May 30, 2019
A gorgeous morning in Fukuoka at Odo marina on what feels like the outskirts of town. We arrived in during an epic downpour, rain so thick we were using radar to confirm the coastline and watch for other boats. In the past few days the weather has been sunny and warm letting us appreciate how beautiful the landscape is around the marina. From the guest dock we look out past the breakwater to a large bay backed by islets and green hills. We rode the subway into downtown and were shocked at how large Fukuoka is. There is little hint from the marina that we are on the edge of a city with a population larger than San Francisco. I felt like a country bumpkin craning my neck at the large buildings and saying “Wow” over and over. Starbucks! Tully’s! Seattle’s Best Coffee!
After a day of being tourists we had dinner with Kirk and and his wife Tsuyoku. Kirk is the first person to sail solo around all the islands of Japan and is, as you’d imagine, a wealth of information on cruising in Japan. He’s lived and worked in Japan for over 30 years, so is fluent in language and culture. Tsuyoku made a wonderful meal and we had enjoyed the view from their lofty apartment looking out over a park and a neighborhood with quaint tiled roofed houses. Kirk has been helping us with a couple projects and his insights into cruising and getting work done on yachts is incredibly helpful. He is in the process of starting a yacht consulting business to help foreigners wanting to cruise in Japan, and also writing a cruising guide to Japan - something that I’m sure will be well received and encourage sailing here.
While in Fukuoka our main project is attach chainplates for a Jordan Series Drogue. We built the drogue in Port Townsend (something I do not recommend doing unless you want to forfeit a large chunk of your sanity). A series drogue is basically a long line dragged behind a boat with lots of little cones made from sail cloth attached to it, the theory being that all the small cones will disperse the energy created by large waves and keep a boat from getting out of control going down large waves. We had planned on deploying the drogue by attaching it to our cockpit winches but in reviewing that plan and discussing it with other cruisers, we realized that the loads, and angles and potential for chafe was too great so we designed chainplates to be bolted to the hull. The plan for deployment being to shackle the bridle legs for the drogue to the chainplates before departing on our passage and stowing the drogue in the cockpit, ready to use if we get caught up in particularly nasty weather. In theory we would need to drop the cones overboard and they would feed out of a storage bag and snap into place, slowing us down and keeping our stern to the following seas. This is one of those boat projects that runs so deep in minutiae with each smallest detail discussed at great length in sailing forums that we are still assessing and altering our plans for use a couple years after making and stowing it aboard!
Traveling from Nagasaki we stopped at several interesting ports. Our first stop at Ikishima was a bit strange, it is a small island that had a coal mine and village built on it. The mine was shut down some time ago and the village abandoned. 300 or so people live there now, randomly sprinkled around the islands many abandoned buildings. There are apartment buildings all over the island and the evidence of residents looks like one building might have a couple residents, another building a couple and so on. The rest of the building might have the windows boarded up but a couple windows will have laundry or plants in them, or lights on at night. There are many buildings all over the island, with rows of apartment buildings at the top of the island slowly being retaken by the landscape. Grass, trees, vines all cover the buildings and lots around them. Feral cats roamed the island, we passed one vicious looking group just as a fight broke out, several of the cats had horrible scars or open wounds. Much of the island felt bleak and depressing with the various sections of the mine left to decay, hulks of steel peeling open and rust devouring all the steel. There appears to have been little in the way of attempting to recover any of the material for reuse or recycling, it looks as though one day the whistle blew to end the shift and the employees went home, packed their things and left.
Each of the harbors we’ve visited since arriving have had their own charm or attraction. I am pretty happy in a semi abandoned small village with a few retired people. It has been a culture shock to be in Fukuoka for a week. With a population larger than San Francisco we’ve had our big city experience and are ready to head north and into the Inland Sea, I’m ready for more of small town Japan.
For cruisers I’d note that Odo is an excellent marina. The guest docks are large and easy to tie to, there is water but not to each slip. The facilities are fine, not fancy but well kept up. Across the street is a massive grocery store and a mega massive hardware/housegoods store, subway to downtown is a 15 minute walk. The marina has a large park and band of greenspace shielding it from the noise and sight of the city. It feels very remote here. The staff has been incredibly kind and helpful and the work that the boatyard did installing the chainplates was first rate. Hamada san was great to work with, he understood we were under time pressure and had the project done quickly. His crew were friendly and professional. High marks.
Below are the Farkwar posts we made as we sailed from Nagasaki to Fukuoka. Tomorrow we leave Odo marina to make our way north and through the Kanmon Kaikyo into the inland sea. In a little over a week one of our nephews will join us, followed by a second nephew a week later. We are looking forward to seeing the boys and showing them a bit of Japan. We will be sailing with them from Onomichi through the islands to Wakayama. We’ll do our final prep to depart Japan from Wakayama and plan to leave the country in late June.
May 13, 2019
We set out from Nagasaki after lunch, light winds kept us motoring all the way to Ikeshima. Weird hazy light all afternoon, a lot of moisture in the air and the light was flat and grey. Kind of perfect for Ikeshima. We arrived late in the afternoon to Ikeshima and island that was once a coal mining community that abandoned the island and mine when the mine was no longer profitable. The entire town and mine stand much as they did when the people left, the mining equipment rusting and falling apart, the homes and apartment buildings covered in ivy and slowly falling to ruin. 300 or so people are reported to be living on the island and we saw signs of habitation in various spots, a few people in various apartment buildings, people in houses at the top of the hill, people in buildings by the ferry dock. Our spot for the night is along a dock with nice large rubber bumpers. The dock sits in a well protected basin and is near windless with flat water. A slightly eerie spot for the night but surely interesting. Several ferries have come and gone since we arrived, each ferry might have a single person on it, the infrastructure seems out of proportion with the population. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 05/13/2019 04:10 (utc) our position was 32º53.313'N - 129º36.307’E
May 14, 2019
Light winds in the morning had us sailing much of the passage today but in the afternoon winds built to 11 knots and we were able to sail for a couple hours. It was nice to have the sails up after the past few weeks of light winds. The sea was mostly flat and a mist or light fog in the air made the islands in the distance look like they were brushed in place with a light wash of water color. Uku Shima is a nice compact village behind multiple sets of break waters. Just inside the main double break waters is a another breakwater that shelters a small marina with slips for perhaps 20 yachts. There are only a couple small local fishing boats in the marina tonight. One of the nicer places we've had for the night at 1130 yen. Water and power are available. We walked around the village and enjoyed the views to the sea. We've been told it is possible to rent electric bicycles to tour the island. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 05/14/2019 02:30 (utc) our position was 33º15.388'N - 129º07.743’E
May 16, 2019
Another beautiful morning on the water. We had attempted to sail to Hirado yesterday but were chased back by strong winds on the nose and rough seas, we had a narrow time window to make the tide and that was not going to happen. We also picked up sea weed on the prop and removed a massive ball back at Uku. We arrived at Hirado mid afternoon, timing our arrival with slack tide. There are strong currents in the approach to the harbor and at near slack we passed through a strong rip line, at max current it is reported that the current can run to five knots, a port worth planning for. We tied to the guest pontoon with a roof, on the west side of the pontoon there are now extra large fenders, of the type used for ships, and this gives enough room to keep the shrouds from tapping the roof. On the east side a sailboat would need really large fenders or a clever method to keep from rolling hard and tapping the roof, there is a ferry dock next to the guest pontoon and we rolled a lot when we first arrived before we finalized our lines. There is also a guest pontoon further in the harbor that has no roof. Check in was simple, at the visitors center, staff was really friendly. It is free. Hirado is a lovely village and we walked the narrow side streets after arriving. There is a castle on the hill, our view astern. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 04/16/2019 04:00 (utc) our position was 33º22.273'N - 129º33.290'E
May 20, 2019
A beautiful departure from Hirado this morning, light just beginning to break over the town, the harbor waters pond still, we timed our early departure for slack tide to exit Hirado and it all went smoothly. Hugging the a coastline mostly hidden by mist and fog we had light to very very light airs most of the morning. Twice the winds built to a 12 knots and we had the Genoa up for a heart beat, but as soon as we were set the winds dropped and we motored on. The coast line has many islets and rocks offshore and the coastline is stunning, it was a gorgeous morning until we were swallowed by fog. Once again we were bedeviled by seaweed and we have a slight vibration leading us to believe we have a chunk of something wrapped around the prop. On our approach to Fukuoka we passed into a rain front and made our way to Odo Marina in an absolute deluge. With light winds and a 1.5 knot current on the beam we were mostly parked onto the dock by the elements. Now that we are all settled in the winds have built and the rains continue to pour. Spring yachting at its finest! Odo looks like a great marina to have as a base while we explore Fukuoka and work at a couple projects. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 05/20/2019 02:00 (utc) our position was 33º35.552'N - 130º18.699 'E