Auntie Margie

So, farewell Auntie Margie, such a presence in the last 63 years of my life. You were 94 on passing, a fine age even in Okinawa, an isle known for the longevity of its inhabitants.

The Okinawans are big on ancestor worship and every August the island slows down to celebrate Obon. At this time the ancestors come back, arriving from the sea and coming up the beaches. They are met by singing and dancing from Eisa bands. Come back on Obon Auntie Margie. I will reserve a place in the parking lot.

Here are two young Okinawan girls singing ‘Shimanchu Nu Takara’ for you Auntie Margie. Apparently on a Brazilian TV show – work that one out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFFSQeMfvaA

Here is the same song with Eisa dancers, welcoming you back. Okinawa has a place for you Auntie Margie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33hvzy_CACw

Scaffie coming into the mooring

Scaffie coming into the mooring

Harry and  Shimizu san search the waters for signs of Auntie Margie

Harry and Shimizu san search the waters for signs of Auntie Margie

A moment of silence

A moment of silence

Gus an Bris an la

Gus am Bris an La

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Ausweis

In the preceding weeks I have felt a bit vulnerable as a result of my lack of documents. I would hate to be an illegal immigrant; my heart goes out to you guys.

My Green Card seemed to have slipped away and my British passport was so full of stamps that I got a very stern warning from the US state department that if there was no space to stamp then I would be denied entry.

God bless you Brit passport office. You have the best web site. You fill in a very easy form, pay online with credit card, print it, sign it and mail with old passport and a couple of photos to somewhere in the UK. It really is very easy and somehow friendly. How do you make websites friendly?

Avid readers of this blog will know that President Obama stepped in personally to make sure that I got my  Green Card. The US is heavily criticized in Okinawa for building a new base that threatens the natural habitat of the Dugong. The Americans will do anything for Dugongs. Now I look very much like a Dugong and my Green Card, which arrived last week, is clearly a case of mistaken identity.

Hail to the Chief

Hail to the Chief

Anyway, my new UK passport arrived today a mere 3 weeks after I filled in the form. I am now documented up the kazoo.

I can go anywhere until 2025

I can go anywhere until 2025

Those of you who stay in one place may not realize the utmost importance of having travel status. My UK passport, with a Green Card and a Japanese residence permit puts me pretty much a the top of the pile. Spare a thought for those of great nobility who have crap passports or no papers at all.

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Some Like It Hot

So, today was the Maeganeku Harii Race at Maeganeku Fish Port – such fun but hot fun.

Crews race up and down the harbor. People hang out drinking Orion beer, eating Ikkasumi, which is black squid soup. This soup stains your mouth for about a week and your shirt for much longer.

It is very hot and Friday. This means rushing down from the university to support our horribly be-muscled athletes, in the heat of the mid-day sun. The moment I get out of the car, 3 litres of sweat spurt out of my body onto my clothing. My clothing darkens.

Jolly boating weather

Jolly boating weather

OIST ventures forth with 2 teams, both of which perform with courage and elegance.

Our bodies between our knees

Our bodies between our knees

Beans on toast

Beans on toast

Back to work

Back to work

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Out and About

The Hare bell chases away the rainy season you know. This is the time for the Hari Krishna boat races, https://quietripple.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/hare-krishna-hare-krishna-krishna-krishna-hare-hare-hare-rama-hare-rama-rama-rama-hare-hare/ I am too old, too fat, too infirm, too busy to compete. It irks me.

However there is no doubt that Summer is here and so I must guide the Scaffie to the shieling. I take Friday afternoon off and head off for Minna Jima.

Minna apparently means moon. How did they know before Google Earth?

Minna apparently means moon. How did they know before Google Earth?

It is a wonderful two hour sail across the the deep blue sea with the wind more or less directly behind.

I am far out on the wild and wistful ocean

I am far out on the wild and wistful ocean

Only when I get to the entrance to the big inlet, do I realize that there is a bar of coral that forbids travelers from entering. This results in a complex sail around the island to the harbor as what you can see on the North of the island in the photo.

Scaffie at rest on Minna Jima

Scaffie at rest on Minna Jima. Ie Jima is in the background

There is nobody here. I lope up from the harbor and ask the only person on the island if there is a guest house. He knocks on a door an lo there are now two people on the island.

Person two says sure you can stay in a room in my house. Later two other people show up and we have a great evening sharing food. They provide, sashimi, kimchi and an excellent miso sauce. I provide Spam. We drink beer.

High times on Minna Jima

High times on Minna Jima

Pacific Swallow on Minna Jima. I also saw the amazing Pacific Swift on Ie. No photo.

Pacific Swallow on Minna Jima. I also saw the amazing Pacific Swift on Ie. No photo.

Next morning early I zoom off to Ie Jima. A brief stop to snorkel on the reef. The water is so clear that it gives you a headache. I then hurtle over to Ie Jima with the wind straight behind. As I am about to enter the harbor a huge ferry shows up going at about 20 knots, clearly going exactly where I am going. Steam should give way to sail but several thousand tons of steel going very fast against the tiny Scaffie is not a good time to stand on one’s rights. Unfortunately there  is only a very narrow channel into Ie port between banks of coral.

No room for error

No room for error

I end up on the left hand bank of coral. There is just enough water to prevent the Scaffie, God bless her shallow draught,  from obliteration but big waves are coming in and crashing over the reef in a very spectacular way as I beat back out and finally get into the shelter of the haven.

Well earned rest on Ie Jima.

Well earned rest on Ie Jima.

I rent a scooter from typically delightful people who only want to make you have the best and easiest possible time whilst on their island, and zoom around the island. The weather is  incredible, the island is beautiful. I weep that 50% of the population were killed in one day during the battle of Okinawa. Hmm, God where were you then?

White-Cheeked Starlings! Does n't that send a thrill through you?

White-Cheeked Starlings! Does n’t that send a thrill through you?

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

South West Ie Jima

South West Ie Jima

Hibiscus country

Hibiscus country

I eat a great meal of octopus sashimi and pork and veg stewed in blood. I stay at the Karigoya Guest House, which is run by a delightful couple in their 80’s who do everything they can to make me me happy. They lay towels on the floor as I walk to my room. Why? They take my beach shoes, clean off the sand and hang them out to dry.

I am up at 5:30 as I know there is a big day ahead. The wind is blowing Force 5/6 straight against me. I have to go to work tomorrow. At 6:00 I set off, under power from the mighty Tophatsu, through the harbor gate greeted by seriously stormy conditions. Big white horses are combing in and we have a very bumpy ride through the reefs into the open sea.

The sea is so bad that stopping to remove the engine and putting the sail up is out of the question so I batter over to Minna Jima hope to get some calmer conditions in the lee of the island.

I remove the Tophatsu and set sail only to find myself becalmed. I try to sail out of the lee of Inna Jima but after an hour I give up and remount Lord Tophatsu. I motor out into the open sea and hit a Force 5 wind blowing straight at me. The sea is rough with white horses breaking all around. I am scared, but having re-removed Duke Tophatsu on my hands and knees  and having set sail, my anxiety is quickly extinguished. The Scaffie loves the wind, she loves the waves. A big comber comes in, whereupon she rises into it and gently slides down the other side.  Not once, in really difficult seas on the passage back, did I feel concerned. She is a sea boat. She is a viking.

I choose the worst course, preferring short term gratification to longer term achievement. I set off on a wonderful reach that drives me over to Okinawa but of course way short of my house. This means tacking out again towards China and then back in again and again and again and again. The wind is very strong, the waves are high, the tide is against me, the sun is unrelenting. After the initial success, I spend some 4 hours beating across the Bay of Tancha. Glorious sailing but unfortunately each tack only gains me about 500 meters in the direction I want to go.

After 11 hours in an open boat, I finally remount Count Tophatsu and motor the last couple of miles home. This is disappointing as I can see my house clearly but know that it will take forever to get there under sail. Even Baron Tophatsu struggles against the battering waves and wind.

Anyway I make it. What a long, hard, trip.

Geography

Geography

Here is a short video that does not do justice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3qGX5MfcOc

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Chorba

In my youth I spent 2 years and some in Algeria. There, I ate Algerian food  because there was nothing else.  Also, there were no telephones, no internet, no nothing. So I lived like an Algerian, without the praying. Now I live in Japan and I live like a citizen of the world. I listen to English radio and read  US newspapers online. I watch TV from where it should take my fancy. A friend says something stupid in Korea and I instantly hear the torrent of world abuse.

So this brings me to food. I love Japanese/ Okinawan food. But pleasure comes often through variety. I yearn sometimes for lamb, for curry, for couscous. I yearn for basmati rice, for cardamon, for cinnamon.

Lo, my learned colleague Mukhles turns me onto this site.

http://baticrom.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=20_27_65&product_id=211.

Based in Japan, it provides  er,  you know, foreign food of the Islamic bent to those who wish to indulge.

I order a whole lamb and  loads of curry, couscous stuff. They ask me when I would like it to be delivered. “Thursday between 6:00 and 8:00 please.”

Sponge cake

Sponge cake. 7:15 pm

Japan is an amazing country.  Their take on the post is totally different. Letters and stuff, especially if not addressed in Katakana are a bit random but they rely much more on the personally delivered important stuff. At this they are deadly.

Don't you love getting parcels in the post? I associate it with Xmas.

Don’t you love getting parcels in the post? I associate it with Xmas.

A whole Lamb!

A whole Lamb!

Aladdin's cave

Aladdin’s cave

To overbrim the cup of joy,  the wonderful delivery, delivery guy also brings me my new bilge pump.

West Marine, for whom my good friend Joni used to work.

West Marine, for whom my good friend Joni used to work.

Thanks to Micheal for help. Japan, couscous, whole lamb, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, harrisa, bilge pump. All brought to my door.

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”

Last night

Last night

Tonight

Tonight

Tomorrow big adventure. Watch this space.

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Spanish Pete

Sunday morning is grey and generally uninspiring however I am determined to take the boat out. There is very little wind and I imagine a little cruise around the lagoon for an hour or so. It is of course very warm, 28 degrees ish. Once out, the wind gets up a little, blowing pleasingly from the South West , which is perfect for a run up the coast. We zoom along and before I know it I am at Spanish Pete Island, some 10 miles north of the house.

The University from the sea

The University from the sea

This a delightful place, admittedly prettier with blue skies. I go for a snorkel and then set off home. The wind has got up and is blowing right on the nose. The tide is low and the channel  away from Spanish Pete is technical with reef on one side and big rocks on the other. I beat up, tacking every 3 or 4 minutes until eventually reaching a channel through the reef and open water.  Now I have to get home. Of course I have brought, no food, nor water, nor sunscreen. The wind is now quite fresh and I charge off towards China, going like hell but not in any direction in which I would like to go.  3 hours and a half later, I am off the house after a hard-bitten sail down the west coast of the island.  I loved every minute and thank you Flying Fish and Roseate Terns for keeping me amused. Spring tides making the passage into the lagoon and so the mooring very difficult. There is only one channel of deep water through the reef and the tide is so low that all the reef is fully exposed effectively creating a wall around the lagoon with just one way in, which we will call the Iron Gate.

The Iron Gate - check the dogleg

The Iron Gate – check the dogleg

Sailing into the Iron Gate with a strong wind blowing against you and no sunscreen is a wonderful way to pass the time. The Scaffie dances, ducks and weaves her way through with great skill and we are safely into the lagoon. Well, usually safe but the water is so low that big lumps of coral that are normally several feet underwater are now only inches from the surface. I am coming in very fast and just realize the danger in time.  I turn upwind and get down the sail in the most inelegant fashion. I eventually have to anchor the Scaffie way out in the lagoon for want of water. What fun to be had in boats.

A long way from home.

A long way from home.

Here is a long dull video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu8f0zLg87Q

Sweet Tara gave me a bottle of whisky and two packs of bacon for my birthday. She understands me. After my time at sea I determine to make some real sailor grub, no raw fish and raw vegetables but potatoes, onions and bacon. I have been making a dish that I got from a book called Poor Cook by I think Caroline Conran, in 1970. You bake onions, potatoes and bacon in a white sauce.

Very cheap

Very cheap

It is delicious! I bet real pirates ate it.

After a couple of hours in the Cobb

After a couple of hours in the Cobb

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Tranquility

Not much to say really; a combination of work and rainy season has muted the adventure volume. However a great sense of tranquility has descended on the shore. The tide is, yo, Tancha crew, like, totally, far out. The Scaffie, recently bailed following the torrential rain of yesterday, has settled brood-henily on the ocean floor. Interestingly, the anchors have dragged overnight. This I take to be due to the weight of the rain-filled boat. I will have to watch out for this.

From the deck

From the deck

The Leader of the Pack

The Leader of the Pack

It is grey, groomach and dreich but 27 degrees.

It is grey, groomach and dreich but 27 degrees.

How monie hearts this day converts, O' Sinners and o' Lasses! Their hearts o' stane, gin night are gane As saft as ony flesh is. There's some are fou o' love divine; There's some are fou o' brandy; An' monie jobs that day begin, May end in Houghmagandie Some ither day.

How monie hearts this day converts,
O’ Sinners and o’ Lasses!
Their hearts o’ stane, gin night are gane
As saft as ony flesh is.
There’s some are fou o’ love divine;
There’s some are fou o’ brandy;
An’ monie jobs that day begin,
May end in Houghmagandie
Some ither day.

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