Departed Kushiro (and Japan)
Noon position: 42 58.89 N 144 23.04 E
Course: South east, Speed 2.6 knots
Wind: South F1 light air
Weather: overcast, mild, fog patches
Sylph's stop in Kushiro was very short but surprisingly pleasant. Most of my time was taken up buying in some extra provisions, topping up fuel and water, and completing the formalities for clearing out of Japan. Not that I needed much in the way of fuel and water, but if the slowness of the passage from Hakodate to Kushiro is an indication of what we can expect for large parts of the passage ahead, than I figure all the consumables had best be at 100% on our departure from Japan.
One silly thing that I did which wasted some time (and money) was that I needed to draw out some cash from an ATM to purchase some fuel and for some reason, after all this time in Japan, I got my zeroes mixed up and drew out 70,000 yen when I only wanted 7,000. Bother! Now I didn't want to leave Japan with all this useless cash so I decided I would change it for US dollars, being the most useful currency given that Alaska is our next destination, but, by the time I had thought of this solution the banks were closing. Fortunately it turned out that the main post office in Kushiro also exchanges money so I ended up spending close to an hour sorting this silly mistake out, which I figure cost me about $25 in fees and losses on exchange rates.
Having sorted this problem out I then went to the Immigration department to have my passport stamped so I could legally leave the country. Thus it was late yesterday afternoon that I was returning to the boat when, as I walked through the doors of the MOO building outside of which Sylph was tied up, a kindly looking gentleman wearing a dark business suit stood up from his seat beside the door and asked me whether I was Bob san. I acknowledged that such I was, and he produced a clipboard with several sheets of paper on it upon which were written various phrases in English. He introduced himself as Yoshinori Ootomo, a friend of Thom from Fukuoka, and, through his several list of prepared questions, he invited me to join him for dinner at a local restaurant. I could hardly refuse such kindness.
So last night I spent in the very pleasant company of Yoshinoro san. He spoke very little English and of course I have learnt next to no Japanese in the time I have been in Japan, so conversation got off to a slow start. However, with the aid of a pen and notebook, my phrase book and Yoshinoro'a netbook opened to the Google translate webpage, we managed to end up having some quite advanced discussions, passing his netbook back and forth in between courses. I learnt from Yoshinoro that he was 62 years of age, he went to Tokai University in Tokyo from the age of 18 to 22, otherwise he has spent his whole life in Kushiro. At university he obtained a masters degree in politics but now works in the computing field, which is how he came to be friends with Thom. He is married with two children, one girl and one boy, who are now 30 and 32 respectively. I also learnt that Thom had his honeymoon in Kushiro. You see one of the advantages with having a conversation via a notebook is that you end up with a lot of stuff written down. Of course we also talked of many other things, so Yoshinoro san, through Thom, gave me a wonderful parting gift as my last memory of Japan. Thank you Yoshinoro and Thom.
This morning I arose a little after five. The sun is shining brightly through the windows by this time of day, and leads one to think it is much later than that indicated by the somewhat arbitrary numbers on a clock's face. After a bit of tidy up and a few last minute chores, I soon had Sylph secured for sea, and at 0815 I flashed up the Bright Red Machine, cast off the dock lines, and motored out of the harbour and . . . into the fog.
After groping our way past the harbour breakwaters by the simple expedient of following back along the track left on the GPS from our way in, we drifted around outside the harbour with a number of fishing boats motoring past. At least I could hear them for often the fog was so thick that they would have to have been frighteningly close to have been visible. As I would hear one out in the gloom somewhere I would train my head back and forth trying to work out the relative bearing and listening to determine whether the sound was on a steady bearing and getting louder, in which case a collision was possible, or whether the bearing was moving, in which case we should miss each other. Fortunately I had only one contact which caused me any concern, and he eventually passed close down our port side without ever being seen by me.
Now the wind has freshened a little from the south west, a fair wind, which has cleared the fog for the time being, allowing us to make good a speed of four knots. We appear to be off to a good start.
All is well.