July 4, 2019
Wakayama Marina City Marina
The Japan chapter of our travels around the Pacific is about to close. We are at the Wakayama Marina City Marina watching for a weather window to depart for Port Townsend and expect to be casting off our lines in a couple of days. We arrived in Japan March 11 and it has been a grand experience. But it is time to turn our attention to the east and begin what will be a long journey homeward. It is about 4,500 miles from Wakayama to Port Townsend and we expect the trip to take somewhere around 40-45 days but are prepared for it to take much longer. We are also prepared to visit Alaska and British Columbia depending on how the weather shapes up.
For the past three weeks we had our nephews William and Hayden join us aboard Tumbleweed. Their visit has been a highlight of travels in the Pacific and our time in Japan. Plans for their visit have been in the works for several years, to have those conversations manifest into walking through temples with them and sailing in the Seto Naikai was pretty cool. William joined us in Onomichi and a week later Hayden joined us at Naoshima, traveling with us through the various islands as we made our way to Wakayama. We did more in the past three weeks than we have in the past three months, it was a lot of fun being tourists with those guys, they were excellent travel companions and we are already missing their energy and enthusiasm.
After William joined us in Onomichi we made stops at several small islands, details listed below in from our Farkwar posts. Most ports and villages were very quiet and we usually spent just a night before moving on. At Naoshima, an island with several museums and outdoor art installations, we stayed several days and Hayden joined us. We had one of the coolest moments of their visit at the Tadao Ando museum. Ando built a museum inside an old Japanese house, a fascinating use of his trademark concrete that revealed the restored woodwork and interior structures of the house, using curves, passageways and openings to give the museum a spatial expanse beyond its physical limits. In the lowest level of the museum Ando built out a meditation chamber, a small circular room with a suspended ceiling lit from above through a cast glass sculpture in the entry garden. William responded to the excellent acoustics in the chamber, with some encouragement from Douglas, and began chanting what sounded like a mature Tibetan monk in prayer. His pitch matched the harmonics of the space perfectly and the entire room began to vibrate. I think Ando would approve.
Having our nephews join us added a new dimension to traveling in Japan. We were able to see things with a fresh perspective, they brought a lot of enthusiasm for each day’s adventures and were up for anything. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of sightseeing, many days ending with us hitting the wall of exhaustion and crashing out early. The sun is up early at this time of the year and we were all up before six each morning, often at 5:30, for a quick breakfast and then off to see the sights. Many days we moved from one island to another, mostly short legs of 20 miles or so but we did have a couple long jumps that had us all out on the water for a full day. We were fortunate to have good weather for the most part and the making our way between the islands were beautiful.
The week we made our way from Naoshima to Wakayama we had light winds and motored for the most part. We had a few stretches where we had the sails up and motor sailed but unfortunately we weren’t able to get in solid sailing. Given the amount of commercial traffic on the water and the amount of seaweed floating around that was probably for the best. The passage from the Seto Naikai to the Kii Suido can be made through the Naruto Channel or the Naruto Ko, the little Naruto channel. The main passage sees massive currents with the tidal exchange and generates ship sinking whirlpools, it’s a popular tourist destination to watch the waters at the height of the exchange. Taking Kirk Patterson’s recommendation we instead motored through the Naruto Ko, a several miles long winding channel that makes its way along several villages and a decent sized town. Using the tide information from the New Pec Smart app we timed our transit with the slack tide and had no drama.
Crossing the Kii Suido we had the sails up briefly, winds picked up to 12 knots for a nice beam reach over flat waters but as soon as the sails were set the winds dropped to 3 knots and stayed there the rest of the day. There was a lot of moisture in the air reducing our visibility and hiding the commercial shipping traffic that runs heavily through those waters, all the ships that make their way to Kobe, Osaka and the many ports along the coast transit that area. It was a steady stream of tankers, cargo ships, tugs with barges, ferries and all sorts of ships. A bit nerve wracking.
We settled in quickly at Wakayama Marina City Marina and had a day exploring Kainon the small town next to the marina. We all rode the train to Tokyo together for a night of wandering in Shinjuku and seeing the sights in the big city. It was time for William’s flight all too soon and we were all a bit melancholy to see him heading for home, the two weeks had passed far too quickly. He is such a great traveling companion with limitless energy, a positive attitude and great insights. Tumbleweed is a small space and can be a challenge for people not used to such close quarters, both of the nephews adapted quickly to the space and it all worked out well. We look forward to them joining us on future travels.
Our nephew Hayden spent a week with us after William went home. He is a few years older and took advantage of having a rail pass to roam to villages and sights of interest from Kainon. Douglas and I would spend the day prepping for our departure and Hayden would go sight seeing, in the evenings we’d cook dinner and he tell us of his discoveries. At the end of the week we went to Kyoto and met up with another nephew, Espen, who is studying Japanese at the University of Washington and is in Japan for the summer studying. Douglas and I joined the guys for dinner than took the train back to the marina. Hayden stayed on and got a insider’s tour of Osaka.
Japan has been such a pleasure to visit. Small fishing villages, remote outposts, abandoned coal mines, tying alongside rough concrete walls for the night, the beauty of the Kyushu coastline from the sea, kind people, generous people, helpful people, have all made this a rich experience. We could easily lose ourselves here for years, stopping off at some island for weeks at a time but that is not in the cards for this trip. Maybe on our next tour of the Pacific. What we have experienced has exceeded our expectations. The remote, dying little villages have been exactly the sort of places we wanted to visit by boat. There are so many places in Japan where the decline in population has left whole areas on the verge of ghost towns and the few residents often elderly. There is a stillness to those communities, no sounds of children playing, or a sense of any kind of industry, many places are eerily quiet.
There are a handful of blogs that are pretty informative with notes on recommended villages, etc but much of that information is many years old. Bosun Bird wrote up an excellent and very detailed blog but they sailed here in 2011 and 2012, somethings have changed since then. We also used the notes of Sunstone and Chamade, finding them useful as well. Japanese yachtsmen were also helpful, Ken of MV Happy went over our charts with us when we first arrived in Kyushu and had some excellent insights. The most informative advice we received was from Kirk Patterson of SV Silk Purse, who has the distinction of being the first person to circumnavigate Japan sailing solo. He has shared invaluable tips and suggested strategies for making our way from the Kyushu coast through the Seto Naikai and to Wakayama. He is a consultant for yachts traveling through Japan and can assist with navigating the waters and bureaucracy of the country. He is also working on a guidebook to sailing Japan and that should be incredibly valuable when it’s complete. Kirk can be reached at: kirk.konpira at yahoo dot com
It is time for us to switch our focus from touring Japan to sailing back to the states. This weekend has a good forecast for our departure, we are looking at Sunday first light as our best candidate. . We’ve been working at preparing for our departure even while our nephews were with us, so there are not many tasks remaining. The passage is 4,500 miles sailing directly from Wakayama to Port Townsend. We plan to head east to put some distance between us and Japan, and the typhoons that tend to spin up this time of year, then head north, sailing a mixture of a rhumb line and a great circle passage. Our route will take us pretty far north, weather or the desire to put our feet on land might have us stopping off in Alaska at a few places before making our way to Port Townsend. It would be nice to visit our friends in Alaska and to visit some of the more remote coves in Alaska and British Columbia.
Below are the Farkwar posts from our travels since Onomichi.
June 13, 2019
Yesterday we motored from Onomichi to Shiraishima a small island that has excellent walking paths and a several nice shrines. The small village, like many we have visited, feels like it is in decline. It has a nice beach and a few businesses along the water and looks like during the tourist season it gets a bit more lively, but at this time of year it is pretty dormant. We checked out Moo Bar that had been recommended as a nice cafe run by a couple of expat cruisers but it was closed. We found space along a large pontoon. The main comment that comes up about this location is that there are several unmarked drying rocks 100 meters or so south of the entrance. We noted some rocks as we approached near low tide, hard to imagine they are not charted, they are fairly large and prominent. We kept a bit to the east and had no issues. There is a small market in town and a harbor with a ferry on the other side of the island, but that seems pretty small with mostly local fishing boats. Highly recommend the walk along the ridge, we walked to the temple with what looks like a stupa and followed a trail up behind the temple complex.
At 06/12/2019 01:30 (utc) our position was 34º24.513'N - 133º31.481'E
Several hours of motoring and motor sailing into headwinds, dodging various commercial vessels and seaweed as we tend to do in this region, through scenic waters with beautiful islands and shoreline. We had reserved a space along the ferry pontoon at Naoshima and arrived mid day with time for a bit of exploring before dark. Entrance is clear and well marked, good depth along pontoon, no water or electricity, experienced high winds and choppy waters that had Tumbleweed bucking like a spooked bronco for one night and another day that was uncomfortable. We deployed all fenders, and our two car tires to keep us off the pontoon. The island is a great place to wander and explore several museums designed by Tadao Ando with various minimalist art installations. James Turrell is the running favorite. Our nephew Hayden joined us, it was a bit of an epic day to take the ferry then a series of trains to Narita. We now have two of our nephews with us and are having a great time. Tomorrow morning we head for Shodoshima and will then make our way to Wakayama. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 06/17/2019 01:30 (utc) our position was 34º27.424'N - 133º58.346'E
April 19, 2019
Very light winds gave us another few hours of motoring to Shodoshima, a compact town along an open bay. We moored alongside a pontoon with two large signs with illustrations of motor yachts that said in Japanese and English that mooring was forbidden. We asked for permission at the nearby cafe and the owner said we could stay one night. There is a large commercial dock and we had first moored on the seaward side of that and it was incredibly rolly even with very light winds. A Japanese sailboat arrived at night and anchored in the bay. Shodoshiima is a large island with several recommended places to moor, this location has an excellent grocery store and a nearby itzakaya where we had a nice dinner. Wish we had more time to explore the island, there is a network of buses that run to a soy sauce museum and various olive oil museums etc. Lots of walking and exploring though and a pleasant night along the pontoon. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 04/19/2019 11:40 (utc) our position was 34º28.602'N - 134º10.972’E
April 20, 2019
We had a calm few hours motoring - again! - from Shodoshima to Hiketa Ko. We tied along a seawall in an active fishing harbor, and walked all over the village. A beautiful day, many fields of rice growing, winding small village streets. Harbor was active but otherwise not much was open, we walked nearly a mile out of town to find an open restaurant. Very calm night, well sheltered by breakwaters. We tied to the end of a large Tee dock. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 04/18/2019 11:40 (utc) our position was 34º13.556'N - 134º24.472'E
April 20, 2019
Team Tumbleweed has arrived at Wakayama Marina City, ending another chapter in our visit to Japan, putting our adventures in the Seto Naikai behind us and beginning our preparations for leaving Japan to sail back to the Pacific Northwest. We have had our nephews joining us for the past couple of weeks in the Inland Sea and have had a super time visiting various islands with them. It has been a highlight of our travels in the pacific to have them aboard, we have had more adventures and done more sightseeing with them than in all the time since we left Chichijima. I think Junko and William would be a good match in terms of how to fit as much fun as possible into a day, never enough daylight hours! We are spending the next few days wrapping up final small tasks and provisioning for the next leg.Wakayama Marina City has nice facilities, friendly staff, and is close to many restaurants, and a train station. Haven’t found a grocery yet but I’m confident there is a large market not too far based on the many restaurants in the area. No electricity or water at the visitor’s dock but only $10 a night, we are happy to jerry can the water for that cost. Our target departure date is June 27, though there is a tropical depression starting to spin up that looks like it might head this way and check our departure date. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Japan. Chichijima, Kyushu and the Seto Naikai have all been great places to visit and travel through, we highly recommend adding Japan to your short list of cruising destinations. Once we are back in the states I plan to add a page to the blog with some of our observations on cruising here. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 06/20/2019 04:30 (utc) our position was 34º09.309'N - 135º10.673'E