Making hay...

Submitted by jono on 19 Jun 2024.

An update to the blog is well overdue, so here goes with an attempt to fill in the bigger gaps in a rough and ready way!

Chiba to Sendai

Chiba to Sendai will go down in my mind as the first leg of the journey. It is a mostly a long, straight, low-lying coast that is challenging to sail because there are few places where stopping is viable. The industrial ports are huge and intimidating and really for ships only. Between the ports the coastline is often still fortified, for example with concrete defences at the foot of cliffs or where you might expect to find beach, and there are few features that provide good natural protection from the swells of the Pacific.

North of Ibaraki prefecture the industry starts to thin, and at all places where land is made the legacy of the 2011 tsunami is always present. The coastline is not "where land and sea meet" so much as a barrier to prevent the sea engulfing the low land that lies behind.

There were some exceptions, such as around Iwaki, where smaller fishing ports provides some places to get in. Headwinds or light winds, and a not inconsiderable swell, made these quite stressful days too!
Since then, I have benefitted from a good run of favourable winds, and a sea that has kept me honest rather that fearful! Good progress to Sendai resulted, where I found a warm welcome at Yuriage Yacht Harbour (and also the first shower since using an "onsen" at Oarai).

Then came a (to my mind, audacious!) hop across Sendai Bay to Aji island. Close-hauled on starboard tack (for 45 km across open water) I could almost lay the island. There was a stiff breeze and it was somewhat bruising going into the waves but it was a good decision to take the shortcut. The island, when I arrived, was like a slice of paradise: a sheltered sandy beach, lush vegetation, birdsong... 

The next day I got round the corner that forms the east side of Sendai Bay.

In terms of sea-life, on this "leg" I saw lots of shearwaters (including many deceased animals who I presume are victims of bird flu), lots of flying fish, lots of fish in general (their shoals often indicated by the shearwaters), a chilled-out hammerhead shark, and on two occasions a glimpse of a brace of dolphins (not sure what species, but quite large). On a few occasions I saw trails of pink in the ocean, that I take to be natural in origin (perhaps fish eggs, perhaps someone can enlighten me?).

North of Sendai

The coastline could not be more different. Now there are inlets and outcrops. Initially, the headlands were quite low, but now they have grown such that the inlets are quite fjord-like. The high ground is difficult to sail round, because at some point it is guaranteed that the wind will fall away or become turbulent when sailing around three sides of a  mountainous peninsula. These tips of land are also magnets for ocean swells, so each one really is a trial, but also a sweet victory when successfully negotiated.

I'm skipping the detail, but the favourable winds have mostly continued. Some nights have been uncomfortably hot and windless, making sleep difficult or insect bites a problem if uncovered. Fortunately, last night was clear and chillier, and I slept much better. This morning I used my barrel as a washing machine, so am freshly laundered as I write this.

Yesterday was a sail to remember: not much distance achieved but three headlands put behind me. The first headland I was 90 minutes floating about in no wind, as fishing ships (beyond the headlands, they are no longer the little boats of the inshore fleet) also worked or pivoted at the corner. Paddling in the confused slop would have been near impossible and I preferred to remain upright so that my orange flag remained visible to the traffic. Albatrosses (and other seabirds that I hope to put a name to later) looked on curiously. Eventually the wind came and I crawled past. The second two headlands offered less resistance. Between them, the flopping fins of sunfish twice distracted me from the discomfort of the experience and reminded me what a thing it is be in the ocean, on a plank, experiencing such wonders!

I am tired. My fingers ache. I look at the map and wonder how I'll keep going when there is so much still to be sailed. That is what, I suppose, makes it an adventure. The not knowing...

The convenience stores are useful, but often quite a distance from where I land. Spaces to rest and be comfortable, and maybe to write down my thoughts, are infrequently stumbled upon. A good place is where I am now: the (unmanned) railway station / community centre at Yoshihama, where you can borrow a book, plug in, get warm or escape the heat, or even wait for a train (which would get you to a convenience store). It's a nice place, Yoshihama, and I am grateful to have landed here.

That's all for now. I expect to move on later and the wind will determine where I end up. It's a nice day. Make hay while the sun shines, as the proverb recommends.






Black-footed Albatross Black-footed Albatross Sunfish Sunfish Ryori Cape Ryori Cape Sailing to reach Yoshihama Sailing to reach Yoshihama Paddling the last bit... Paddling the last bit...