Arrive Nagasaki – More Paperwork

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 12 Mar 2014 12:00

Position: 32 44.60 N 129 52.22 E
Alongside Nagasaki
Wind: South west F3 gentle breeze
Sea: slight
Swell: South west, 0.5 meters
Weather: partly cloudy, cool

The wind remained fair and gentle overnight, but strong enough for Sylph to maintain about five knots or more, and was sufficiently abaft the beam to have us running square before it for a couple of hours. Consequently we made good time and were approaching the bay to Nagasaki at about 4 A.M.. Given that I wanted to enter during daylight, I stood on for another hour before gybing and making for the harbour entrance. This worked out well and had us entering harbour in a fading breeze around seven. I tried to sail into the harbour, it was large enough, but it was surrounded by steep hills which tended to funnel what little wind there was making it a head wind all the way.

Tacking into the harbour, I had just managed to clear a large black hulled ship under construction off the Mitsubishi Shipyard when I was approached by a small white vessel, about twenty meters in length. It had no obvious markings, but had what looked like a high tech observation device, possibly with infra-red capability, mounted on its bridge roof. This led me to believe it was probably a government craft of some description. The vessel did some laps around me while the observation device was clearly trained upon my person. I looked back at it through my binoculars and waved. It occurs to me as I write this that perhaps they were looking for signs of explosives. What a chilling thought, the world we live in!

They tried to speak to me via VHF radio, calling me using the South Australian registration numbers painted on Sylph's bow. I tried to answer but it seems that between myself and the person on the other end of the radio we did not share a sufficient vocabulary to understand one another. Eventually it seems the mysterious occupants of the vessel (I had seen no one on deck up until this point) came to the conclusion that the threat I presented to them was low enough for them to risk getting closer and sending some people out on deck to talk to me. This still didn't get us very far but I managed to spell out Sylph's name to them and was able to understand that they were a customs vessel. I furled Sylph's jib, went below to fetch Sylph's papers and my passport and, going back on deck, waved for them to come closer to collect them. They obviously got the idea as someone disappeared down aft and returned a short while later with a net on the end of a long stick. I placed the documents in a waterproof bag and deposited them in the net, then awaited the results. The customs craft withdrew to a safe distance. While I waited I lowered the mainsail and started the engine. About fifteen minutes later it seemed they were satisfied, and they returned my bag and papers by way of the net on the long stick. They established that I was heading for the Dejima Wharf and told me that I must phone them once I was alongside, giving me a phone number to call.

I continued to motor into harbour as the customs boat continued out to sea. We motored under a large white suspension bridge, past another part of the Mitsubishi Shipyard and into the centre of the city where the Dejima Wharf is located. Here there is a small marina which caters for passing yachts. As I approached there was a man standing on the pontoon who directed me to a berth. Once secured alongside he told me that officials from customs, immigration and the police were on there way down. These officials duly arrived, five people in total, and sat in the cockpit while I filled out many forms, most of which were virtually identical to one another. Once all the forms had been filled in and signed, and the various officials had left I went up to the marina office to fill out the paperwork there. This was the usual stuff but I was disappointed to learn that the marina had changed its rules for foreign yachts. They used to allow the first week free of charge to foreign yachts, but this it would seem was no longer the case.

Once marina’s paperwork was sorted out the manager advised me that the animal quarantine officer would be down at one o'clock, about half an hour away, and suggested that I might want to hide the cat. This rather perplexed me, for I thought I had cleared quarantine on our arrival in Okinawa, and in any event felt very uncomfortable about trying to hide Robinson Crusoe. First I thought it would be very difficult, and second if I was to get caught then I would be in a lot of trouble. I explained to the manager that I did not want to hide the cat, and that I believed I had all the paperwork I needed for him to be on board. As we were discussing this an unusually large man entered the small office, in a blue uniform, complete with peaked hat. It was the officer from the animal quarantine department, apparently a separate organisation from the human quarantine department in Japan. I was glad I was not being charged like yachts entering Australia are, on a user pays principle, the labour bill would have been exhorbitant by this time.

The quarantine officer and I went back to Sylph where I experienced a moment of panic as I could not find RC's papers. Thinking that this bit of red tape had been completed several weeks ago, I had put the papers away somewhere and now could not find them. I went through where they should have been several times and, much to my relief, eventually found them. The quarantine officer was a very affable fellow. He was quite satisfied with the papers I had, and I felt relieved that I had gone to the trouble of getting the paperwork from the quarantine people back in Cairns before leaving Australia. The Japanese quarantine officer turned out was a bit of a cat lover himself and when the formalities were completed he asked whether he could give RC a cuddle. Of course we obliged.

With all the formalities at last complete I went for a short stroll. Thus far my impression is that we are in a pretty typical medium sized city, much the same as most other cities; broad roads with lots of traffic, lots of tall, mostly nondescript buildings, and lots of people. I visited the supermarket to see what supplies I might be able to buy, but found all the items on its shelves much the same as elsewhere, with nothing that looked remotely like a gluten free or health food section anywhere. The only thing of interest that caught my eye in my short walk was what looked like an old barque rigged side wheel paddle steamer. On my way back from the supermarket I went to the dock where it was berthed for a look. On closer inspection I realised that while the structure above the gunwale was all timber and looked very realistic, below the main deck the vessel was made of steel and the planks were actually marked out by weld lines. I was disappointed. I was rather hoping I might have been able to see a steam power plant from the mid to late eighteenth century, when a vessel such as this would have originally been built, but, given that she cannot be original, I would guess that the engines will be a pair of diesels which may well drive a conventional modern propeller. Nonetheless I am intrigued at the trouble someone has gone to create this replica of what is clearly a non-Japanese ship. Tomorrow I might do a little detective work.

It has started to rain. I can hear a low moan from the wind outside. It is time to light the heater, have a cup of tea, and then an early night.

All is well.

P.S. I just found this online:

“Kanku Maru, a steel hulled replica of a 19 th century sail assisted paddle steamer has been a unique product in Heusden. The steel replica of the wooden steamer Soembing, built in 1853 in the Netherlands and presented to the Shogun of Japan in 1855 by King William II, resembled (as far as accessible to the public) the authentic ship. Modern building methods and materials have been used and the steam boiler and main engine have been replaced by diesel hydraulic pumpsets, driving the paddle wheels through hydraulic motors.”

So I am afraid we won’t be seeing any billows of thick black smoke emanating from the vessel’s large elegant stove pipe funnel.