Mike Tyson

Earlier in this story I mentioned a Mike Tyson comment that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.  My first punch in the mouth has been the center plate.

First it was jammed, then there was retaining pin horror, inaccessibility anxiety, cable  crisis, winch worries, decay despair.


This photo in no way illustrates the problems associated with it.

We shall overcome, one day. That day I think was today.

I find a buddy of Kiyuna san working  on the plate. He has filled all irregularity with epoxy filler and sanded exhaustively.


Smooth operator

The center plate is now the best in the world. It is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

I then paint it with anti-fouling.



By the way, it is 34 in the shade under the boat and God knows what in the sun. Not novel in Okinawa but far from ideal working conditions. The mainland is suffering under very unusual heat.

So plate rebuilt, cable replaced, revolutionary winch installed; this is a hot center plate.

It is now 6 weeks since I have been able to really work on the boat due to the center plate issue, Sabani races and typhoons. My Protestant work ethic is rubbed raw. However, next  week, I can definitely get the boat onto the lower trailer, which will catalyse a flurry of activity.

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The Galley of Lorne

I am champing at the bit. I can do very little on the boat until we get her off the high trailer.  We are almost there and today I discuss strategy with Kiyuna san. He has to; attach a ratchet to the winch to facilitate raising and lowering the center plate, finish coating and sleeving the plate itself and finally reinstall the center plate surround onto the keel. He reckons he can get this done this week, typhoons permitting.

Hooray, as once he has finished the big boy stuff I can get stuck into all the simple jobs that need to be done.

He also mentions that boat needs a shrine. Er yes, I say. Here it is says Kiyuna san, handing me a framed collage.


He never fails to astonish me.

The cranes represent longevity, they live 1000 years you know. The Kanji says something about good health but Kiyuna san’s English let him down here and he was clearly frustrated by not being able to express the true meaning of the symbol. Japanese friends, what does it mean? The rest of the collage elements he has taken from the boxes of bottles of whisky I have given him. The seal shows the Galley of Lorne,  which is frequent iconography in Argyll.


The arms of the Duke of Argyll.

I will install the shrine in the cabin when the time comes.


We say Shinto stuff.

The boat is blessed.


Little Okinawan bananas that are coming into season.

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At this time of year, Okinawa is awash with pineapples. They are small and very sweet.


They cost 100 yen each – nothing.

There are other things in season.


Do you know what they are? Dugong eggs?

It has been a sad day for me, but I go down to the boatyard because another typhoon is coming to call. Everything has to be lashed to something.

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Probably not mega but still strong stuff.

To my delight, the center plate is fully up.


May not mean much to you.

I have almost never seen Kiyuna san working. When does he do it? During the day, he swans around on his Harley telling jokes. I think he only really works at night.


New Center plate winch. I call her Hippo. Thank you Kiyuna san.


Winch cable attached to center plate

It is going to rain like crazy this weekend. I try pitifully to reduce the flooding in the boat.


I have no illusion that this will keep out the water, but at least I tried.





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I learned this morning that Burt Richter had died.

It has been my great privilege that some very remarkable people have been my friends.



We got on very well and I am truly saddened by his passing. Amazing man and, with everything else, very funny.


When I left SLAC in 2010, he gave me a beautiful stainless steel bowl. He said that the first electron collisions at the Stanford High Energy Physics Laboratory  took place in this bowl in the 1950s. It is half of the vacuum chamber.




Rest in Peace, Burt

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The Magic Roundabout

I get to the boat and to my great joy, I see that the center plate has been lifted. Lifted by what? By the cable of course; attached to the winch, attached to the rope that you use to lift the center plate.


A long time ago



So, I am elated. I  see an acceleration in the project.

One of the past difficulties was the center plate retaining pin. It was still there, high in the center plate casing. It is ungetatable, horribly bent and twisted, thus unremovable. I try to work out how to zap it. Drill it out? Cut away big portion of the casing to get access to it?

Kiyuna san sees problems differently. He tapes a 500 yen hacksaw to an old  saw blade, slides it up from below and saws through the pin.


Artificial Intelligence will change all this.


Center plate retaining pin. I am going to get my ear lobe drilled so I can wear this as an ear ring.

I meet up with Kiyuna san. My vision of a straight run in, all major problems having been solved, is dashed. He explains that the winch is shot. It will lift the plate up a certain distance but not fully. Once up, the plate stays up, refusing to drop down under its own weight.

I say, “But, er, I mean, can’t we try to adjust the winch and spray on lots of WD 40?”

It is no good. Kiyuna san clearly does not like the winch. It offends him. He is determined to install a different system and he has been right about everything so far.

So be it, but obviously this will take time.


Boat from different angle.

To make myself useful, I unpack the lego kit of screws, bolts, cleats, latches, blocks, navigation lights, etc, that came with the boat.  Where they all go is a fascinating puzzle.


This may not mean a lot to you but it means a lot to me.  Accoutrements laid out from bowsprit cap all the way back to stern navigation light.

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Bowsprit cap with bobstay. Such vocabulary!


Bow navigation light with Sampson Post retaining bolts


Broken cleats with a winch. I have no idea what the winch is for.


Stern navigation light and stern mooring cleats, I think.

Nearer and nearer comes the time,

The time that shall surely be.

When the Earth shall be filled with the glory of God

And my boat will be launched on the sea.




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Every time it rains: here it rains ferociously, the cockpit, the cabin, the bilges, the engine compartment, fill up with rainwater.  The boat is filled with half a ton of water.

I do not know how other Norfolk Gypsy owners deal with rain. I suppose they rig a cockpit cover each time they leave the boat. I do not have a cockpit cover.

In fact, a boat full of water is a good thing during typhoon times. It makes her very heavy and thus more difficult to blow onto neighboring boats.

Progress on the boat has been very slow because of typhoons. I conference with Kiyuna san. Both he and I, are terrified of getting into the boat as she is perched precariously high. That said,  before Kiyuna san can work on the winch for the center plate, the boat has to be emptied of water.


I bury a hose deep in the bilges under the propeller shaft

I then turn on the water from a supply at the base of the boat until the hose is full. Next I release the bottom of the hose, about 2 meters below the level of the propeller shaft and, very satisfactorily, all the water is syphoned out of the boat.


I do not know how many liters flowed forth.

I am very pleased this worked.


Okinawa hates leather. The sun dries it out very quickly. I drench the gaff jaw linings with leather conditioner.

I hope to see acceleration on the project but, I realize that typhoons hold the key.


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Quite a Long Time

One of the first things I did when I came to Okinawa, now seven and a half years ago, was to go to the dentist. This is post number 3.


Since then I have had a lot of tooth stuff: extractions, endless root canal treatment, many crowns. Thank God for Japanese health care whereby I get all this very, very cheap. There are no frills.

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The waiting room.

Anyway, I have tooth pain again.  Mori sensei, my best friend, fumes against Californian dentistry. “Bad work, no care!” It is true that 3 of my Japanese crowns were to replace crowns that I had paid a lot of money for in Palo Alto.  Infection had grown at the bottom of the root canal necessitating removal of crown and restart of root canal treatment.

So, he rips off another $2000 crown and throws it in the bin. I reconcile myself to at least 10 visits to the dentist before the meticulous treatment is finished.


Mori sensei and I have been friends for over seven years. He also has a boat at the Marina and still has a Mohawk haircut.


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