So, Kyuna san, my Sensei in all things boat mechanics, went AWOL. This is disastrous as, although I can, sand, treat wood , mess around with gratings etc, without him I cannot connect up the engine to the electrics, which have as you know, been underwater for at least 5 years. He knows how to do these things. I do not not. No one has seen him.

Out of the blue he answers my phone call and 5 minutes later we are back in business.

KIyuna san works on electrics as I try to re-treat all the woodwork that has been completely trashed by Okinawan sun.

I am anxious. Will we have to rewire the boat, install new fuse box, install new engine starting panel? Kiyuna san is typically nonchalant.

Before filling the gas tank with diesel, I have a look at the dipstick. It comes out dripping with water. Water has got into the tank. I rush down early this morning and lift the top of the tank and sure enough there is a quantity of water in it. Phew, good thing I spotted it before we filled it up with diesel and tried to fire up the mighty Yanmar.

I know where this water came from but it is too embarrassing to let you know

I clean everything out and reseal the tank. Lots of agonizing scraping off the sealant that I put on about a year ago. Sealant is tenacious stuff.

Kiyuna san breezes in and in no time has filled the tank, set up a water cooling circuit and bled the fuel system. I turn on the main electric switch, turn the key on the starter panel and amazingly lights flash and signals sound. I press the starter button and thunka, thunka she starts!

Like raising Lazarus.

Yay cooling water ejected from stern!
Automatic bilge pump. Gulper is wonderful. A bit like standing behind a cow.

So, everything seems to work. A miracle! My luck holds strong. Hats off to the builders back in 1992 for producing such a robust system.

New, er modified grating, looks great!
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A grating is that to which you tie recalcitrant sailors before giving them a dose of the lash with the cat. A good grating is essential on any boat.

I drenched the grating that came with the boat with wood treater stuff.

It looked like it might work

It was no good, the original grating was sun blasted and rotten, and it was clear that, if there was to be any lashing, then a new grating was needed. I go to my local woodworking shop, which is one of my favorite places, with my grating and ask if if they can make me a new one.


They make me the best grating ever from Okinawan hardwood.

I am so happy.

I rush down to the boat to place my new grating, repeating to myself tropes of old school craftsmanship that is so difficult to find these days. How lucky I am etc.

Er, it is too long. I do not know why, but my friends at the woodworking shop built it 30 cms too long. I take it back and there is the awful atmosphere of proud Japanese confronting the fact that they have failed. I feel so sorry for them.

Not to worry, they will fix it.

On the positive tack, a perfect picnic at the Marina.

Very elegant Tomomi san
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Back in Okinawa!

I go straight from the airport to the Marina. The boat is fine! Thanks Kiyuna san who has been keeping his eagle eyes on her.

Yearning for the open sea.

One of my main anxieties has been will I be able to get a sea berth in the marina for the boat? These are hot tickets and very difficult to come by. I go see Kobashigawa san, the harbormaster. “No problem, Neil san I have 3 that you can choose from.” My luck holds strong. Kobashigawa san was in the Japanese merchant navy for 30 years delivering cars all around the world. He has a great affection for Scotland. ” Bad weather, very strong wind!”

Kobashigawa san and my new mooring. Hooray!

My next anxiety has been Japanese Income Tax. I am on my own, no wonderful OIST help to deal with this kind of stuff. I go to the Onna village office and explain that I earn no money and am very poor. They remember me and are so kind. They have the amazing ability of turning a tax form submission into a party! Anyway I put 0 into two boxes on the form, sign it and that is my taxes done!

Regular readers will remember that my wonderful bird lens, a Tokina AT-X 300, busted in New Mexico. I send an email to Tokina Japan. They reply in 20 minutes saying send it over to Tokyo and we will do our best to fix it.

In the Onna Post Office they find me a box, pack the lens with exquisite care and send it off

Thank you so much!

Japan is wonderful. Everything works so well.

Not to mention the fish!
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So Long San Francisco

I have been in the United States of America and Mexico for the last 4 months. I now head back to Japan. Farewell San Francisco.

It has been a wonderful time and here are just a very few reasons why I like living in San Francisco, or more accurately, in this part of the city.

My room looking out onto the Panhandle.
My gas fire. So cosy.
We can always park the truck and the KLR right outside the house.

Walking up Haight at any time of day is always entertainment.

Grocery store.

Thank you University of San Francisco for allowing local residents to use your sports facilities. I take boxing classes until my right hand stops working and then a ‘Core and More’ class, which is hard. Koret Health and Recreation Center at USF is truly remarkable – indoor olympic pools, loads of courses, and of course, general Californian good feel; also amazing high pressure showers. I stop showering at home. I lose 9 kilos.

Tiny corner of Koret.

Lyft! Cabs/taxis were always dirty, sleazy, the drivers belligerent, disgruntled. I always felt overcharged, you could never find one. Lyft is a life changer.

How do I love you ? Let me count the ways.

The cars are immaculate and I have never waited more than 2 minutes. I do not know why but I get a 50% discount, making nearly all rides in the $4 range. The drivers are so much fun. All my drivers have been recent immigrants from, Iran, Nicaragua, Algeria, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. They have 3 jobs and are full of optimism and drive. The Algerian guy was from Oran, where I spent 1975-76. Together we chanted. “Sidi El Houari attene nous ballon!” This is the supporters chant of the MC Oran football club.     

Sidi El Houari is the patron Mufti of Oran and the chant, a typical mixture of French and Arabic means, “Sidi El Houari give us the ball!”

Anyway, Lahouari, name of driver, and I wept on each others shoulders on the wet streets of San Francisco. I hear that in some places Uber and Lyft are not welcomed. These people must be Luddites and mad.

Thanks so much to Central Coffee, just around the corner, Every morning, Maia and Chalmer make me my start of the day coffee and make me feel good.

Maia is adorable. So is Chalmer but in a different way.

A 5 minute bike ride from the house is the de Young Museum.

Incredible, if you like paintings of water lilies.

I love standing in rooms full of billions of dollars worth of er art and then walking/biking home through the Panhandle.

They would not let me borrow it.
My bike, not Big Red, but she will do.
My next truck. Notice the finger.

Above all, thanks to son James who has put up with me during this time and given me so much good advice.

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Limping Home

So, I return to Japan on Thursday somewhat broken. My eye problem that burst upon the scene in Mexico is much better but my eyesight has changed significantly and I look forward to visiting an eye doctor to work out what is going on.

Does not work!

More irritating is that my thumb on the right hand no longer functions. There is big pain along the top of my wrist if I try to do anything with the thumb. This includes, lifting weights at the gym, doing press ups, er these are my main activities of course, doing up my fly, cutting things, adjusting turnbuckles, playing the flute, holding onto the handlebars of my bike, boxing, securely grasping big glasses of beer, lifting anything. In fact nearly everything is influenced by having an incompetent right thumb.

No good!

Why, you may ask, have you not had these problems looked at in San Francisco? Simple answer; no health insurance.

Soon, I will once again be nestling in the bosom of Japan’s excellent health service.

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I am struggling to find a good analogy for what has happened to my flute. If you use something a lot, you do not notice that it is not performing as well as it could. Decay is slow and goes unremarked.

I have just picked up my flute from the amazing Daniel Deitch.

He has given her a whole body makeover and although she is ~198 years old, she now performs as if she were new. Hats off to the makers, Willis and Goodlad back in the 1820s, such quality, and to Daniel, such craft.

No words

I have only to breathe gently over the sound hole and she jumps into life. Each note is now in tune and even the dreaded low E roll booms out.

A car after a service, a replacement knee, new glasses, shirts with the right collar size, reading Chapman’s Homer?

I struggle. What I am trying to express is something that slowly descends into bad performance, but the descent being unnoticed because of familiarity, suddenly performing at its maximum potential. Such joy! Take up thy bed and walk.

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Not me, but our washing machine. She gave up the ghost on Friday. We have experience with what to do in such crises.

We borrow Topher’s truck again and zoom off to the Marina to pick up the replacement that we tracked down on Craigslist. 

KP, the nice lady who sells us the washer, offers us a brand new gas cooker for free but we don’t really need it. Anyone want a cooker?

New washer acclimatizing in my room prior to installation.
Current state of my room.

We then load the old washer into the truck and take her to the home for old washing machines in the Mission.

James having truck fun.
Doctor Double Rinse wheels her away to her new home.
We have Huevos Rancheros and pulled pork Torta in Mexican place in the Mission. A celebration breakfast.

I take the truck back to Topher, who is off to South Africa, then walk down Clayton, along Haight, down Masonic, across the Panhandle, back to the house. It is a beautiful morning, a beautiful walk through a beautiful part of the city. There is nothing better than loading and unloading washing machines into the bed of a pick up truck on a beautiful morning in San Francisco.

Houses on Clayton.
View down the Panhandle, just outside the house.

A couple of days before, Seika, one of my first colleagues at OIST, shows up.

Seika is wonderful.
Frankie Gavin also shows up.

Frankie “good at playing the fiddle” Gavin
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