Headwinds and Contrary Currents (17 June Mk2)

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 17 Jun 2014 21:44
Noon Position (17 June): 41 55.4 N 143 46.2 E
Course: East nor' east Speed: 3 knots
Wind: North nor' east, F2 – light breeze
Weather: overcast, frequent fog, cool
Day's Run: 48 nm (76 sailed and drifted)

Considering the light, variable winds, calms, and contrary currents that we
have endured over the last twenty four hours, we have actually made quite
pleasing progress. We managed to claw our way around the south eastern point
of Hokkaido, Erimo-Misake, at midnight only to find the breeze backing into
the north nor' east, a dead muzzler. I feared that with the current also
against us that gaining ground towards Kushiro was going to be difficult.
Fortunately, while the wind and current have remained against us, the
current has not been more than about half a knot and the wind has at least
been relatively consistent.

Overnight, once clear of Erimo, we opened out from the coast for three
reasons. The first was that the Sailing Directions advises, contrary to what
I would have expected, that the current is strongest close into the coast,
the second was that there was likely to be fishing vessels and their nets,
buoys and other hazards closer inshore, and the third reason was to get
outside the busy shipping lane. Getting around Erimo-Mesaki was particularly
challenging as ships were converging on it from several different directions
and altering course around it, making predicting what ships were going to do
what rather difficult, especially with the dense fog which frequently closed
in on us. Once again the AIS proved its value many times over, and I was
pleased to see that a number of ships appeared to alter course to avoid
Sylph even though I could not see them, only the numbers on the AIS screen
indicating their heading. Sylph's steel hull and superstructure presumably
make for a good radar target, at least in these smooth seas.

While fog for a mariner is always a menace and never welcome, one can still
appreciate its beauty. Late yesterday evening towards sunset I was struck by
such a moment as we were approaching the headland. The wind was very light,
the fog was wet, soft. and white, Sylph was ghosting along through the
smooth but slightly undulating sea, a light barely perceptible breeze kept
her sails full, in the distance I could hear a couple of whales breathing. A
bamboo pole with a raggedy black flag and the small brush of a tree branch
attached to its end, a typical Japanese fishing buoy, appeared out of the
shroud like fog, and slid past, close down Sylph's starboard side, and back
into the wraiths astern. The whole atmosphere reminded me of one of those
Hollywood movies, where the Viking long boat is entering the realms of the
Underworld on its mythological quest. Fortunately no Kraken or the like
appeared and several minutes later we emerged from the ancient eerie misty
world and back in to the present reality of fog horns, ship engines and the
search light beam of Erimo Masaki sweeping under the low cloud base.

The wind remains light and progress towards Kushiro slow. I am remaining in
touch with my fellow North Pacific voyagers through email and SSB radio.
Sylph only has a receiver, but I am emailing my position to Brad on Suuhaa,
the net coordinator, at around 0630 and he is sharing my position over the
net at 0800. It is a bit of morale booster to hear friendly voices
discussing their respective journeys, the weather and other things of mutual
nautical interest, and hearing Sylph mentioned amongst it. It is a nice
little community sharing information and looking out for each other as we
head into a remote and potentially hostile part of the world.

All is well.