The Okinawan sun plays havoc with wood. The tiller and the top of the rudder – rudder post? – have suffered badly. I should have taken some “before ” photos to show the dried up state and the devastation of previous varnish but I forgot.

Something must be done.

It is difficult to get spar varnish. All ship chandlers on Okinawa have closed and my trusty supplier of boat stuff on the mainland has, I think, gone Covid bust. It takes forever to track down high quality varnish.

Success at last.

Varnishing I do not like. You have to sand scrupulously and then apply the varnish very carefully as it is prone to runs. You then do something else for a day to allow the stuff to dry completely. Next day, light sanding and another coat.

One coat . You can see how dry the top of the rudder post is.

You will remember that I pumped out all the oily water from the bilge. Well it went into a big jerry can and the problem was where to put it. There is a old oil disposal drum at the marina but they do not want it to be filled with water. I pour the oil/water into a bucket and use the Kiyuna torn up newspaper trick. I shred huge amounts of newspaper and put the scraps onto the oil covered surface. They soak up the the oil very effectively.

Just a few so you get the idea. Finally they come to the top of the bucket.

It is a dirty job as you have scoop out all the oil drenched shreds. Actually I could have used BBQ tongs but I didn’t think of it at the time. The water is sufficiently clean to be poured down a drain with no environmental guilt.

I continue to varnish for 6 days , so 6 coats.

Six coats later, nice and shiny
Job done. Notice big new hotel in the background.

I can’t reach Kiyuna san. He sometimes goes to work on boats on other islands. Only he has the massive spanners needed to adjust the stern gland so I have to await his resurrection before doing that job. It is not crucial to the performance of the boat but it is annoying to have a steady drip of water getting into the bilge. Not to worry, everything in its turn.

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Start of the New Financial Year

April 1 is an important day in Japan. It marks the start of the new financial year So what, you cry!

Well I am too lazy to go into it but for instance I could not get into the marina as my access card’s magic ran out at midnight on March 31. Everyone has to get a new one.

This is a pretty thin post but it is raining so I pass the time.

Little amaryllis outside my building. They are everywhere.

I take a photo of my irises at 7:30 every morning to record their flowering.

Only the beginning
Day 2
Day 3
This morning

We celebrate April 1 with fine lunch in a fancy hotel.

Strangely, there is a Kookaburra sitting on a tree in the atrium
April 1 yay!
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Irises in the Rain.

Every year I make a pilgrimage to the Iris fields of Kijoka. Acres of Irises growing wild. I have never been there in sunshine. The weather is always cloudy, misty and brooding. This suits the place fine.

This is one
Some more.

I think there were fewer than in previous years but still thousands! I also think it is late in the season and the main bloom might be over.

The shop. You put the money in the box. No one here.

For 500 yen you get a massive bunch. I buy two.

I have far too many Irises. Imagine them all in bloom. Load every rift with ore. soon the apartment will be strewn with boughs of Iris.

As I am stumbling around the fields, there is a big thunderstorm and it rains very hard indeed. I have no coat, no umbrella, I am drenched.

Kijoka is a hell of a place. Not only does it have amazing wild Iris fields but also is the epicenter of Bashofu.

Bashofu is a fabric made from banana leaves. It is a long and difficult process. After many manipulations the fibers from the leaves have to be knotted together to produce thread long enough for weaving. Tiny knots. Amazing dexterity. There is a workshop with many looms with women patiently weaving Bashofu cloth. It is wonderful.

Australian perspective.
World center for Bashofu

Read all about it. I love Wikipedia.

I buy a place mat.

It costs $1 million. Beautiful plate by MIwako san.
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Rip It Up

My last post ended with the installation of the second oil line. Hooray the engine should now be bullet proof. I fill the motor with new oil and run her in gear for an hour or so to generally wake her from her slumber. Just as I was switching her off, I hear a screech from the warning system that indicates the engine is overheating. Strange? I check the oil level and, oh dear, there is absolutely no oil in the engine. There must be a leak and I have just pumped 1.5 liters of super new Yanmar oil into the engine compartment and bilge.

Only the best.

I talk to Kiyuna san. We do another test and sure enough as the engine runs, oil leaks out at an alarming rate. KIyuna san is abashed. He does not like to get it wrong.

He says he will fix it tomorrow afternoon. I spend the morning trying to clean out the oil and mysterious water that always gathers in the bilge. I scoop it out with half a plastic bottle. I am bent double. Accessibility is very limited. I lacerate and bruise my forearm as I force the bottle into tight spaces. It is grim, dirty work.

I fill 2 buckets. Most of the volume is water with a film of oil on top.
My Puffer Fish friend comes to cheer me up.

I snatch a quick lunch at my fish restaurant.

Deep fried chicken. OK not fish.
Butter and garlic fish

I should, of course, have left it all to KIyuna san. He bounces up and announces that he fixed the leak the previous evening. Now he insists we have to thoroughly pump out the oil and water and then scrupulously clean the engine compartment and bilge.

He produces a fantastic vacuum pump that sucks out liquid from the remotest cranny. I look at my battered forearm with dismay.

Everyone should have one of these.

He then produces a big pile of newspapers that he expertly tears into long strips. He teaches me something new. Always tear a newspaper from top to bottom to produce elegant long strips. Side to side only produces little torn patches.

He stuffs enormous quantities of newspaper strips into the bilge and the engine locker.

Booting newspaper into the bilge.
Newspapered bilge.
Rip it

Anyway, he forces a huge quantity of newspaper strips into the bilge and engine compartment. He then rubs this around for a long time, which soaks up oil, grime and moisture. The result is impeccably clean bilge and engine compartment.

Never seen it like this before.
It used to look like this.

The stern gland is exposed. It is dripping sea water at a fast rate. Next adventure, stay with us.

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I have so much to worry about. I mean, is the solar panel working? Will the Fish Restaurant stay open? Are my oil line problems over? It is almost too much to bear!

I have a solar panel on the cabin roof that gently charges the battery.

It is the square, shiny thing

Anyway, recent flat battery worries led me to suspect the the solar panel set up was no longer functional.

This is why. Junction box on panel. Okinawa climate corrodes.

I get a new solar panel and charge controller – Amazon.

Good for another year or so
This should really be a video as the arrows in the screen move vigorously, showing that the panel is charging the battery. Hooray!
In situ

I dread that the Fish Restaurant across the road will close. It did so during Covid worst bit but I feel it will stay open for sometime. Who knows what awfulness will occur in the next months but at the moment it is open. Er, carpe diem.

Deep fried oysters and prawns.
Fish soup

Such a great place! So cheap! Having an excellent fish restaurant so near is better than psychotherapy.

Oozing oil line is replaced

It has been tough. So much pressure.

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The Starter Motor Stops

When I press the start button nothing happens apart from a click from the vicinity of the starter motor. I originally thought that the battery was flat but, once recharged, all that happened was the same click. This depresses me. I have had so many problems with the starter motor. I cannot use the boat without an engine that starts reliably. I cannot leave from, nor return onto, the pontoon under sail.

The phone rings. It is Kiyuna san! He has the new oil line and is coming over.

I demonstrate the starter click.

He says, “Dai jou bu, I fix.” He takes off the starter motor and water pours out of it! How can this be? I can not think of any way that water could have got into the motor over the last few days but it is clear that it had been submerged. It remains a mystery.

He dismantles the motor and we find that it is filled with red sludge. Where did that come from?

Yuck, no wonder it did not work. It is clearly dead.

99 people out of 100 would have chucked it away and bought a replacement – not Kiyuna san.

It is a very complicated device with many moving parts, springs, circlips, which he negligently chucks into a container. How he could ever remember which piece goes where and in what order is difficult to process.

We fill a bucket with diesel and start meticulously cleaning each part. Here I can be useful.

Surgical standards of cleanliness
Notice sunburnt knee
Tapping out stuck carbon brushes after long soaking in diesel
Feeling much better
What a great afternoon

We have a great afternoon, sitting in the sun, cracking jokes and cleaning the starter motor. We do not have much common language but still have the best time.

The re-assembly is very complicated. “Next time you do it, Neil san.” Er, no.

Kiyuna san says, “There are many mechanics. I am not a mechanic, I am a magician.”

Once the starter motor is re-installed, the engine starts instantly. It is a miracle! The starter motor was full of sludge.

I have to leave but Kiyuna san goes to the Yanmar depot to pick up the new oil line. I can’t wait to see if he has installed it. Then the boat will be back in action

Kiyuna san will be 70 tomorrow! Wish him a happy birthday.

Kiyuna san’s new bike. The Harley is resting.
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A Puffer Fish Nibbled My Toes.

I go to the dentist to have my stitches taken out.

The weather is perfect. My engine does not work. I can not go sailing. Boo.

I can, nevertheless, sit on the side of the pontoon with my feet dangling in the water and apply more teak oil to all the wooden trim. My, it is thirsty wood! It soaks up coat after coat. As I sit there, lots of fish amble by. The water is clear like gin or maybe vodka or more locally, awamori.

A puffer fish comes by several times and swims around my feet. It is fascinated.

Notice sunburnt knee.

I take off my shirt and soak up the Sun’s healing rays. Now I have sunburn. It is early March.

I pay the annual bill for my berth at the marina. They send you a bill that you take to the bank. There you take 250,000 yen cash from the ATM. This you give to one of the bank tellers who does something and gives you a receipt. This you give to the folks at the marina.

248,829 yen for a year. About $2,300.

I think this is a great deal. The marina is the best place! It has mechanics, paint specialists, rigging specialists, lots of nice people, hoists to lift your boat out to enable bottom cleaning, and is very sheltered in stormy, er, typhoon, weather. Lots of exotic fish.

My part of the marina this morning. Glorious.

On a different tack, you will remember me mentioning a Farmer’s Market near my place that regrettably closed.

Well, hooray, it has reopened.

It is different, more hip, more young, less agricultural but still fantastic. It is now called, “Happy More Okinawa Farmer’s Market.”

It is normal to gift orchid displays at the start of any new entreprise.
Here we are
Potatoes are sold in units of 100 grams
Spinach stuff, goya and un-nameable citrus fruit

The place gives the opportunity for local growers, hippies, to sell their stuff. There are so many strange sauces, teas, smoothies.

Wild Boar sausages, Wild Boar terrine, du lard!

Each thing you buy has a label that explains exactly where it comes from, when it was untimely ripped from the soil. Unfortunately. I can’t read these labels but my friends hold them in very high regard.

Such quality, so close to my place.

It is 10 years today since the Great Earthquake. God bless all who suffered.

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Rouge et Noire

The title has nothing to do with what I am going to recount other than some bits were awful and other bits were wonderful.

The engine will not start. It is clear that the battery is flat. Why? God knows. I charged it with the wonderful Dr Charger just a few days ago. She started immediately.

No real worries.

I run an extension cable from the electrical power column on the pontoon to repeat the operation. Oh no, Dr Charger shows no signs of life. I plug into all the power outlets but no juice. I conclude that Dr Charger has given up the ghost. I am saddened, I liked Dr Charger.

I explain my problem, in mime, to a friend who lives on his boat and draws current from the same power column. He kindly dismantles it, er the column, and checks all the breakers and concludes that every thing is OK.

Thus the conclusion that Dr Charger has turned his toes up, is reinforced. What to do? Buy a new charger, I suppose.

At the hardware store
New charger, 8,000 yen

With great excitement I set up the new charger. No sign of life. Is this because Google translate has not explained the instruction manual correctly? I do not think so. I think there is no power coming from the power column.

Power column, hardly shipshape.

So I go to the marina office. They are charming and send a technician.He checks all kind of stuff but nothing solves the problem. He finally pushes in all the big plugs and suddenly every thing works!

The battery charges!

Meanwhile, a big, exotic, fish wanders by to feed on the coral on the pontoon.


I sit on the pontoon with my legs dangling down into the water and paint Teak Oil onto the wooden trim. Very restful.


I worry about the boat. The engine is clearly sick and I fear her stern gland is loose..

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Up North

Now recovered from tooth trauma I travel to visit the famous Nago Pension Office. Apparently I am to get more money due to some Covid help for oldies. I stupidly threw away the correspondence not realizing its importance and, in a very Japanese way, I have had two reminders to claim this money. Therefore I go to Nago to try to sort things out. I don’t but I make progress. It is a beautiful day and I go for a ramble in the forest on the slopes of Mount Nago.

In spring the tops of some trees go golden.

The forest is beautiful.


I wander along a path for an hour then I turn around and wander back.

The road I travel

I enjoyed it very much; fresh air, birdsong, forest smells, sunshine, not hot, exercise.

The city of Nago

I then visit the paddy fields of Kin. A farmer is churning up his field in preparation for planting rice of maybe Taro, which here is called Satoimo I think. Dozens of Egrets surround his tractor. It is a great sight,

I must get out more
Cattle Egret. Their heads go reddish in the Summer. If yo click on the photo you can see a slight change of colour already
Which bird is more elegant than the Great White Egret?

Good day initiated by bureaucracy. Out of the dull came forth sweetness.

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Another One Bites the Dust

The last few days have been less than ideal. As I mentioned in the last post one of my molars suddenly came loose and wobbled all over the place. Much misery and pain. I have lived on a diet of painkillers, antibiotics, soft boiled eggs, bananas and miso soup, as anything more dense always seemed to strike against the sore tooth.

This morning I go to have it untimely ripped. This is always fun, tooth extraction is my hobby.

My old partner in crime, Mori sensei, explains that for some reason the bone around the tooth had rotted.

Ours not to reason why. I had a full check up only 3 weeks previously and nothing was wrong. I can only guess it is a punishment for some evil deed.

Maybe I should find a new hobby.
Super fun nurse, Ryu san!

Lots of anaesthetic dispensed from a device that plays calming music at the same time. Mori sensei attacks with the pliers and wiggles the tooth from side to side before easing it out. I take many photos but they are too gruesome to post. So much blood. He then removes lots of diseased bone tissue and whacks in some stitches. Such fun.

He’s the man

I am the given lots of medication and go home.

On these occasions I always think of Samuel Pepys , who had a bladder stone, “the size of a tennis ball” removed as he was doubled over on his kitchen floor. An incision was made through his perineum and the stone removed with horrible tongs. No anaesthesia nor hygiene. “Pepys’ wound did not heal particularly well, but he was enormously grateful to be free from pain.”

I feel the same. Not a great morning but so glad to be free from pain.

Lots of medication

I have lots of pills to take and go back tomorrow to check that all is well. Thank you Japanese health service.

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