The Last Bottle

Remarkably, I have been able to buy Springbank, arguably the greatest whisky, from a corner shop nearby.

I would like to give a bottle to Kiyuna san but when I get to the shop there is no more Springbank!  Adorable Yoshi san explains that they cannot get anymore Springbank no matter how they try.

“Neil sensei, I knew that you would come to buy a bottle, so I kept the last one for you.”

I have not been in the shop for 3 months.


The last bottle. Thank you Yoshi san.

This act of kindness is a great antidote for a difficult couple of days.

My beautiful handmade reefing block support plate does not fit.

It is too big.

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My fault.

I spend probably the worst hours of the project trying to fit the fuel tank filler pipe. This connects the nozzle on the combing with the tank. You have to push the pipe onto the nozzle from below. The nozzle is only accessible from a locker. It is totally out of reach.

I make many attempts and fail each time.


A great test of character.

I finally succeed, with the help of a heat gun and washing up liquid, but suffer severe bruising to my right arm and my left ribcage as I force myself into the locker and upwards to the the nozzle. It is very hot and I nearly pass out.

A few minutes later, the holy Sato san passes by. He wants to help me rig the boat for maximum performance.

He is a great person, as is his wife Akiko san. They look at the rope that I have used for halyards and come as close as Japanese can politely come to giggling.

” Neil san you can not use this rope. It is pitiful rope. It will stretch and sag. You can not sail with this rope.”



A load of junk. I have 200 meters of the same.

I absolutely respect Sato san’s judgement. In Snakes and Ladders  imagery, I have hit a major snake that slides me right back to the starting line.

Sato san mysteriously suggests that he can find me good rope that has been taken from another yacht, Watch this space, very hush, hush. Notwithstanding, this means lowering the mast and replacing all the rigging. At least a couple of weeks, because Sato san has to go to Ishigaki Jima to tune racing yachts. I am in no hurry.

To end on a happy note, I go back to Nagahama san’s chaotic yard and explain that  the beautiful plate he made me is too big. He makes me another for no charge.


This one is a perfect fit.

I am now also doing a lot of fine tuning.


Tiller retaining pin installed.



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A Sudden Spurt

Refreshed by brief sojourn in the USA, I redouble my boatyard efforts. Um, actually I am very jet-lagged and when things do happen I generally stand around and watch.

The engine! A single cylinder of raw diesel torque. She is ready. You will remember that she had a hard passage through middle age, spending a lot of this period submerged.


Mid life crisis.

She has since gone through a complete rebuild under the hands of Surgeon Kiyuna.


Kiyuna san takes the engine for a stroll. Ritual is important.


Huge flywheel ! Final intimate greasings before the gearbox is finally attached.

Change of tack, notice nautical language, I have attached all the rigging complex to the mast. Next step is to raise the the damn thing. I entice a theoretical physicist to aid. They are the best in a tight corner.


Thanks Nic!

We, or to be truthful, I , make a complete mess of it. There are many ropes, blocks, lifts, associated to the mast.  They tangle, they intertwine, they sulk, thank God for a theoretical  physicist.


Kiyuna san watches politely amused.

Anyway we succeed, after several raisings and lowerings, to get the mast and all rigging in more or less the right place.





New halyards and topping lift. Notice restored Porta-potty on the left of the cockpit. I have not field tested it yet.

Today I rush down to Ginowan and find the Yanmar nestling in the boat.


Back where she belongs.

“When did you do this Kiyuna san?” I mean you need a crane and stuff.

“When you were sleeping, Neil san.”

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Down by the River

The next day I head off to the Burma Grade Trail, another classic adventure through the history of the Gold Rush. The trail is characterized by the first 2 miles, an extremely steep shelf road ascent. On your left is a huge drop, in front a very narrow broken trail. It is a harrowing experience. With a sigh of relief, I get to the top and look forward to a calm drive along the plateau, with stops for graveyards.


Rats! Fire risk I guess.

No option but to turn around and drive back down the harrowing shelf road.

As always, things turn out best when things go against plans.

At the bottom of the shelf road is the Merced River. I drive along a trail beside the river. After a long time I come to a lost camp site.



Sun goes down.

It is Paradise.


My swimming hole. This is where I spend most of my time, up to the neck in clean river water.


Where I shower


My toilet!


My Bear, get out of here box.


Turkeys pass by.


Ground Squirrels  eat my left overs.

There is nobody here.




God bless America.

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Bear Poop

Lightning break from the boatyard, finds  me at a bridge on a forest track just outside Yosemite. I have planned this trip for sometime. I want to drive the Old Coulterville Road, a Gold Rush era trail that passes through  mines and lots of graveyards. You need a serious 4 wheel drive vehicle to get along it. I have the Tacoma.


Such a great truck!


I’ll even kiss the Sunset pig.

How to get there: Okinawa to Tokyo, Tokyo to San Francisco, San Francisco to Coulterville, then 20 miles of back trails until I get to the bridge, which is the start of the Old Coulterville Road.

The bridge is barred. High Fire Risk. Oh. 


Best laid plans etc, etc.

I am not surprised as the country is very, very dry. A steely look would start a fire.

Not to worry, the hills around Yosemite are crisscrossed by trails and I head up one that turns out to be a winner. I set up camp at the top of the mountain and start the meal.


Very camp


Only the beginning.


Sautee de boeuf au champignons, sauce vin rouge. Everything tastes better outside.


Who wants to be a millionaire?

Not what was planned back in Onna son but still amazing. California is wonderful, a few hours drive from San Francisco, I am treading in bear poop.


200 metres from my camp.

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Rearu Handrailu

I come to my last box of screws. Previous owner, the diligent Taguchi san, had labelled and boxed hundreds of screws and fittings. All of these are now back in or on the boat.

I have no idea what the last box of screws is for. They are very long.


I should have noticed that most of these screws are bent. There is a message from Taguchi san.

Wonderful Rika san tells me that the message says rearu handrailu.

Everything gels.

I have two extra handrails that for months I have agonized over. There is no obvious place to put them. I consult various Norfolk Gypsy oracles but none come with an answer.


Ain’t got no home.

I suddenly know that they screw onto the combings. I have never seen an image of a Norfolk Gypsy with these handrails.


Yay! Notice also stern cleats that were absolutely awful to install. The securing nuts are only accessible through an inspection hatch in the rear lockers. My arthritic body  could not reach them Thanks again to the remarkably supple Rika san who nailed them.

I am very excited to screw down the handrails. So easy, 8 screws into existing holes. I completely screw it up. The screws are bent, the screw heads are badly stripped.  It becomes obvious that I need new screws. This is disappointing after  the elucidation of the last box.

I go to Makeman  to track down suitable replacements. I drive back to the boatyard, about 5 km.

I suddenly worry about my wallet. I search the car very diligently.  No wallet. All my cards, driving licences, you know. I see something on the roof of my truck. It is my wallet.


5 kms later. Still there. Luck has been the leitmotif of my life

The new screws are perfect! I have rear handrails. I wonder if any other Norfolk Gypsy owner can make the same claim.


Classy stern




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If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen.

Over the last week or so, the weather has been amazing, even by Okinawan standards. Hot, clear, blue and turquoise, then red as the sun goes down.


Looking out to Ie jima

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Same thing, different lens.


From my balcony

But the work must go on. There are many small but not unimportant jobs to do.


I start to rasp the new gunwhale trim into the correct profile.

An interesting side effect of this job is that I rasp off the  print of my right hand forefinger. This means that I can not log into my iPhone nor iPad using  touch ID. It no longer recognizes my fingerprint. I am sure that it will grow back.


Actually this is not small. Installing the rudder plate has been a pain. Now it is done.

You may remember that Miyagi san offered to tie the eye splices in the halyards.


He does a great job.

I have also mentioned the reefing system in a previous post.

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Beautifully handmade but I fear it is too big

Before raising the mast, I have to ensure that all the blocks, shackles, sheets, halyards, shrouds, lifts are correctly in place. If I get it wrong then I will have to lower the mast again to re-adjust. No great mischief, but you would like to get it right first time.


It will be alright once it is up.

I attach the blocks at the base of the tabernacle.

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Tabernacle!  French Canadian.

All of this is in low 30s heat.  I sweat.


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Fromage de Tete

Sorry for title inaccuracy, cannot find how to do accents etc.

I have always loved gelatinous food. France excelled in this genre with the Fromage de Tete. My Father would eat Pigs’ Faces whenever he could.

In Okinawa I can buy pigs’ trotters very cheap. I boil them slowly for many hours, throw in beans, peas, carrots and, in this most recent creation lentils. You pour the mixture into a mold and fridge it.

It sets. This is the best cold Summer food er unless you are Vegan.


There are few ways to produce something as satisfying.

Hey! Here are some people.


Tim, Mike san and Matsubara san on the boat

I go on a rare visit to OIST.


Natori san, what a great look! Ken Peach, who I first met in 1979, and Tim.

Julia, my beloved, has a baby.


Julia is the best. Beautiful Baby Tobi.

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