The view north from the 13th floor of our building. Directly behind us is the Tama River, the southern boundary of Tokyo. Across the river is Kawasaki.
Departure for the Bonin Islands/Ogasawara is fast approaching. Another month before we cast off and head south some 600 nautical miles to Chichijima, where, a day or three after arriving, we turn round for the return trip. Three boats will be going; Stuart Milne’s Fujin, Per Knudsen’s Bifrost, and David Devlin’s Yarramundi, all members of the Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron, or TSPS. Each boat will have four or five crew, some experienced, others not.
The boats have been equipped to meet Japanese offshore regulations, which require vessels making offshore passages to be equipped with all manner of safety gear like six-man life rafts, and electronics like radar. It’s the law, a prerequisite for voyaging and each owner has laid out a pretty sum to meet the regs.
As for myself, I’m really looking forward to this adventure. I’ve been offshore before, but for a short time only off the Malaysian coast. I’m looking forward to the four to five days of non-stop sailing, to crossing the Kuroshio current, to being out there, and to raising Chichijima off the bow. I’m not sure of the timing, but we may see whales near the islands and dolphins anywhere in between.
It’s a goal common among sailors in Japan, or at least the Kanto region, to sail to Ogasawara. Most talk about it as a trip they’d like to make ‘one day.’ Well, thanks to my membership in the TSPS, and the ambitions of Stuart, Per, and David, all aboard will be able to say, “Been there, done that.”
I’ll be posting updates in the lead up to departure, and then whenever opportunity allows in the Bonins.
The weather this season in southern Kanagawa has been wild and unpredictable- warm and sunny one day, then cold, wet, and miserable the next, followed by sun, then rain, then wind. Spring winds from the south, usually strong but non-life threatening, have been ferocious, rolling through at speeds of up to 55 knots (27 meters per second) making sailing, well, improbable. And so I, we, my fellow Tokyo area sailors, wait for fairer winds.
Last winter I spent a lot of time working on Voyager doing mostly big little things– installing ratlines to climb the shrouds; making, then installing new three-strand lifelines to replace old ones that had no adjustment built in; mounting three bronze Murray winches on the mast, and scores of other odd jobs. I got to the point when everything that could be done in a few hours got done, and all the items on ‘The Quick Jobs List’ were checked off. What was I going to do with the remaining ‘few hour’ bits of free time I had available?
One rainy afternoon while leafing through a book on gaff-rigged cutters I noticed a nicely-aged canvas bucket in a photo of a boat’s cockpit. The sun and the salt water, and perhaps the years, had turned it gray. The canvas was crumpled to one side but the brim remained round and firm, the fibers of the three-strand line standing proud under the canvas. It looked quite dignified and it occurred to me a bucket made the perfect little project. So I bought a couple meters of #8 canvas at Yuzawaya in Kamata and began planning my work flow. I came across a fairly detailed description in Lin and Larry Pardey’s book ‘The Cost Conscious Cruiser‘ and listed out the parts I’d need. I made the decision early on to do it all by hand, which for me was the beginning of the adventure. I’d never sewn anything before
Having gathered up the materials, I began by making an 8” circle, or grommet, of 3/8” three-strand rope. Then using a sailmaker’s palm (a thimble worn on the palm of the hand), I sewed the canvas to create a 20” tube and then folded it over on itself to get double-sided bucket walls. I slipped the grommet up in between the doubled walls to create the rim. Next was the doubled bottom made of two 9” canvas circles sewn together 3/4 of an inch from the edge I’d selvaged to stop any fraying. The bottom was sewn on with some difficulty as I had to get it to fit the tube walls without too much puckering. That completed, I turned it all inside out and had the beginnings of the bucket. To keep the three-strand brim in place between the walls, I sewed all the way around the underside of the brim using a sewing awl. Next came small grommets sewn under the bucket rim to form holes through which I spliced some rope to form the handle. I added the BCC sail mark by rubber cementing on letter cut-outs I‘d made from a length of leather. Finally, I spliced on 12’ of rope to form the line the bucket is hung from when scooping water, adding Matthew Walker knots every 12” to help with grip under load. So, my ‘few hours’ project took well over 12 hours to complete.
A sequence of images showing the work.
Yesterday, 3/23, Mike Snyder took Distant Dreamer to Yokohama Bayside Marina for some electronics work and to install a new prop. I went as crew. We departed at around 0830 and motored into a nor’easterly blowing at perhaps 25 knots. The water was very choppy for the first hour, but as we headed to the south-west with the wind now at our backs, the water inexplicably calmed, and the sun came out and warmed us up. Distant Dreamer was in the slings by 1115 and hauled and parked by 1130.
Mike is swapping props, installing a 17″ three-blade MaxProp and removing a smaller, older one. The MaxProp feathers, meaning it’s blades rotate parallel to the water flow when under sail. Firing up the engine and engaging the gear spins the blades into the usual position. The benefit of all this is to reduce drag. Someone once told me traditional fixed props create as much drag as a similarly-sized bucket thrown over the side. On my boat, this would mean a potential speed gain of about a knot, which is quite substantial given top speeds are in the 6.5 to 7.5 knot range. I’m hoping to buy Mike’s old MaxProp and install it on Voyager next month.
Here’s a pic of Distant Dreamer from last summer’s cruise to Heda