Arrived Koneya Ko, Amami O-Shima

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 10 Feb 2014 10:23
Position: 28 08.58 N 129 18.92 E
Alongside Koneya Ko
Wind: North F3-4 gentle to moderate breeze
Weather: overcast, cool, occasional drizzle

The wind did not in fact come until sunset, and, atypically, I ended up motoring for two hours straight during the afternoon. Normally I would have drifted but, while there was not a breath of wind, the swell was one to two meters and coming from a couple of different directions, so motoring helped to keep Sylph reasonably stable. Also, the wind was forecast to strengthen considerably in the next twenty four hours so I thought if I made some ground towards Amami O-Shima then there was less chance that we would be caught out having to bash into it. Consequently we arrived off the eastern entrance to the strait between Amami O-Shima and Kakerami Shima around 9 p.m..
I considered continuing into the strait but as the strait was relatively narrow, and looked very dark and foreboding with high black rocky crags just discernible on either side against the slightly less dark night sky, and as I did not know what might lie within, nor whether I could safely berth once at my destination of Koneya Ko, I decided the best course of action was to remain outside of the strait for the rest of the night and to aim to enter just after dawn. To this end we tacked away from the entrance and reduced sail so Sylph's motion was steady and comfortable.
At one this morning we tacked back towards the strait and this had at the entrance again right on cue at 6.45, just as the sky was turning from black to a rather dreary shade of grey, the sky overcast and a very light drizzle continued to fall.
While the wind had freshened overnight as forecast, as we approached the entrance with its high cliffs on either side, the wind was light and a little fluky. I was tempted to motor the remaining distance, but instead I set all sail and we continued on. This turned out to be a good decision for once past the entrance and into the strait proper the wind freshened again and I enjoyed a bracing series of short tacks up the narrow strait. Sylph heeled to the gusts but sailed well in the smooth sheltered waters, and I only handed sail and motored the last half mile to the harbour walls.
While the bigger ships, and these are relatively small (I would guess no more than three thousand tonnes), tie up directly to the wharf walls facing the narrow strait, there are three small harbours in Koneya Ko intended for fishing and other small craft. I really had little idea which one to choose. A Japanese yachtsman I had met in Tokunoshima had recommended one of them but having a close look at my chart it indicated a depth of two meters or maybe less. I motored into the deeper harbour which was crowded with fishing boats as my adviser from Tokunoshima had said it would be. There was an empty bit of wall but it looked rather exposed so I decided to check out the smaller shallower harbour. As I approached I spotted a couple of yacht masts, my first since arriving in Japanese waters. This I thought to be a good sign and when I turned the corner right before me was a nice fendered space complete with ladder. The echo sounder showed four meters so depth was not going to be a problem. I suspected the berth might belong to another boat, as it just looked too good to be true, but my policy in these situations is to get alongside safely and then to seek permission and sort out any other niceties as might be required.
Once secured, I advised the coast guard of my arrival on the VHF radio. They asked for my position and seemed satisfied. I was just sitting down to the second course of breakfast and a nice hot cup of tea, feeling rather pleased with myself, when a hail from the dock disrupted my contentment. Three young officers from the coast guard stood on the dock and pointed to a motor boat that was nosed up against the dock wall a few feet ahead of Sylph. The owner, it seemed, wanted his space back.
As usual everyone was very polite and courteous, no feathers were ruffled, and an alternative spot was suggested. I was about to start the engine when the the motor boat owner suggested that there was quite probably room enough for both boats. The coast guard officers helped me to move Sylph forward so she was close up against a small yacht, and the motor boat came alongside astern of Sylph. There was not much room to spare and I was a little concerned about the wind vane self steering possibly being damaged, but the very nice motor boat owner seemed to read my mind and, on learning that I was only going to be in port for three days, he volunteered to move to the spot that had been suggested as an alternative for Sylph to tie up to. So we simply moved Sylph back to where she was. I shall have to find a way to thank the motor boat owner before I leave as unfortunately he was long gone by the time the coast guard officers had fulfilled their duties; sighting my various bits of paper, photographing them, and filling out some rather lengthy documents.
Once the formalities were completed, and I was once more peacefully alone, I cleaned Sylph and myself up and contemplated what next. The first thing that seemed in order was to catch up on a little sleep. Around midday I arose feeling much refreshed and proceeded ashore to explore my new environs. But undoubtedly I have written more than enough for one day, so I will leave my first impressions of this little township until tomorrow.
All is well.