproom roar,
And when our money is all spent we’ll go to sea once more.”

Here is video at about  7:00  on Wednesday morning.

http://youtu.be/rKj6a2_wB1c

Barographs tell no lies

Barographs tell no lies

The worst part of this typhoon was the very, very heavy rain the morning after. People set off for work and the heavens opened. A lot of flooded roads, long traffic jams, mudslides, rivers that had broken the bank at Monte Carlo. I am sure many more people were injured in traffic accidents than by the storm.

Later in the day but you can see by the greenery around the fence post how the river went way over its design luminosity

Later in the day but you can see by the greenery around the fence post how the river went way over its design luminosity

Nagahama Dam

Nagahama Dam

A moorhen tries to make sense of it all.

A moorhen tries to make sense of it all.

 

We rescued Dileas just before the onslaught. Thank you Poncie, Justin, Micheal, Hisashi, Christian

We rescued Dileas just before the onslaught. Thank you Poncie, Justin, Micheal, Hisashi, Christian

“I love Typhoons.” Captain MacWhirr, an empirical man without imagination.

 

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Neoguri

Well, there has been a lot said about this typhoon.

Brig. Gen. James B. Hecker, the 18th Wing commander, declared Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3, or TCCOR 3, and base personnel began evacuating their aircraft July 6, in preparation for Typhoon Neoguri.

“I can’t stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa,” Hecker said in a message to the base community. “This is the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years; we expect damaging winds to arrive by early Tuesday morning.”  What is wrong with this guy? I mean really what did  happen in Afghanistan? This kind of wild exaggeration is the bane of our time.

TIME magazine:(TOKYO) — A powerful typhoon pounded across the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa on Tuesday, as residents took refuge from destructive winds, towering waves and storm surges. Er, No! look at the video.

This is the Guardian. The British press is of course the best in the world. 46-feet-high-waves!  500,000 advised to evacuate! You must be kidding!

Japan pounded by typhoon Neoguri

500,000 advised to evacuate as Okinawa battered by winds of more than 150 miles an hour with 46-feet-high waves.

Typhoon Neoguri lashes Japan’s Okinawa

Hundreds of thousands of people have been urged to seek shelter as a powerful typhoon lashes Japan’s Okinawa island chain.

Typhoon Neoguri was passing over the southern islands on Tuesday, bringing strong wind and torrential rain.

Forecasters said it generated winds of up to 252 kilometres per hour (151 mph) and warned of high waves.

Holy cow, this is the BBC, a media in which I have always placed my trust! It is nothing like the way they describe.

So here is what it is really like. This is a typhoon. They happen every year. This one is nothing extraordinary. See video. I remember much worse storms as a child in Kintyre.  Do you believe what the BBC says about, er Iraq, or er Palestine or er the USA, or er anything? Long live Wikipedia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgadXdZ6NVE&feature=em-upload_owner

I spend a wonderful day at home as the storm whirls around me. I learn flute tunes. The Merry Sisters has always eluded me and I am afraid they continue to do so. https://quietripple.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/07-a-fig-for-a-kiss-_-poll-hapenny-_-merry-sisters.m4a

The third tune is The Merry Sisters.

I practice my knots.

Figure of 8 knot

Figure of 8 knot

Anchor hitch

Anchor hitch

Buntline hitch

Buntline hitch

Sheet bend

Sheet bend

So, what to make of all of this? I pass a very relaxing day with a storm outside. I am in more danger when I cross the road.

Nothing special

Nothing special

Do not believe the news, even from the most recognized source. Oh my God, what else did they get completely wrong? Was my education in vain?

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Hark, Now Hear the Sailors Cry, Smell the Sea, and Feel the Sky, Let your Soul & Spirit Fly, into the Mystic.

I am up early and prepare for the voyage. I put on sunscreen, put on my hat, put water beer, suchi, onigiri into the icebox and clamber into Dileas.  I both forgot my camera and to bring sunscreen. Turquoise lagoon, deep blue sea beyond the reef, sky er blue but not so blue as the sea beyond the reef, sun a mixture of pale yellow and white but imbued with much power. The sea is warm, the air is hot and there is a gentle wind coming offshore.

This is what I have been waiting for! In how many long meetings has my mind strayed to what I am doing now? I haul up the mainsail and jib and let go from the mooring and turn so the wind fills the sails. This is a very magical moment as from flapping of sail and instability of boat, motion begins. The moment a sail  fills and the boat takes life and knifes across the lagoon under perfect control, is so beautiful it stops my breath. Over the reef we go and at the junction, I hang right to go north on East China Sea Highway 1.  There is no traffic.

The wind freshens and we charge along with Dileas throwing up noble pure white spray from her bows.We heel and I get scared as it has been sometime since I sailed in earnest. I decide to go about just for the sake of it. I let go the jib sheet, push the rudder over and move to pull in  the other jib sheet but of course it has become entangled with boarding ladder. The boom is lashing back and forward until a gust of wind catches the sail  and throws it over my head. Now the sail is pushing the boat over in the direction that my huge bulk is sitting on. The other side of the boat rises up, water starts to pour in on my side, sail clatter, sheets fly, all is lost. Well, not really but it was hairy for a while. When I had got everything back under control I realize that the beautiful hat, which I bought in San Francisco and of which I had since become very fond, had grabbed this opportunity to escape and was now trying to find its way home.

View from anchorage

View from anchorage. All photos taken with IPhone.

On I go and before I know it I have made the island I am to invade. The landing beach is however hidden behind various reefs and the wind is coming directly towards me. Much tacking and manoeuvring is necessary before, feeling very proud of myself, I drop anchor in one of the most beautiful places in the world around here.

As soon as you stop sailing on the wild and wistful ocean you realize that it is very hot. My nose fries and I flop over the side into the world of fish. I check my anchorage and feel bad. No matter where you drop the anchor, there is coral and the chain is bound to do some damage. I promise to slaughter a young bull in penitence and set off snorkelling. Amazing scenes that you will not see as my underwater camera is on my desk at home. I rise to the surface and hear a stalwart fisherman bellowing at me. I turn my head to see Dileas drifting out toward China. Holy Cow!

I set off swimming after her. Luckily I have fins but even so, by the time I catch up to her I have almost lost the will to live through old man exhaustion.  I had assumed that the anchor rope had been cut by coral abrasion but it turns out that the rope was fine but the knot attaching the rope to the chain had come undone. This difficult to fathom as I have been tying bowlines since Mr Pritchard taught them to me whilst oiling my body for photographs.  Just goes to show that when boating, something will always go wrong.On my way home with badly rigged reef in mainsail

On my way home with badly rigged reef in mainsail

Time has come to set off home. I reef the mainsail, unnecessarily it turns out, elegantly lift the anchor and experience the same thrill as the wind transforms Dileas into a thoroughbred. We slice off over the reef into deep water. The wind has kindly changed direction and all the way back we are on a broad reach, a very comfortable way to sail. We surf over the waves that are now going in the same direction as us. I twice silently creep up on turtles. The second is snoozing with her back to me and does not see me until she is amidships or like level with the boat.  Oh Okinawa! Her escape is of course delayed by the flying fish that always get in the way.

Sea West Highland Terrier

Sea West Highland Terrier

I get home in no time but just keep going down to Cape Zampa, another couple of miles down the coast. I check on the Black Browed Terns and then turn around to beat back to the bonny anchorage outside my house. All goes well until I get very close to the mooring. It is so shallow that I have to raise the center board. In so doing I drift hopelessly in the very light wind. I have to go about and come in on a different angle. After a couple attempts I pick out the mooring and we are home again without ever having used the motor. Hooray.

This is what I have been waiting for. Eheu!

Well earned rest at the end of the day. I would like to give her some oats

Well earned rest at the end of the day. I would like to give her some oats

Tomorrow is typhoon time. Never a dull moment.

This means a day off work!

This means a day off work!

 

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