Saturday, April 4, 2009

Scarlette travels to Tokashiki Island

PHOTO: An overview photograph of the Kerama Islands, a subtropical mix of 22 islands southwest of Okinawa's capital city of Naha.

TOKASHIKI ISLAND, Japan -- (April 5, 2009) Scarlette, a 1985 J/24 sailboat, and a crew of two cast off lines from her homeport to travel for an overnight trip to the Kerama Islands about 25 miles off the Southwest coast of Okinawa.

Cap'n J and second mate Kai got a late start from the marina after a pre-travel checklist found a fuse blown for the VHF radio.

Although both crew were at the marina at 7 a.m. the boat didn't cast all lines and launch until 9:55 a.m.

"This was our first long overnight trip and I wanted to make sure we had everything we were going to need," said Cap'n J.

PHOTO: Kai takes the helm of Scarlette outside Kadena Marina while Cap'n J raises the sails as the crews' journey begins to the Kerama Islands.

"I had recharged the batteries for Scarlette and when I installed them I blew a fuse on the VHF radio while trouble shooting a problem with the bilge pump. So our trip was delayed nearly two hours," he said.

The Kerama Islands consist of 22 islands -- eighteen of which are uninhabited -- off the southwest coast of Okinawa.

Of the islands that are inhabited are: Aka Island, Geruma Island, Zamami Island and Tokashiki Island.

Tokashiki -- Scarlette's destination -- is the closest inhabited island to Okinawa. "I thought the trip would take about six hours," said Cap'n J.

"We wound up having a good wind on the way and sailed nearly on the same tack all the way there," he said.
ART: An overview from the GPS system on Scarlette shows the route that took her crew about six hours to travel the nearly 35 miles to the island of Tokashiki in the South China Sea.

Reports from Kadena Weather included mostly cloudy skies with 10 knot winds from the south east with a high temperature of 70 degrees farenheit (21 degrees Celsius) and a low temperature of 54 degrees farenheit (12 degrees Celsius).

The closest weather buoy to Tokashiki (at 26 degrees North and 127.5 degrees South) had a morning forecast of light and variable winds with smooth seas and small short period wind waves, according to The morning winds were to be East South East from 5 to 7 knots and the seas were 2 feet at 5 seconds. The afternoon forecast from the same buoy was the same except that the winds were to change and come from a South East direction.

"Once we got into the Keramas we had to manuever Scarlette around a little to take advantage of the lighter winds," said Cap'n J.

With land in sight -- but without a landing by Scarlette -- her crew was getting anxious to try their sea legs on terra firma. But with about two hours to go, Cap'n J turned to a tried a true distraction: deep sea fishing.

PHOTO: Second Mate Kai tries to reel in a big one off the starboard stern of Scarlette while "deep sea" fishing in the Keramas.

Besides snorkeling, Second mate Kai also wanted to try his hand at fishing, so we broke out one of the two fishing poles we brought along just for that. "While I sailed and loaded the hook with small shrimp bait, Kai stood off the starboard side of Scarlette to fish," said Cap'n J.

As the bait kept slipping off, Kai's interest in "deep sea" fishing quickly followed.

Then he said it.

"Daddy, can you turn on the engine?"


"These words are almost heresy to the sailing purist," said Cap'n J. "It's taking forever," said Kai.

And added, "Are we there yet?"

Travel by car -- kids ask, "Are we there yet?"

Travel by sailboat -- kids ask, "Are we there yet?"

I think kids come with this saying automatically, just like a doll that has a pull string on its' back. "Hi, my name is Barfie!"

PHOTO: Are we there yet? Secondmate Kai smiles as we sight land. Unfortunately this landmass -- Hate Shima (pronounced ha-tay she-ma) -- is one of the 18 uninhabited islands in the Keramas.

The feerless Captain belayed the landlubbers request with a "We need to save gas in case we need it later." These words unfortunately were pretty prophetic for our return trip from Tokashiki.

Sadly for Cap'n J the fishing pole trick onlyh works one time. Especially if the fish ain't bitin'. "Wanna read a book?" Cap'n J asked his crew. "I brought two Magic Tree house books," the cap'n tried to say enthusiastically.


"How about some crayons?" I brought those too -- a tip in an article I read in a sailing magazine about having kids on board.

Dear Sailing Magazine Editor,

Those tips about bringing stuff for the kids aboard the boat were nice, but uhhm, they don't work.


Cap'n "Up the creek without a paddle"

P.S. Anyway one of your writers could do up an article on how to get crayons out of your bilge pump?

As the sun started to hang low in the sky, a somewhat defeated Cap'n J heard the final "Are we there yet?" and dropped the engine and cranked up the engine after rounding a small island that marks the right side of the Tokashiki Harbor entrance.

"We made landfall about six hours after we launched from Kadena some 35 odd miles away.

After securing the boat and hoisting the gear to the concrete dock, the crew headed to the Japanese Inn we had the firstmate -- who skipped this trip -- call to make us a reservation. They weren't busy as the firstmate reported via cell phone that, "You're the only customers they have to night."

The crew got to the minshiku and dropped its bags off. The owner showed us the shower facilities on the first floor and then showed us to our room. A western-style bed. In fact two western-style beds.
We then asked what time dinner was she said, "7 p.m." in Japanese. We asked what time breakfast would be, "7:30 to 8 a.m." she replied in Japanese. "Where's a store?" "Around the corner," she replied in Japanese.
The crew then headed to the store. The skipper bought a beer "Orion Southern Star" and Kai got a "Coke Zero" then asked to get a jet plane. He had been patient on the trip over, so I caved in.

PHOTO: Second Mate Kai stands outside of Muramoto, a Japanese Inn near Tokashiki Harbor, where the crew of Scarlette spent the night. One night stay which included dinner and breakfast cost 5,250 yen (about $58) per person. The owner was extremely friendly and I'd recommend the place to anyone wanting to visit Tokashiki.

Back at the minshiku, we grabbed a shower then headed to dinner. Dinner was spectacular. She fixed fried chicken and spaghetti, especially for us.

PHOTO: Second Mate Kai stands next to the owner of Muramoto, a Japanese traditional inn, and the night's buffet table. The front plate contains shashimi -- raw fish and cucumbers -- the plate on the right contains fried chicken and sausage and on the left is a big bowl of spaghetti sauce. Muramoto's owner really tried to make our stay enjoyable and talked to my wife several times over the telephone before our arrival. She was concerned that we'd like the food. At other Japanese Inns I've stayed at it's mostly "Shut up and eat your breakfast fish" but at Muramoto the owner gets 5-star marks for trying to please her customers. She also had us stay in the only room that had a traditional Western bed. All other rooms had futons.

PHOTO: Second Mate Kai digs into the Sashimi -- raw fish -- with a plate of spaghetti on stand by. Muramoto's owner even broke out the Tabasco Sauce to add for taste to the spaghetti she cooked up for us. My favorite was the Sashimi dipped in a healthy dose of wasabi -- Japanese horseradish -- and lots of soy sauce. The fried chicken she cooked up was as good as anything from the South. She even had sausages -- something I can eat for any meal. This minshiku -- Japanese traditional inn -- is definitely a recommended spot.

At 9 p.m., we checked the boat to see how much low tide would affect the ropes we tied Scarlette to the concrete dock with. Boat was OK.

We headed back to hotel. I fell asleep, while Kai watched "Narnia" on TV in Japanese.

Like the war in Narnia, the winds of World War II placed the Keramas and its inhabitants in a precarious situation. According to the Okinawa Times, the islands were one of the first landing places of U.S. military forces during the Battle of Okinawa. The Times has reported that U.S. Forces landed on Aka Island on March 26, 1945, and went on to take Yakabi Island, Zamami Island, Geruma Island and Tokashiki Island.

About 560 residents of Tokashiki, according to the Okinawa Times, committed suicide by order of the Japanese troops stationed in the Keramas to avoid capture by the Americans. Some newspapers have reported that the real reason why the Japanese Imperial Army did this was so that local residents wouldn't give up intelligence to the Americans. The people of Tokashiki have weathered a lot over the years.


Kevin said...

cap'n J,

i cant wait for part II of the high sea adventure...
i've been to both tokashiki and zamami and thoroughly enjoyed both!


Snowsmoon said...

Me either....I love your ability to tell a story...Well be staying tuned.
Love your sister!

The skipper said...

Kevin and Dawn,
I'll take a couple of days as I've got a few things I need to do before I sit down and write what became for me "The Perfect Storm."

Thanks for reading.

Cap'n J

Linda Walton aka bobbysgirlforever said...

Ahoy Cap'n J!

My name is Linda and I am your sister, Dawn's best friend! Of course, she just HAD to share your blog with me!

You definitely are a fabulous storyteller as well as an able-bodied seaman! Kai is PRECIOUS and surely makes for wonderful company as well as a MOST delightful second mate!

Yes, "are we there yet?" is no respecter of the mode of transportation one is using! *smile*

The *Perfect Storm* is one of my favorite movies and holds very special meaning to me due to the ambiance experienced while viewing it for the first time in an outdoor neighborhood makeshift theater while visiting my sister in Minnesota. It began to pour down rain and the thunder and lightning was MAGNIFICENT! It TRULY magnified the intensity of the storm experienced by the Andrea Gail as we all remained glued to our seats realizing that this was a rare opportunity to feel as though we were actually part of the movie!

I look forward to the continuing saga of the Scarlette and her mighty crew and learning about your own "perfect storm".

Until then, stay safe!

Linda :)

LouX said...

Hey Capt J.

Love the story and can't wait to get back to the islands myself. I actually know the Minshuku you stayed at. The lady who runs it is related to one of my wife's college friends. On my wife's first sail to Tokashiki we stopped in for a free meal. Yummy! We also had some difficulty on the way back. I the wind went to zero... absolutely nothing, and then we ran out of gas... adrift at sea, finally some weather came in and we were able to make it somewhere off of Sunabe seawall. At that point fog set in, very odd for Okinawa, no wind and sheets of rain. We flagged down a local Japanese boat who took my crew to Kadena Marina to get some gas. That left me alone, adrift, in zero visibility, and then the lightening storm came... lightening every minute or so, and very very close, I put down all sails and hid below decks. Eventually crew returned with gas and we made it back to home... collapsing for 12 solid hours of sleep.

What a great time.

Bill Loux

The skipper said...

Linda and LouX,
Thanks for reading. Check back in about four days to get parts 2 and 3 of the story which will include our encounter with 10 foot seas, running out of gas twice, seeing humpback whales and the Japanese Coast Guard who was searching for us after we showed up 5 hours after our scheduled return time.