The Sparkle of Your China

Saturday morning and I go down to the boat. I have things to discuss with Tabata san. My main concern at the moment is the engine. Clearly if I am going to spend the rest of my life voyaging around remote Japanese islands, then a trustworthy engine is essential.

Imagine the calm before the storm. A mega typhoon is coming and, as is fairly typical, the wind drops beforehand. I am out of sea with a engine that does not start.

The first step is to take the engine out of the boat. This a big job with tools and cranes and stuff. How can I find someone to do it?  I explain this to Tabata san. He casually cast his gaze sideways to the guy sitting close by and utters the magic words,  “China san.”

China, pronounced Cheena, san comes over and we bow and introduce ourselves. He grins and between his English and  my Japanese, which are similar, I find out that he is a mechanic, that he is 70 years old, that he does not like sponge cake, that he will take out my engine!  I ask when he can do it. He says, ” Today.”

This causes a turmoil of emotions. First, joy but then conflict as I have told my dear friend Naoko san that I will come to a cultural event that she has organized at the university. I have to go, but this means missing my engine being banished, a milestone in the history of restoration.

Cultural Lectgure 1.jpg

Strong Juju

At the boat, I talk, sort of, to China san. I lay bare my soul er like, let it all hang out. I tell him about propeller shaft alignment anxiety, wiring worries, support stress. To each whimper he says, “It’s OK, I can do that.”


My trailer is very fine but does not have any  support structures other than the uprights. This means that the boat will alway be tilted without complex wedging with wooden blocks.  This will be a nightmare when taking the boat out of the water. I need nice guides that will set the boat perfectly onto the trailer. China san gets it immediately and will build these onto the trailer.

Anyway, we get on famously and  slash our palms with sharp knives to become brothers.


China san

Anyway, I go to the talks and miss my engine being taken out. Probably a good thing as I would undoubtedly have got in the way. Cannot wait for tomorrow when, all being well, my engine will be parked beside the boat.

Once again my luck holds strong. Enterprise of great pith and moment can be fixed by being in the right place at the right time to meet people like China san.

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Good day as my boat got her papers. She is no longer an illegal immigrant but an official Okinawan resident. To be frank I am not sure how it happened as the excellent Tabata san sort of took care of it with the minimum of fuss. I now have the registration document and all the necessary stickers for Kanusha.


Aregato Tabata san!

It was another very social day down at the boatyard.  First my new buddy Sato san  and I discuss new engine prospects. He has tracked down a 1Gm10 in Osaka that has been fully overhauled and what is more the people there will take my motor in part exchange. So next priority is to get the engine taken out of the boat. The organizational skills that I have honed over the last 40 years are under test, but once again the most important feature of getting things done is proving to be – make friends with people.


Sato san – he is a very funny guy.

I sand, I varnish, I clean.


All the wood was so desiccated  that endless coats of wood treater and varnish are needed. The black bits have had 4 coats of the former and two of the latter.


I also rebuild the floorboard thing for the cockpit. Many planks were broken, so these I replaced with new wood.  Somehow all the screws had become loose, which I attribute to  wood shrinkage due to intense sun exposure. I tighten and drench everything in wood treatment stuff.


My foundation for years to come

As I am about to leave, two guys pass by. They know my boat, they know Tagushi san, the former owner. They talk a lot, I understand little. I think they were somehow involved in transporting the boat from mainland Japan to Miyako Jima 6 years ago. Anyway they are clearly delighted to see the restoration underway and we slash our palms with sharp knives to become blood brothers.

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So, the engine is a concern. My seafaring friends from Japan lift the engine cover and jerk backwards in horror. As you know the Japanese are typically inscrutable but even the most hardened seadog’s inscrutability is dented when they see my engine.



I have buddies,principally Ichikawa san, who in two days turn up 3 GM10s, er the engine that is in the boat. The plan is to remove my blighted Yanmar and replace with a better one.  I imagine that this will cost some money but my dreams of island travel are only possible with a very reliable engine, so I feel this is something I have to invest in.

Meantime I roll in skeg fun.


The new skeg is a perfect fit. I will cover in anti fouling before I finally fit with loads of silicon adhesive gunge.

Okinawa is remarkably short of marine chandlers. This is strange on an island where each time you turn your head to the left or to the right, you see a boat.

So be it, there is only one and you find it in Tomari.


I feel I could help them with marketing

I have ordered yacht varnish named Tropical Schooner.  What other varnish could I buy?

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The lady who runs the place is typically Okinawan delightful. She always makes me a cup of coffee before we talk business.

So, I return to the boat and start the lengthy process of varnishing.  5 coats for everything.


First of five.

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The suffix -ness denotes the quality or state of something, for example happiness. Well today I am in Skegness. As I mentioned in a previous post, the skag, or more commonly skeg, on Kanusha was much corroded. I took it to a local metal yard place and asked if they could make me a new one in stainless steel, Well actually the delightful Haruna san did most of the talking.  “No problem!” cry the happy metal workers. Anyway we go back today to pick it up.


Happy Haruna! Who wouldn’t be? How often do you get a brand new skeg?

I deeply regret not taking a photo of the exterior of the shop. It is total chaos.  The ground is strewn with every sort of metal thing you can imagine. There is no order, no pattern. Inside it is worse.


There are no workbenches. The guys, all of whom are as friendly as can be, squat on the floor to work.


New skegs for old. Note the chaos.

They have done a wonderful job and I treasure my new skeg.


This is the guy who did the job. He is standing beside a support he has built for a wave turbine.

As we talk on things metalwork, it turns out that they do a lot of work for OIST. In fact the guy who made my skeg is going to the Maldives next week to install an array of wave turbines with Shintake sensei.

I am so pleased that such an apparent shambles is contributing  to the forefront of sustainable energy research. It makes my skeg even more special.

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Fiddler on the Roof

It is very gratifying to have an occupation where the rewards are so obvious. After decades of generally promoting stuff with little feedback on whether my efforts were having any significant effect, now I take a paint brush dosed in varnish, smear it on a chunk of wood and the reward is instantaneous. Job satisfaction.


Cabin beginning to look good.

Sundays are very sociable at the marina. Today Ichikawa san, an OIST colleague and very fine sailor passes by. He then invites Sato san, who is a professional rigger, over to the boat. He comes with a crowd and we spend happy time examining  Kanusha in great detail.  A lot of time is spent discussing where to find a second hand Yanmar 1 GM. I have allies.


Thunder Box

I have spent the week sanding, treating, and now varnishing. As I have mentioned the satisfaction is immediate. What was dry and dirty now shines. The cabin is coming along very well. Today, between social calls, I paint the roof of the cabin.




Spot the difference.


I did this


Very smart

By the way, Neil Thompson Boats  who build Norfolk Gypsies, have been very responsive and helpful. Thank you. Buy boats from them.

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Luck is Great, but Most of Life is Hard Work.

So, back to the boatyard. Most of this is archival,-apologies.


More wonderful hard wood, anded and and treated.


Hand rails getting ready.


Trusty sander, what would I do without you?


Harry explains the mechanics of the gaff rig. She is typically kind.


Petit a petit


21st January

Such fun.

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One of the things I like most about where I now live is a vegetable plot that is just up the road. I have spent many years of my life trying to grow vegetables and I know a maestro when I see one.


It is a tiny plot squeezed in between  nondescript buildings.  Yet it is a masterpiece.


Amazing cabbages

The gardener is an old lady. She squats between the rows, generally weeding and cleaning up. I cannot take a photo of her, it would be too invasive, but we grin at each other.



You cannot grow Daikon in clay. Much of Okinawan soil is clay. Clearly much work has been done to lighten the soil in this tiny plot to allow the white radish to thrive.


Potatoes, praties, tatties. You gardeners will notice that it is January and the potatoes are flowering.

When I am not admiring this vegetable patch, I am sanding, cleaning and treating Kanusha. I gently coax her from destitution to beauty.


Bits of wood before and after sanding.

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