Shooting the Tsagaru Kaikyo Rapids

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 14 Jun 2014 08:16

1600 Position: 41 33.9 N 141 20.0 E
Course: East sou' east Speed: 6 knots
West, F4moderate breeze
Weather: partlycloudy, mild
Day's Run:
38 nm

It had been my plan a few days ago to depart Japan from Hakodate however a combination of circumstances have led me to push on to Kushiro.

Over the last three days the weather forecasts for the North Pacific have changed significantly. On Thursday conditions looked suitable for leaving Hakodate and making for the Aleutians, yesterday conditions still looked good for leaving Hakodate but not for striking out into the North Pacific. So, on the basis of yesterday's forecast, I decided to clear out of Hakodate with the local officialdom for a passage to Kushiro, getting underway this morning. Then this morning the longer range forecast changed again and conditions looked quite good for heading to the Aleutians after all. My fellow Aleutian adventurers had decided to hold off on a decision yesterday so now their intention is to leave Hakodate tomorrow, (Sunday) and head straight for the Aleutians. I pondered over whether I should change my plan as well, but there was a fair breeze blowing outside the harbour and to have postponed leaving Hakodate until Sunday would have wasted the better part of it. Both Suuhaa and Lorissa do not mind motoring, whereas Sylph's crew rather spend a week becalmed then motor for any length of time. So, after poring over the weather map and discussing options with Brad, the skipper of Suuhaa, I decided to stick with yesterday's plan and head for Kushiro.

As a result of all this deliberation our departure was delayed a little and we did not get underway until just before eleven. But the currents running through Tsugaru Kaikyo more than made up for our late departure. At its eastern entrance they run at up to five knots and I think we had the best part of this boost with the GPS showing Sylph doing over eleven knots for an hour or so. Of course such assistance from nature comes at a price and while we were in the current we also experienced steep seas as the swell met the current and piled up into tall breaking heaps.  Sylph crashed and carrened over and through the waves, frequently burying her bows and throwing torrents of water down her decks.  It felt like we were shooting some rapids.

Now, thankfully, we have popped out the far side of the strait, the seas have subsided, the wind has eased, Sylph is running square, the sun is shining and . . .

All is well.