Arrived Kagoshima

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 24 Feb 2014 11:59
Position: 31 29.71 N 130 30.93 E
Alongside Kagoshima
Weather: clear, calm and mild
Day's run: 90 nm sailed, 50 miles made good

Getting clear of Io Shima proved a challenge. I believe the east setting
Kurushio current was funnelling in between the two islands and meant, as we
tacked back and forth in the light head winds, that we were continually
being set back over the same ground. After five tacks, we managed to break
free. The wind had strengthened just enough and backed sufficiently into the
north-west so that we were able to get through the strait and continue to
the north-east towards Kogoshima Wan (Wan = bay).

The light breeze held throughout the afternoon and we were approaching the
entrance to Kagoshima Wan just on sunset. The charts indicated that the
current was also prevalent off the entrance to the bay, especially off the
eastern headland. I tacked about five miles before the headland, hoping to
avoid the strongest current in close but it was not enough. Once again we
had to tack back and forth several times, frustratingly retracing our track
on each tack until, once more the breeze freshened sufficiently to give
Sylph the speed she needed to overcome the current. It took us six hours to
gain the entrance but, as ever, persistence prevailed, and at 0105 I noted
in Sylph's log book (#9) “Passed Kami Sone (rock) to starboard.” We were
through and into the large expanse of Kogoshima Wan.

It was a long night with little sleep, keeping Sylph moving in the light
breeze, and navigationally safe while monitoring the shipping traffic that,
as well as numerous larger vessels, included several smaller fishing vessels
heading home in the early hours of the morning. Close to dawn we found
ourselves over on the eastern side of the bay, about seven miles short of
our final destination, with absolutely no wind. I was too tired to motor so
I allowed Sylph to drift while I slept for a couple of hours. By ten,
feeling considerably refreshed, it was clear that no wind was likely to be
picking up any time soon. The air was still, Sylph's sails hung limp, and
the bay's waters were mirror smooth. To the north smoke from the vent of the
huge volcano, Sakurajima, hung thick, grey, and motionless over its peak.
It was time to motor.

At 1330 we tied up alongside the Kagoshima Marine Services dock, as
recommended by a Canadian cruising couple (SY Bosun Bird) I have taken
guidance from through earlier research on the internet. Interestingly, when
I was sitting in the marina office filling out some minor paperwork, I asked
Hideki who was helping me, and who spoke excellent English, whether there
were any other foreign cruising boats in port. He told me no, that in fact
there had had no foreign yachts visit Kagoshima for about three years.
Apparently most foreign yachts bypass Kagoshima as it is a bit of a detour
coming into the bay. It turned out that the last yacht that had visited the
dock was in fact the Bosun Bird. I was a little surprised to hear this, with
the attraction of the volcano and the big beautiful bay to sail in, but then
there is so much to see in Japan that perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. I am
sailing very much outside the normal period for visiting yachts, the middle
of Japan's winter. To some extent for me Japan is a bit of a stepping stone
for this voyage, an interesting place to stop on the way to Alaska, so I
have not done a lot of preparatory research on Japan prior to committing to
this voyage. But the more I discover as I sail about, the more inclined I am
to slow down and spend time exploring the amazing coastline and this
fascinating country. Spending longer than planned here will probably will
not be possible, so I shall just try to make the most of the time I have
here. It is unlikely that I shall pass by this way again.

One other incident of note occurred before the day's end, not a good one I
am afraid. When I arrived here I had come alongside an empty section of dock
wall that is used for hauling boats out with a large crane that stands
alongside it. So later in the afternoon I had to move Sylph to a more
permanent berth (boats are tied up Mediterranean style here to make maximum
use of the limited space). As I was maneuvering Sylph into her new berth the
steering jammed. Fortunately by the time this happened we were pretty much
in position, Sylph was stopped in the water, no damage to other boats or
Sylph ensued, and in fact no one even noticed the problem except for me. I
was lucky.

One of the contributing factors to the failure is the leak in the cockpit
sole (the one that I hope is now fixed), in that it has caused the steering
chain under the cockpit to corrode. I have applied liberal amounts of WD40
and grease to counteract the problem, but it clearly has not been
sufficient. There are also several other steps in the causal chain to this
incident, a couple of which , if I am to be honest with myself, point to
less than benchmark practice in boat maintenance and the art of seamanship.
I find it interesting to reflect on the various factors that have led to
this potentially serious mishap. While I have been lucky, I do not wish to
overdramatise, as we do have a couple of backup systems available, even on a
small vessel like Sylph. First she has an emergency tiller kept ready for
use in a cupboard opposite the heads (though shipping it would take quite a
while), and a second, and perhaps more immediate, solution is the Hydrovane
windvane system which, unlike most windvanes, can be used as an emergency
rudder. Nonetheless, for this to have happened I can only find a verdict of
guilty, Sylph's skipper has been neglectful in the performance of his
duties. His punishment will be commensurate with the crime, he will just
have to damn well fix the thing, and live with his dreams of what might have

It is getting chilly. Time to get the heater going.

All is well.