Sunday, April 5, 2009

Scarlette's crew tours Tokashiki Island

TOKASHIKI ISLAND, Japan (April 5, 2009) -- The well-rested crew of Scarlette took a taxi to the southwest end of this island Sunday morning in a tour that included panoramic vistas, snorkeling and beachcombing on this island 25 miles off the coast of Okinawa.

Second Mate Kai had wanted to go snorkeling in the Keramas -- one of the premier spots in the world to do just that -- and he saw several fish but mostly held his dad's hand in the cool aquamarine waters of Tokashiki's Arahen Beach.

Scarlette -- the only sailboat in Tokashiki Harbor that day -- can be seen against the concrete dock just to the left of an island named Gusuku Shima.

The day started out with a quick preparation of Scarlette -- a 1985 J/24 sailboat -- so the launch of the ship on its return to the main island of Okinawa would go a little faster. "I knew we would have some rain in the afternoon on our return trip, and Kai had been wanting to go snorkeling so I told him, we could go as long as he was OK with the fact that we'd probably get rained on going home," said Cap'n J.

The morning sun fools my cellphone camera and acts like an eclipse (it wasn't) during the morning check of the boat in Tokashiki harbor. The island in the background is Gusuku Shima. Shima or Jima means island in Japanese. And depending on the first words ending vowel you use either shima or jima. As in Iwo Jima.

Second Mate Kai chose snorkeling. After prepping the boat -- removing all the canvas covers and pre-setting the jib (front-sail) -- we rode scooters around the harbor area to shoot photos and have some fun. "When we arrived at Tokashiki we took a different route to the Japanese inn where we passed several dogs," said Cap'n J. "We avoided these dogs at night in case one of them started chasing us and we did the same during our morning check."

"Let's avoid the dogs again, Daddy," said Kai as he raced ahead on his scooter. The crew scootered around the harbor andCap'n J shot pictures of Kai near the harbor reception area, a bus with Tokashiki Island on it and a colorful wall with fish painted on it. Second Mate Kai rides his Razor scooter along the dock at Tokashiki Harbor. The building in the back in the main harbor office and is where the ferry from the mainland stops and drops off and picks up passengers. Right behind Kai you can get a small hint at how aquamarine the water is in the Keramas.
Second Mate Kai stands next to a bus with Tokashiki Island on it during our morning scooter ride around the harbor.

Second Mate Kai stands next to some artwork along a wall at Tokashiki harbor.
Tiring of the photos, Kai said, "Race you back to the hotel!" and off he went passed the only stop light on the island and up a small hill toward the minshiku.

At breakfast the owner once again did not let Scarlette's crew down. "She practically cooked us a full English breakfast," said Cap'n J. "Eggs, toast, sausages, it was unbelievable that we were getting essentially an American breakfast in a traditional Japanese Inn," he said.

"For those that have never stayed in such a place this probably seems like no big deal, but for those who have stayed in a minshiku may agree that this is virtually unheard of," Cap'n J said. "Usually it's 'shutup and eat your breakfast fish' in a normal minshiku," he said with a laugh.
Second Mate Kai digs into the breakfast buffet which included a full American style breakfast virtually unheard of at most traditional Japanese inns. The counter -- one like you'd find in an old dime store -- was filled with shells assumed found throughout the Keramas.
Eggs sunny side up, sausage and hash browns? This breakfast was our savior and very unusual to eat at a traditional Japanese inn. The white box in front of Second Mate Kai is nato. Nato is fermented beans. My kids and wife love that for breakfast. I can't stand it.

After breakast, the minshiku owner even allowed the crew to make sandwiches from the breakfast buffet for lunch for the return trip home. "This Japanese Inn was awesome, a little old inside, but you kind of expect that. What made our stay was the owner who always had a smile and did an awesome job of making our stay at her place as enjoyable as possible," said Cap'n J.

While the crew changed into swimgear, the inn's owner called a taxi. The taxi driver was totally island friendly.
On the way to the other side of the island she explained that we could not leave any bags on the beach because the crows -- yes crows -- would carry the stuff away. "No matter how big the bag, they'll be able to carry it away -- so don't leave your wallet or cell phone in the bag because it might get carried away," she said in Japanese. "At first it took me a little while to understand, but then Kai helped out with translation," said Cap'n J. "I gave my wallet to her for safe keeping and she dropped us off at Arahen Beach," said Cap'n J.
Japan has a low crime rate.
Second Mate Kai and Cap'n J pose for a photo over a harbor on the west side of Tokashiki Island. You can get a glimpse at how aquamarine the water is in the bay in this photo. The scenery looks like a photo backdrop but is actually the real deal. Simply beautiful and one of the reasons why I wanted to show Kai what the Keramas looked like.
Before leaving the taxi driver told us which stores around the beach that were more expensive and which ones were cheaper. She also left a card with her cellphone number on it and saying call me when you're ready to go back.Second Mate Kai poses all decked out and ready to snorkel at Tokashiki Island's Arahen Beach. Sand was pretty tan and the water was aquamarine but cold. Kai was pretty happy with his own wet suit and snorkel gear. Hanare Shima is the island in the background and would be a great place to paddle out to on a sea kayak.

At Arahen Beach, Kai snorkeled and held Cap'n J's hand while he skimmed the surface of the aquamarine but cold waters. Then the crew of Scarlette did a little beachcombing that included checking out another harbor for future trips.
Second Mate Kai tries his hand at rock climbing on Aharen Beach in the Keramas.
Second Mate Kai stands underneath a natural rock bridge among the rock formations on Aharen Beach in the Keramas.
Cap'n J successfully hides his gut among the rock formations on Aharen Beach on the west side of Tokashiki Island during a beachcombing session.

Second Mate Kai does his best Travolta move on the natural dance floor of rocks at Arahen Beach on the southwest side of Tokashiki Island. The beach had a mixture of areas: all rock, half rock and half sand and all sand.

Although we told our happy go lucky taxi driver to come back and pick us up in an hour, she didn't. When the crew called her she said she was on another call and would comeback as soon as she was done. The crew had brought their scooters for touring on the cheap and we found a Japanese sailor who spoke English and had a bought. Our introduction to this gentleman was his funny sign, "Danger Men Drinking."

An unknown sailor who owns a sailboat on Okinawa was friendly and amazingly spoke English. In the tent was a Canadian girl who spoke English too.

The taxi driver pulled up shortly after our meeting -- she was an hour late -- but it's an island what're you going to do. My approach was the same to the hefty fee -- about 1,500 yen (about $20) one-way -- it's an island and the folks who live here have to make a living through tourism, so of course the taxi ride is a little more expensive.

Getting in she handed me my wallet -- nothing missing from it -- and we headed back to the inn for a quick shower, gear gathering and to shove off from the dock.

Got our showers, made it to the boat at about 11 a.m. about an hour after I originally wanted to leave. The skies were sunny, the wind was low and as Scarlette headed out of port, her crew was totally unaware of the adventure they were about to experience.

(To be continued in Part 3)

PREVIEW: Part 3 includes Scarlette running out of gas twice, whales breeching off the bow, 6 to 8 foot waves that looked more like 10 foot, Kai tossing his cookies several times and yelling call the Coast Guard and his mother calling the coast guard -- who responded with two planes and two ships -- to search for Scarlette during her return trip that lasted nearly 12 hours. The storm free trip to Tokashiki was half of that time -- 6 hours.

No comments: