A Match of Two Halves

I am honored to be asked to join the boatyard boys crew for the annual Zamami to Naha Sabani boat race. Here is some info http://okinawaclip.com/en/detail/199

We go over to Zamami on Saturday to set up the boat. We are a very local crew er, except for me.


Ours is the oldest boat in the race.

There is an outrigger on the boat made from fibre glass. This is a new addition and there is some murmuring as the fiber glass is still wet and sticky. I wanted to sleep on the beach but a room has been booked in the craziest guest house I have ever been to.


This is the reception desk


We go to the traditional pre race party and get very drunk.

After the party we go back to the guest house to eat spam and sardines and drink a whole lot more.


This Jack Russell is part of the crew.



There are 7 people in the boat. We have a crew of 9 and we switch in and out from the support boat.  This is very hairy especially in the sound between Tokashiki and Okinawa where there is a big swell running.


Zoom! Notice position of outrigger

We do really well and are up there in the main peloton doing 6 knots. There is a stiff breeze and sea is reasonable whilst we are still in the shelter of the islands.


We overtake lesser boats

Then everything goes wrong. Just as we pass Tokashiki the outrigger float springs a leak and fills up with water. It no longer floats but submerges itself causing huge drag on the boat. Also the top batten on the sail snaps, causing sag.


Not good


The wind drops which makes the outrigger dig deeper into the water.

It is heartbreaking as all the other boats slowly catch up and overtake us. It is also very hard work paddling for hours in 32 degrees dragging a very effective sea anchor.


Good way to lose weight.


5 hours later we cross the finishing line.

We are totally beat, physically and race wise. We come in last!

Still, it was an amazing experience and next year we will win!

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There is a general change of character in the boat project. The big numbers; engine, center plate, repaint, are now dealt with or under control.

We now move towards the final state.

I work on the boom and gaff.


Gaff jaws  leather protection now in place.


The admirable Tagushi san, previous owner,  left me clear instructions.


These are strips of brass that screw onto the boom. I do not know what they are for but they shine up nicely.

Following Tagushi san’s instructions, I re-install all the plates, cleats, bullseyes and the boom strop.


Boom is ready to go.

So, estimable http://www.neilthompsonboats.co.uk/ send me the covers for the berths in the cabin. I am daunted as to how I find an upholsterer who will be able to fill them with foam rubber. Throughout this project, everything I have worried about has turned out to be very easily resolved. There is a message here. Er, don’t worry, be happy.

I mentioned my upholstery problem to Kano san, who is a retired teacher with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all  things Arthur Ransome.


Wonderful guy.

He says, ” Neil san, this is not a problem, there is someone who can stuff your seat just up the road.”

10 minutes later, Kiyuna san and I set off.  Kiyuna san says very little to the upholstery man and everything is fixed.


Okinawa. I could write many posts about his magical workshop. I get the interior of my cabin back on Thursday.


I ride out to watch the sunset,

Great day.

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If You’ve Been a Lady to Begin with

One thing that has characterized my life, is my incredible good luck.

I go down to the boatyard to get on with the spars. As I get out of the truck, I notice bits of wood on the ground that look familiar. I clamber onto the boat, with great risk to life and limb, to discover that the cabin hatch cover is damaged.


How did that happen?

The wooden trim at the entrance to the cabin, that I spent a lot of time repairing, has also disappeared and I have a terrible foreboding that the bits of smashed of wood  I spotted descending from the truck used to be it.


I tried. Now it has gone.

Kiyuna san shows and explains that, the day after the baby typhoon, he found the whole cabin hatch cover lying where I usually park the truck, .


Picture from the boat. It looks like the hatch cover was blown off by the wind, sailed over the very expensive speed boat and  touched down where you see the truck.

Had the cover crashed into the very classy boat to my left  – big problems. Indeed, had it sailed a little further and smashed into the boat on the far side of the parking place – big problems. I am very lucky, it landed on the only safe space.

It takes me a while to work out why it blew off. I had taken off the trim on the sides of the hatch cover to treat and varnish them individually to get high class paint job effect. I only replaced one side before the boat was hoisted onto the high trailer, making it very perilous to work high.  I did not replace the starboard side trim.  I now  know that the cover is held in place by these mahogany chiseled strips.The wind came and just lifted off the hatch cover like a kite. Rats!

No great mischief.

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Before I start, I would just like you to look at this poor photo.


Not a care in the world

These kids and more walk below my balcony around 8:00 every morning. They are probably 6 judging by the school satchels they are carrying. They may be younger as there is a play school just up the road.  I love the way that Okinawan kids walk to school. I walked to school.


All the way from Norfolk!

Yay! Yesterday I got a present from Norfolk. It is the Treadmaster  slabs that will go onto the cabin roof and stop me slipping into the sea and drowning.   https://www.treadmaster.co.uk/


This is what they look like in situ.

I also get two seat/berth covers that I will have to stuff with organic rice stalks.

Many thanks to http://www.neilthompsonboats.co.uk/ for being so helpful.

Anyway, I wake up and find a baby typhoon outside my door.

It rains like crazy but the winds are not too bad. We have not had a real typhoon for 3 years.


Barograph this morning. Notice abrupt fall in atmospheric pressure. But it is not like a real typhoon.


These are real typhoons!

As I am stuck inside, I get to play with my new toys.


I role play glueing Treadmaster to the cabin roof.

Friends are helping me track down the history of the boat. The wonderful Natori san came up with this.


This is my boat for sale at least 10 years ago. She already looks pretty beat up.

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Excitement. I go to the framing shop to pick up my now er framed Matsubara work.

I had very precise instructions from Naoko as to how the piece should be framed. She does not want the the paper to be abutted to or even less, underneath  the matte. The paper is part of the art work. I try one framing place but they do not get it and just want put a big matte all around. I withdraw my custom.

The second place is wonderful. They totally understand the value of the work and the importance of correct framing.


I pick up today. I am very happy.

The framing shop is just beside the Prefectural Museum and Art Gallery. I have managed not to visit over the last 7 years.

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I was not very impressed by the the collection. I could do a much better job as curator.

So to the boatyard.

As I stop the truck in front of the high perched boat, Kiyuna san rumbles up behind me.

“Kiyuna san look at this!”  I take out the box that contains the art. He says ” Yay, Pizza!”

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Harley Davidson and Pizza box.

Kiyuna san and I then have a long conversation on the nature of matter. This includes the relationship between clay and humanity.

“Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
Oh, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall t’ expel the winter’s flaw!”


I am not being condescending here; Kiyuna san is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met.


He has welded a stainless steel rod onto the front of the center plate. On this we rebuild.


We have long discussions under the boat.


Yay! New steel cable on center plate. Not a big deal deal to you but a very big deal to me.

Kiyuna san does all the difficult stuff whilst I apply second coat of varnish to the mast, boom and gaff.

It is very hot.

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The Tortoise and the Hare

Slow and steady wins the race.

I move onto another stage of the refit – the mast, the boom and the gaff. In fact all of these are in very good condition. It is just a case of washing off 10 years of grime, sanding down and varnishing.


Ready to go early this morning.

It turns out that the sanding is the hardest part. It is the rainy season in Okinawa. To tell the truth it has not rained very much so far and people are beginning to talk. It is nonetheless very hot and humid. This means that I lose a liter of fluids an hour through perspiration and much of this drips onto whatever I am trying to sand. This turns sandpaper sludgy.



The jaws of the gaff on a Norfolk Gypsy are lined with leather. The previous owner removed the leather parts and they have spent 10 years drying out into hard boards. I soak them in leather restorer stuff and they become pliant, supple and adorable. Leather is amazing stuff.


I finally work out which bit goes where.

So I clean, I sand, I varnish. My t-shirt and shorts are so drenched in sweat that it is as if I have just been swimming.


Looking much better

Meantime, Kiyuna san is getting medieval on the center plate. He burns a new straight front which he will then cover in gold.

By the way, Instagram fans, I have a Instagram feed that is devoted to Norfolk Gypsy restoration. Go to Instagram and search for ryutaro_higa and you will find a whole lot of fetishism.

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I got the bill for my local taxes. It was huge. These taxes used to be deducted from my salary and I never really noticed how high they were. Taxes in Japan are calculated on your previous year’s salary and last year I had a big salary. For local taxes I think that beyond a certain salary level you pay a much higher rate. I agree with this, er in principal. The well paid should pay more than the worse off. The reality comes as a bit of a jolt.

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It is more than the purchase and total restoration of the Norfolk Gypsy.

I pay in cash at my bank. Why cash ? I do not know. The process was very bizarre. I was asked to withdraw the enormous sum from the ATM machine and then to  hand it over. The bank folks,  who felt my pain, were very sweet.

To re-establish my joy of Okinawa, I take Medium Blue to my local corner shop. They have the most wonderful selection of fresh fish.

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Medium Blue waits patiently outside.

The fish is all locally caught and is different everyday.  It is also cheap.

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Worth paying a lot of tax for.

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The top pack is tonight’s meal

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The Okinawans cut up their fish in a very strange way.



The best sashimi in the world!


It is also the start of amazing sunset season. This was last night.

So frankly I do not mind paying massive tax bill. The benefits are incomparable. What is more, next year I imagine I will pay little as I have no salary!


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