I have been out on the boat a lot. Such a joy as everything is working. There are notwithstanding, as always, things that need finessing.
I notice that although the motor is working fine it seems to deliver less speed through the water. This is especially noticeable when going astern, like backing away from the pontoon. I decide that the cause is a dirty propeller. A guy in a bar once told me that a shiny propeller is very important and its efficiency is seriously compromised once dirty.
I decide to jump off the boat and scrape filth from the propeller and anything else I see that needs a bit of bullying. Masked, snorkeled and finned, I launch myself into the marina!
It is a lot of fun snooping around under the boat. It is March but already the sea is warm. I had trepidation before I took the plunge. I have not been feeling sporty of late. Would I be able to swim around underwater and above all, would I be able to negotiate the ladder fixed to the transom to get back into the boat?
Yes we can!
However new fins needed and must wear gloves as my hands are pretty badly lacerated. I understand better whyI gave up scuba diving. So much preparation! So much equipment/clothing!
I want instant gratification. I knew I should have worn gloves but I was too excited to put them on.
I go home feeling strangely fit. Skin glowing from the sea and the sun. Muscles aware that I had done some gentle exercise. I will go back to it tomorrow.
The marina is still swarming with millions of small fish.
I speak to the gentleman who is gently playing away outside the hotel entrance. We have never met before but have many, many friends in common both in The Bay Area and Japanese Irish music diaspora. How strange is that? I wish I had brought the flute.
The reason for the trip is dinner fun with Ichiro san, Tomomi san, Martine and Albrecht. We eat and drink like Kings or Emperors, if you prefer, in Ichiro san’s amazing gallery/studio. A wonderful evening full of humor.
As bees flee hame wi’ lades o’ treasure,
The minutes wing’d their way wi’ pleasure;
Kings may be blest, but we were glorious,
O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious!
The next day I drove slowly down the East coast of Okinawa, stopping frequently to look at things. Nice to take things slowly.
When I get back to Ginowan, I go to check on the boat. The marina is full of big shoals of small fish. I love my marina. The water is so clean.
Japan’s biggest sports streaming channel is Jsports https://www.jsports.co.jp They have fantastic rugby coverage, with a round up program of the week’s activities called”Rugby Wonderful!”. This is hosted by a hilarious young woman.
So different from the deadly dull, rugby pundits in most parts of the world! Well done Japan.
I go to get a refill for my water cooler. For some reason they also sell rice.
I ask the guy which one I should buy and he recommends the cheapest. Probably thought the high quality stuff would be wasted on me. Anyway, rice in Japan is delicious!
There is also a board with cute photos of newborn babies. Their weight is highlighted. Arisa once explained what was going on but I have forgotten. Maybe you give the family the same weight in rice.
I fill up the car. This is a rare event as it uses hardly any gas. Gas stations in Okinawa are wells of happiness.
He also hangs a red thing on the wing mirror. I am not sure why.
I go up to OIST to see some people. I thoroughly enjoy myself. The campus was closed to visitors for over 2 years and it is only now that I can reconnect. People are very nice to me.
I pay my annual Marina bill.
Anyway the best bit is nearly a whole day sailing with Kim and Otis. Neither has done any sailing before. The wind is strong and I wonder if it is a good idea to go out but on the other hand it is a glorious day and we should be ok if I reef the mainsail and only unwind half the jib.
So it is very windy, 15 – 20 knots, not ideal for complete beginners but the Norfolk Gypsy is a strong sea boat and with reduced sail we have a wonderful afternoon. I do nothing; Otis helms and Kim looks after the jib.
Thanks Kim and Otis for being such good, unflappable crew. This is the boat’s first major workout of the year and I spot many things that need adjusting and finessing. Above all the engine, started and drove us out of and into the harbor perfectly. Thank you Kiyuna san!
I wake up the next day, which is today, Sunday, with the old, familiar, sensation of light sunburn – very pleasant. Sailing is good for you. The door bell rings and a very polite young man hands me my health insurance card for next year. Another year of fabulous health care delivered to my door on a Sunday morning!
To overfill the cup of joy, I learn that France have absolutely smashed England at rugby. What is it about England that makes people, well me at least, rejoice in their defeat?
Amazon is of course the best entertainment in the world. When a little bored, you think of something you would like, order it on Amazon and Shazzam! it arrives the next day er usually. I decide I want apple sauce to eat with pork. I track it down, order it and the next day I find this.
I have written before about the wonders of package delivery in Okinawa. Someone comes to your door with the package between 08:00 and 20:00 everyday of the week. They grin, you sign and everyone is very happy. If you are not at home, they leave a chit with a phone number. You call and you choose exactly what time you would like it to be redelivered.
All this has changed. They now just leave the package outside the front door, California style. The chances of the package being nicked in Okinawa is zero. I am amazed that in San Francisco nothing seems to get nicked neither.
Anyway, I have had consistent acute diarrhea, or diarrhoea if you are British, probably the same condition, since I went to Mexico last year. I have waited for it to go away, have self medicated with stuff from pharmacies in Mexico, USA, Scotland and Japan, have consulted Nagasaki sensei who has prescribed various Chinese medicines, all to no avail. I think my gut is infested with droves of Mexican parasites.
Nagasaki sensei and I decide the time has come to consult a specialist gastroenterologist. The wonderful Shoko san tracks down an English speaking one and gives me full instructions of how to get to the hospital. It is called Chubu Hospital.
I turn up at the hospital and present the introduction letter from Nagasaki sensei. They politely inform me that there are two Chubu Hospitals in Okinawa and I have come to the wrong one. “Dai jo bou Neil san, we can look after you here.”
Chubu is a standard Japanese public hospital. You turn up at out patients at anytime and they will help you.
Blood pressure, weight and then I am asked to wait, English spelling is so odd. Very sincere apologies from the nurses as they are very busy and I will have to wait some time.
I see the doctor, who is young and speaks goos English. I explain that my gut is swarming with Mexican parasites. He examines me and then sends me off for a blood test and a stool collection exercise.
I wait for a bit, which is actually enjoyable as I watch Okinawan TV. I have not had a television since 2010 and this is a novelty.
There is a commercial break and there is Arisa!
I am called back to the doc who explains the results of the blood test. Apparently I am severely hypothyroid. Not sure what this means but he prescribes medication and apologizes for the fact that it will take longer to get the results of the stool analysis.
Off I go to the adjacent pharmacy to get my prescription filled.
A wonderful lady comes to my door and kicks me out for 4 hours. She has the bit between her teeth.
A diversion on date traditions. British is ; day, month, year. My birthday is thus; 16, 5, 1952. U.S. is; 5,16,1952. Japan is;1952, 5, 16. It is easy to make mistakes and I miss a doctor’s appointment due to a confusion between day and month.
Having time on my hands, I drive down to the clinic, It is a specialist place dealing in prostrate glands. When I say say dealing in, I do not mean buying or selling but rather specializing in. I intend to set up a new appointment.
I sheepishly apologize and ask for a new date. ” Dai jo bou Neil san, have a seat.” Ten minutes later I am with the doctor. He speaks no English but we converse by Google translate on his computer screen. Brave New World. We establish that everything is OK and he prescribes some, just in case, medication.
I pay 400 yen for the consultation. The pharmacy is on the ground floor of the building.
Three months of drugs costs 1,500 yen, er like nothing. Why can’t health care be like this in the rest of the world? Thanks Japan.
The clinic is near the fish market.
My only gauge on increasing prices in Japan is tempura. When I arrived 12 years ago each piece cost 60 yen, now it is 80 yen. I blame the Tories etc.
By the way, this astonishing food is not expensive. We eat with a bunch of young Japanese birders, maybe 18 to 20 years old. They demonstrate no surprise at the quality of the food. The meal would cost hundreds of $ in most capital cities.
Breakfast comes. The owner loves making jam and he sets out a sampling selection for me in English.
Well, what can I say? The Japanese expect to and do eat very well. I did not see any other tourists. So please y’all do not come to Northern Hokkaido. It is fine as it is.
So now I am back in Okinawa! What a change! It is so hot. A continuation of the food narrative.
Asuka san, Arisa san and I have lunch in a tuna speciality restaurant in Itoman. This is what we ate.
In front of our table a young woman cuts up a huge Tuna.
Ochiro san and I head north for a birding adventure in Hokkaido! Two flights later we arrive at Nakashibetsu airport -deep snow and freezing cold. We are no longer in Okinawa. As we pick up a car, a policeman and another guy come running up to me. I make a run for it it but I am too old and fat. Turns out that there is a special safety campaign about driving on snow and ice. The other guy is a journalist and takes lots of photos of fat gaijin being instructed. Great fun!
We are also met by Fukuda san, an old buddy of Oshiro san. He is some kind of environment ranger for the area. He immediately takes us birding, lots of sea ducks, rare Rosy Finches and to my huge excitement and astonishment, a Steller’s Sea Eagle just sitting in a tree. It is massive!
Sorry folks, this post is going to be a long succession of bird photos. Those who are not bird-minded are forewarned. We stay at a very good guesthouse. I will write a separate post on the guesthouses and the food they prepared for us,
Next day we drive up the coast of Northeast Hokkaido looking for seabirds of which there are strangely few on Okinawa. We meet Fukuda san who shows a pod of Killer Whales who seem to be stuck in the pack ice. There are about ten who are swimming back and forth in a frenzied manner. Fukuda san rushes off to arrange rescue. We also see a lot of eagles.
That night is Owl night! Blackiston’s Fish Owl https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blakiston%27s_fish_owl is the biggest owl in the world and very, very rare. The birds come down to fish in a little river near Rausu. A little, very basic, guesthouse has installed lights where the owls often fish. Ichiro and I lie on our futons and watch. Not much going on until 2:00 am when Ichiro san shakes me awake. A huge owl is sitting on the bank just in front of us. Ichiro san slides back the french window and I am able to take amazing photos! Wow! He slides the window back as it is insanely cold.
The owl comes back 3 times before dawn.
Early next morning we get on a boat to track down eagles on the pack ice.
We chug out to the pack ice . There are eagles everywhere. The boat stays on the edge of the ice and a guy throws fish out to the eagles. Everyone should do this at least once! Hundreds of Eagles swirl around the boat, screaming and bickering.
We drive South to stay in a great guesthouse on the banks of Lake Furen.
Thursday is Red Crested Crane day!
These birds are so beautiful, so elegant, so emblematic of Japan. We find hundreds!
We drive down to Kushiro and catch flights the next morning back to Naha. -18C in Kushiro, 18 C in Naha.
Above all, thanks to Ichiro san! He organized the itinerary, booked all the guesthouses and provided expert knowledge on all the birds. He is a wonderful man. Do not forget the he is a extraordinary artist!
I do lots of boat stuff. The pipe that runs from the cockpit sump up to pump is blocked. I have spent many frustrating hours trying to unblock it with absolutely no success. The situation is not good as when the boat cover is off, rain gathers in the cockpit and generally sloshes about. This does not feel very seamanlike, you know having water sloshing around the cockpit.
I can now use the hand pump that I carry on the boat anyway.
Hooray, it reopened today. It is better than ever! You can get everything you want here 24/7. It is now brand new and shiny with lots of new stuff. It wonderful to have great restaurants and a place to get a USB cable at 3:00am, only 2 minutes walk away. I never want to live in the country again.
I replace the leather on the gaff jaws – traditional in the Spring. I use this activity as an excuse to buy a new battery screwdriver.