Only One!

Boating fun has been eliminated over the the last 3 weeks because my starter motor busted again. However great glee as Kiyuna san has fixed it. In fact he has installed a new one.

Thunka thunk. Notice how smooth she becomes when I throttle up.

The weather has been dreadful anyway so there was no great mischief in not being able to go out because of the starter motor. Mold and mildew form all over the boat during the rainy season. Next job is a thorough clean.

The gracious Karen Wallace sends me some extra copies of Marine Quarterly. I give one to Kiyuna san. He is pleased but asks, “Did you mention my teeth?” I read him the part where I say that he is very distinguished despite only having 2 teeth. He groans and I am afraid I have offended him.

“This is a bad magazine.”


“It says I have two teeth but I only have one!”

He has lost half his teeth since I wrote the article.

I hope the rainy season will finally blow away and I can get on with boating adventures.

Lunch in Itoman fish market is always the best. Eel rice bowl with scallop, shrimp, snapper, parrot fish sashimi, with a couple of oysters. This is not a fancy restaurant; look at the asphalt and crummy table. That is what I like. Best seafood in the world without pretension. It is also ludicrously cheap, which always appeals.

Nice Orchids
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The Thinking Sailor’s Sea Journal

During my self isolation in Tokyo in January, I scribbled, well on a computer, a brief history of the restoration of my Norfolk Gypsy. You can follow the whole story in detail on this blog starting around here.

The Marine Quarterly is a very prestigious nautical journal emanating from the UK. It is by subscription only. There is a website but they do not post the articles.

I sent my scribble, on a computer, to them and to my surprise the editor, very learned Sam Llewellyn, said he would publish it.

It is a marvelous publication. It eschews glossy photographs, flash headlines, advertising. It relies on knowledgeable contributors, good writing and excellent line drawings. Anyone with any interest in things nautical should subscribe.

Subscribe now. It is the only way you will get to read my article!

Time to thank all the many people who helped me during the resurrection of my Norfolk Gypsy. There are too many to mention individually but a special shout out to Natori Kaoru san. Natori san san spent a lot of time researching the early life of the boat after she arrived in Japan in 1992. Thanks Natori san!

Such fun!

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Pitter, Patter.

It is the rainy season and suitably it has been raining all day. Nothing dramatic but steady rain. I set off to renew the contract for my little rental car.

Everything goes bananas!

Huge thunderstorm and unimaginably hard rain. The trip to the rental place was terrifying. Despite the best efforts of the windscreen wipers, visibility was very bad. The drains could not cope with the volume of rain and lakes formed in the road. As you crash into these lakes, spray shoots out everywhere and the tiny car squiggles and shakes. I am very frightened.

I think am I am still a bit traumatized by the smash I had last year in similar conditions.

I get to the rental place and park on the side of the road. Big mistake. The rainwater flows from the apex of the road towards the curbs, forming deep pools. Each time a car goes by it hits the pool and shoots out hundreds of liters of water over my car. The worst are trucks. They completely overwhelm my little car with water as they smash through the pool. It rocks and lurches.The noise is shocking. My nerves are shot. I tremble.

I finally manage to reverse off the road into the tiny parking space of the rental place where I pant. I wonder how I would have dealt with this situation when I was 20. Probably would have been in no way concerned.

This video was taken when the worst was over.

Anyway, yesterday was nice with remarkable clouds.

I also saw lots of birds on a trip up to the Kin paddy fields. Whiskered Terns that I was unable to photograph but here is a nice Heron.

Spot Cattle Egrets in Summer plumage. Not a very good photo.

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I got my second shot this afternoon and am now fully vaccinated.

Thank you Japan.

The procedure was identical to my first jab.

I will not go through it again. Click on the link above.

Very calm, very efficient. I am particularly impressed by the instant interpretation service using an iPad with an English speaker inside. I noticed during the set up that the same service is offered in about a dozen other languages.

After the jab, I was asked to sit around for 15 minutes to see if I keeled over.

I could leave at exactly 15:38.

I was advised that I may get a head ache and should, in that case, use one of these.

So that is it. I am very pleased and now in possession of an official vaccination certificate.

Not sure how this will be received at international immigration checks should air travel start up again. Cross that bridge when I come to it.

Again, sincere thanks to everyone who made this possible. Special thanks to the staff in the sports hall who could not have been sweeter.

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Donegal Pays Tribute to Shuri Jo

Probably the worst thing that happened during my ongoing idyll in Okinawa, was the fire that destroyed Shuri Jo.

The palace is now being rebuilt and one fund raising project is placing containers outside supermarkets into which you can drop unwanted clothes. These clothes are magically transformed into money.

WordPress will not let me add captions at the moment, which is a shame as I enjoyed it.

Anyway, here is the box and you can see my bag of very high quality items. I throw away my two remaining suits and several dress shirts.I have not worn a suit for 3 years. I also donate a very high quality Donegal Tweed jacket, which I have not worn for 10 years.

Can you spot the Donegal Tweed? It pleases me that my jacket is contributing to the restoration of Shuri Jo.

I break my Raybans. In fact I broke them during the Nagano adventure but glued them together. It was never going to be a long lasting solution.

I go to a glasses shop thing that lives in the corridor of one of the local supermarkets.

Naturally there is totally, smiling, let’s have fun, assistant. We have no common language other than Google translate. I choose my glasses and explain that I am shortsighted and will need prescription lenses. She tests my eyes but does not think her machine is precise enough.

This is the machine.

She points out that due to my age, my eyesight, like everything else, is changing. She recommends a proper examination by an ophthalmologist. I am not against this as I had problems with my eyes a couple of years ago in Mexico.

Using Google Maps, she shows me the whereabouts of the nearest ophthalmologist. Thank you Google, none of this would have been possible without you.

I make a few points to Larry Page back in the day.

The Eye Doctor people take me immediately. I go through a rigorous sequence of tests, again bolstered by Google. I then have a chat with a doctor who says my eyes are old but have no problems. I get a new prescription. Japan’s health service pays.

I scoot back to the supermarket corridor and meet my new friend. I give her the prescription and ask if I can also get a new pair of clear lens glasses for driving on the rare occasion that the sun is not hammering down.

They are ready in 20 minutes. She says she will contact me when the sunglasses are ready.

She does not ask for my phone number. Instead we rub our phones together to establish a LINE connection. LINE is the way to communicate in Japan.

I love it! It does phone calls, video chats; you can send photos, videos and a whole lot of other stuff. What I really like is that you can add all sorts of playful animations and images. It is free.

Rainy season hypothesis was proved as fact yesterday when it rained like crazy.

Incredible rain!

Kiyuna san and I go down to the boat this morning. We have no worries as my cover is unassailable. We talk starter motor stuff and vaccinations. He will never be vaccinated. In fact most of the people I, er, hang out with refuse vaccination. So strange. I think it is deeply linked to the ongoing respect for non chemical medicine in Japan.

I have a Zoom meeting with my family in the UK. I tell my new glasses story and they oint out that that would be impossible in the UK as opticians have been closed for a year. You can only go to the dentist for emergencies. I realize that many people have had it much tougher than we Okinawans.

The boat post dreadful rain.

I cook my Octopus.

Something out of an alien movie.

Curly wurly.

Cook, cook, cook, that octopus.

I intend to tempura some and serve it on cold, cold soba, to which I have become addicted since the trip to Nagano. The rest, I will turn into Coctel.

I love Octopus.

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Okinawa is in a state of emergency until 21 June. There are more cases now than ever before. Stay at home, restricted social gatherings, no visits to other islands, restaurants close at 8:00 etc. Life is very slow.

I woke up this morning feeling hot and sweaty. I look towards the AC device; it is silent. I fiddle with the controller but there is no reaction. I go to the toilet. The lights do not work. There is no electricity! Interestingly, my immediate assumption is that I have not paid the electricity bill and I have been cut off. Where does this come from? What a drag, how do I get my electricity turned on again. A major problem when you do not know the system nor speak the language.

I have, of course, jumped to the wrong conclusion. I remember the electricity panel by the front door. Inside there is a big switch marked, in English, ON and OFF. It is in the OFF position. I flick the switch and the apartment jumps into life. The fridge hums, the AC blows, the computer dings. Phew! I wonder about my immediate assumption that it was somehow my fault. Probably too much church at a young age.

I go to the Triangle Pond to see birds. This place is legendary, usually filled to bursting with birds.

Today nothing.


Does Covid impact waders, herons and spoonbills?

Much disappointed, I head to the Tomari Fish Market. I want to buy a fat octopus. They are not easy to come by. I lurch out of the car and realize that I do not have my wallet. I thought I had left it on the passenger seat.


I have no money! I must have left home without my wallet. This is very consistent with my old age life.

I wander around the fish market anyway.

Oh no! There are wonderful fresh Octupi to buy. I have no money.

Deeply saddened, I slouch back to the car.

I am uneasy, as I thought I had brought my wallet. Such is later life. I ferret around the car seats and, sure enough, find my wallet on the floor.

I sprint back to the Fish Market and buy this.

Boating has been blocked by busted starter motor. Kiyuna san is onto it. Not really a problem as, as previously mentioned, it is the rainy season. Very wet, cover on the boat, strong winds.

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Joyeux Anniversaire!

I got some great gifts for my birthday!

A bouquet of flowers arrived in the midst of my post tooth extraction gloom. It lifted me up!

Thank you!

After the trip to Nagano, I have understood my inadequacy in all things sake. What do I need? A sake book!

Thank you!

Kikuta Ichiro san is a great artist. He painted my byobu. I am honored that he regards me as a friend.

He gave me a painting of an Iju blossom. You will be tired of me talking about Iju, but it is the most beautiful of flowering trees.

The white pigment is made from crushed shells. The gold is real gold flakes.

Thank you!

Such good times!

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I have had my first jab!

I show up at the huge Ginowan municipal sports hall at the appointed time. No one speaks English but why should they? The organizers realize that I am not going to be able to negotiate the various stages and very kindly assign a young man to me who acts as my sheepdog.

It is sunny outside

He leads me to the balcony seats overlooking the playing area. Here we, I am in a batch along with some 30 other oldies, wait for a bit. I am then shepherded downstairs to a second waiting area.

All very orderly

We wait a bit and are then given a number. Mine was 223. We are taken to a third area where we wait for our number to be called. I am afraid to say that I still cannot recognize longish numbers in Japanese, unless they a spoken very slowly. No worries, as my young guide leads me off when my number is up.

I now sit on the other side of a table from a charming lady who interrogates me in Japanese. Again no worries, as the good shepherd produces an iPad that contains a young man in Tokyo who is an English interpreter! He interprets the lady’s questions and then does likewise with my answers. We have the best fun. Having minutely examined my current state of health and whether or not the Olympics should go ahead I am taken to the final area. Eventually my number is called and I am led into one of the vaccination booths. The smiling doctor asks me some more questions by way of the man in the iPad and then jabs me. It is very fast.

The Proof

We are then asked to hang around a bit more and are given an exact time when we can leave. I leave at 15:27. We are also given an appointment for the second jab.

The whole process was very smooth and well organised. No stampedes for vaccine.

Thank you Ginowan, thank you my young shepherd, thank you man in the iPad.

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The Lilies of the Field

The night before, I oil the gears and chain on my bike. I am very excited as I am going to Ie Jima lily park where hundreds of thousands of lilies bloom in early May.,127.75505,14287m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x34e4e52234ae3037:0x2f5216e8c1d1df09!8m2!3d26.7201277!4d127.7928395

It is that time now. I will take the ferry from Motobu Port and then cycle to the lily park. I am looking forward to it immensely.

I am up early, load the bike in tiny but so spacious car and drive for 2 hours up the West coast of Okinawa to Motobu Port. With little time to spare I rush into the Ticket Office to see this.

I should have anticipated this.

The lady at the Ticket Office is happy to sell me a ticket to go over the sea to IeJima but when I mention lilies she is firm. “No lilies.” I imagine they have closed the road to the park.

What a disappointment. Incidentally Ie means no in Japanese. I feel it would be irresponsible just to go over to the island in these Covid days and so repack the bike and head home.

I drive through the forest mountains to the East coast. What a great drive. The flowering tree Iju is at its best.

Iju and huge fern thing.

There are blooms all over the place.


I do some light birdwatching and see a rare Common Snipe.

Why do they call it Common Snipe when they are very rarely seen?
A domestic Barbary Duck.
View onto the sea

Still disappointed that I could not see the lilies, next year?

On a different tack, Arisa san tells me that a friend has some English books that she would like to give away. Do I want them? Probably not, as I am trying very hard not to accumulate stuff. What sort of books are they? She sends me this.

What a surprise

I go to pick them up and the delightful lady tells me that she sailed from St Petersburg to Japan on a 35 ft boat. You never know.

I had my 69th birthday on Sunday and on Tuesday morning had another tooth ripped from my rotting jaw. Tooth extraction is my leading hobby these days!

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Spare Change

When I come home from work, I mean messing around with the boat and going to the shops, I throw all my loose change into a historic stainless steel bowl.

After a couple of months the change builds up.


In most countries a whole lot of change does not amount to much. In the U.S. the most valuable coin is a quarter – 25cents. In Europe I think it is a 1 Euro coin and in the UK, the 1 pound coin.

There are two exceptions that I know of. Switzerland and Japan. Switzerland has La Thune, a 5 Swiss Franc coin.

La Thune

Japan has the 500 yen coin.

Big money.

You do not need many of these coins to build up a considerable sum.

I go to my much loved Bank of Okinawa to deposit all these coins into my account. They have the best machine into which you shovel all the coins. After many flashing lights and groans, the machine displays a number. This is the value of your coins.

Such fun!

My number is 86,018 yen. A crazy sum.

I also receive a letter from the Pension Office. It is festooned with cartoons that illustrate the Pensions Office’s attitude towards their clients. Happiness and joy.

My future
That is me in the wheelchair

Through Google Translate, which has completely altered my Japanese experience, I understand that the Pension Office want to give me money but there is an intimidating form to fill in that asks for account numbers and bank codes.

I show this form to one of the ladies helping me with my stash of coins, rather than saying ” Hey this is not in my job description,” she brings in another two ladies who smilingly help me fill in all the necessary paperwork. It turns out that one of them used to work in in the Onna branch where I used to do banking stuff. She remembers me. It is like a sister finding a long lost brother. There are cries of joy and several other people cluster around. We remember the wonderful Higa san, who has since, got married and moved to Yokohama. We have a party. Such a lot of good feelings. What is more it turns out that the Pensions Office will send me 24,000 yen as some kind of rebate. That means I have gained 110,018yen today. Not bad.

I am also in correspondence with a European Bank, that treats me with complete disdain and suspicion.

They have so much to learn.

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