Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 30 Mar 2014 12:56

Position: 33 28.38 N 129 59.52 E
Alongside Takashima
Wind: North nor' east F4 moderate breeze
Weather: overcast, cool,
Day's run. 27 nm

Today has proven to be a bit of a mixed bag. We got away nice and early from Gonoura and enjoyed a fresh fair breeze that had Sylph making good time at six to seven knots. But as we were getting closer to our destination, Takashima, I allowed myself to get distracted below reading something that I was finding very interesting. A short while before I had turned off the Watch Commander alarm when I went forward to drop the whisker pole and when I had finished that job I had forgotten to turn it back on. I had my attention rather rudely returned from the realm of the intelligible, the real world according to Plato, to the physical realm, the world of illusions, by the sound of something scraping past the hull. I rushed on deck to see that Sylph had run over the illusion of fishing net.  As I watched the net caught on the wind vane rudder, hung there for a moment, and then, much to my relief, slipped off.

I looked over the stern to see if there was any damage. Everything looked OK. That was a close call, I thought to myself, but I soon became aware that all was not well. Sylph was slowly veering off course and the wind vane was unable to bring her back. On closer inspection it appeared there was excessive friction in the rudder post. I strongly suspected that the post was bent. Oh bother! as I am fond of saying when things go wrong. I cannot help but wonder about the fact that only yesterday I was extolling the virtues of this essential piece of equipment.  Never again!

Fortunately we did not have far to go to Takashima. I hand steered for about thirty minutes then started the motor, handed sail and motored the remaining two hundred meters into the harbour. This particular harbour is quite shallow. Initially I tied up to a space on the wall that looked unoccupied but just as I came alongside a fishing boat entered the harbour and started tooting at me. We were obviously in his spot. I pushed off and motored Sylph out into the middle of the harbour and looked around for another spot. I decided to try astern of a large motor boat, thinking there was likely to be sufficient water there if it was deep enough for him.

I was not particularly happy once alongside, as there was a significant amount of surge which had Sylph tugging at her lines and scraping her fenders along the sharp edges of the shell encrusted wall. We were also approaching low tide and it soon became clear that we were touching bottom. I considered moving but as the tide only had about ten centimeters to go I decided that it would do little harm to sit on the bottom for a couple of hours. At least if aground Sylph would not be tugging at the lines and scraping her fenders over the sharp shells.  So, once satisfied that Sylph was going to sit comfortably, I donned shore clothes and went for a short walk.

Takashima is a very small island, with a population of about 280 people. It did not take me long to walk the streets and see most of what was on offer. But, with the damage to the wind vane and Sylph's keel sitting on the bottom of the harbour, my mind was not able to focus on seeing the village. In my short walk I found, much to my surprise, a nice little coffee shop. I decided to ensconce myself there, enjoy a cup of coffee, and try to relax while I waited for the tide to come in. While sipping on my coffee and checking my email (my mobile wifi is actually picking up a weak but usable signal here) I came to the decision that once Sylph was afloat I would move her outside the harbour and go to anchor for the night. The forecast was for light winds, the seas were smooth and the water was only about seven or so meters deep. Tomorrow we would head for Fukuoka where I can get the wind vane repaired along with sorting out the visa extension for Japan, and a visa for the US, thinking ahead to Alaska.

As I was walking back to the boat I passed by a building with large glass windows, and inside someone was clearly waving at me. I went inside and was invited to sit down and talk to half a dozen people. It turned out to be the local school There was one student there but I was told that the school has a total of twelve students. It was of course a Sunday so presumably it was more of a social gathering than a school event. I could see Sylph quite clearly through the window so I decided to be polite and talk to these friendly people as best I could for a while. One of the teachers had a reasonable command of English and the student also had a reasonable vocabulary, so, while the conversation was limited, it was still meaningful. They were of course interested in where I was from and my travels, and I tried to learn a little about their village.

As we were conversing a weathered middle aged man entered the room. He turned out to be part of the reason I was here. His name is Nozaki-san, he is retired from the Japanese navy, he owns a yacht which is tied up in the harbour, and has circumnavigated Japan in it. His English was very limited but we still managed to understand each other pretty well. I conveyed to him my predicament about Sylph being aground and he took me for a walk and showed me where there was deeper water where I could secure Sylph to the harbour wall Mediterranean style. We then returned to the school for some more socialising.  I was offered some fish, aji I think they called it, and Nozaki continued to provide me with some local advice on where I should go next. At 5.30 I decided I had best say farewell to the hospitable people of Takashima and move Sylph before it got dark. Nozaki came with me and was a great help in securing the heavy mooring line that ran from the wall out into the harbour. It was covered in slime and weed so it was not an easy task to pick it up and get everything tensioned right such that Sylph was sufficiently far away from the wall so that her bow would not crunch into it, but close enough so that I could get on and off the boat.

Once everything was secured to Nozaki's satisfaction we retired to his house where he proceeded to drag out numerous charts and give me all sorts of suggestions as to where to take Sylph. He clearly thought that I should go up the west coast of Honshu, essentially following the route of his circumnavigation, rather than though the Inland Sea. I was interested to hear what he had to say, for it has become apparent to me that the Inland Sea is the route that most boats follow and this led me to think that perhaps doing something different from the usual route might be a bit more interesting. However, despite my interest in what Nozaki had to say, as the evening wore on my mind started to drift towards more pressing matters, including writing up my blog, so said farewell and headed back to Sylph. Nozaki accompanied me with a plank to help me get back on board, which was just as well for even with the plank it was something of a precarious leap  back on board.

So today has been one of ups and downs. As I read over this, it occurs to me that a theme of the day is my mind being other than where it perhaps should be.  I am very annoyed with myself for running over the fishing net. I was negligent, allowing my attention to drift onto something other than navigating Sylph, which is clearly what I should have been much more focused on when getting closer to the island, especially as the waters were relatively shallow. I have paid the price, and will pay with the cheque book later, but it could have been worse.  I shall beat myself up sufficiently I hope so as not to allow the same mistake to happen again for a long, long time, but otherwise I figure it is best just to get on and fix things up. The odd mishap is part of life, and the cruising lifestyle probably has no more than other lifestyles, they just happen to be a little bit different.

All is well.