Friday, May 29, 2009

Japan at last

01 May bye bye Taiwan, next stop Japan.

First though customs and coastguard. Exiting the harbour in Taiwan had us beating into a big rolling swell. The swell gradually eased but there was that old head wind again. Thirty four hours of zigzag motor sailing saw us arrive at the Japanese Island of Ishigaki. It was late in the day so weanchored out for the noght. Next morning we were invited to raft nex to Spirit of Lorilie an Aussie yacht. First official was quarantine, next customs followed by coastgurad. Coastguard seems to be a means to employment and this did not go well as we had not done our arrival procedure correctly. Lastly for photo and fingerprinting. Did not feel like it somehow but we are now in Japan.
We stayed a week in Ishigaki cycling around and organising our required cruising permit. Not an easy thing to do. Japan has closed ports and open ports, with arrival and departure times. Our application had destination names and their latitudes and longitudes...that was useless as the Marine office only had a Japan Atlas. The difficulty we had with this (also at Naha) could fill a chapter in a book...but it was all done with smiles and bows.
Time came to move on so at 6am were about to leave when a local yachtie presented us with apples and passionfruit, just as we were moving off he reappeared with a huge bottle of Saki.
Next island Tarama....small and low with two ports. We cycled around the very narrow streets of the town, the country was mostly in sugarcane. These ports are where there is a break in the coral reef and have a series of man made barriers to stop the ocean swell. Inside is a complex of concrete walled dividing pens to tie up to. Later that day, three police arrived who had no English, so they had organised for a woman to help...why were we here...who gave us permission etc...they were shown our permit (all in Japanese) our passport visas (which they could not read). After about 30 minutes Brian became a bit tetchy and said arrest me and call my embassy.....shock horror, that worked...Oh no all is okay.
Next Island...Onikawa and to its capital Naha. We entered where we believed there was a small marina, but it is no longer. Some local fishermen ( one the size of a small sumo wrestler) helped us tie up to a wall. The trip to here was 160 miles and although the wind was light we were able to sail using the code zero.
Next morning we moved to the new marina at Ginowan. WE stayed three days, with more cruising permit applications. The marina cost for us was NZ 45 per day. but when we came to pay we were only charged for one day,
Ikema was our next stop. Again tied to a wharf...Two coastguard officials came to check us out and were very friendly and helpful. Next day we had another five from Coastguard come...they are really curious ....
A local business couple took us to their house for internet and for the three days we were there every morning they provided us with a weather forecast printout.
The next day was a longish trip with a 6am start, this couple had already given us strawberries but came runnig down to wave goodbye and present us with some more gifts.
Ariving at Ie Island we saw two other yachts, but it was too shallow for Charioteer to go where they were so we once again tied up to the main wharf.
The yachts were Japanese, one owner cycled around with lots of advise for the next port. Another local is building a Wharram Catamran and he also was full of information. This island is flat except for one sharp hill that shows up for miles out at sea.
These southern island were hard fought over during the second world war as Americans and Allies advanced northwards. It really showed at Ie Island where there is a monument with the names of all those who died.... 3500 peopl, or put survivors.
A short voyage next to Yuron Island. A couple of locals had been advised of our arrival and came out in a small boat to guide us in. Just as well as it was not easy. A welcome party for us that night. Now we had read about a custom on this island involving saki made from sugarcane. A group of people each one in turn makes a speech then downs a full glass of saki. Not a good feeling the next day. There generosity knows no day we went to the local internet ...the usual questions were asked and name cards were exchanged and our one has a photo of Charioteer on and is quite a hit. They gave us coffee and a bunch of grapes. We invited them to visit us next morning and when they arrived they were carrying rock melons and a 10 litre box of water.....
It is a catching attitude in Ishigaki an expat American with a yacht charter saw our damaged wind g enerator..the next thing he presents us with three new blades, plus a nose cone...probably saving us about NZ1500.......

The winds have gone back to the north and in the hifh thirties so the seas are rather rough. We will wait it out, kepping it in mind that there are still 500 miles to go to Fukuoka.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Taiwan Cruising....Kenting...Huelien

Seemed logical to go north around the top of Taiwan to head for Japan. Oh no we were told. Bad currents, bad winds,bad everything. Okay all the way south again into Hobihou Marina, Kenting. Sadly the Asian thing, built beautiful but now on its way to ruin. It is close to the Nuclear Power Station, some wind generators and a huge solar set up. Well now, where there are wind turbines...its because there is wind. This was the only time we have taken off the bimimi and lowered the boom. Alas it was too much for our wind generator. One hell of a bang..WHAT WAS THAT?...a blade took off damaging one other on the way.
For some reason immigration drove three hours to book us out, even though we were heading north to Haulien. This trip turned into an overnight, calm at first but gradually that weather god that has it in for us started up....30knots going up to low 40's from right in front. Rain and blowing spray until we crawled into harbour to the usual security check stop. A MT.Chou was there to meet us and help with formalities. Immigration didn't know what to do, but eventually gave us a Ships Pass for the area for another seven days.
Sometime past a Japanese sailor lost his eyesight by getting to close to his wind generator, result being he donated his yacht to some keen people at Hualien. Mr. Chou and friends looked after us..the highlight being taken to Taroko Gorge. A mountain pass across the island. The mountains as over 3000 metres high, mostly of marble with a river cut through at an incredible depth. Fifty years ago Army personnel cut a road through, using hammer and chisel...over 450 people lost their lives building this road. The walls in many places are sheer so you drive on a road that is like a tunnel, with the outer wall missing. There are tunnels as well to make it a truly incredible place.
One night we came back to our boat to find several bags of fruit on board with a business card. We txted a thank you and the next thing we were invited to lunch next day. This turned into a huge affair, followed by a drive to the supermarket to stock up on basic supplies. We made it clear that we were paying for these things, but did not notice that our host had already left money at the checkout. So $NZ50.00 worth of groceries made this man so happy he danced out of the store singing...I fooled you, I fooled you......
This is just one case of the generosity of the people we met in Taiwan.
We had dinner with another young artist couple that evening, before leaving the next day.
Next morning we cleared Immigration and then security and used up our left over Taiwan dollars buying diesel. We had friends to see us off, so with lines cast off we left the wharf. "Whats this?"...a car pulls up and out jumps a man carrying bags....everyone is getting excited as we reverse up to the wharf to get this gift of biscuits,cakes and lollies.