The rain has been unrelenting. I cannot remember a year like it. My dreams of sailing around subtropical islands with steady wind and glorious weather have not yet been realized. At least I have succeeded in rigging a pretty good cockpit cover to keep out the worst of the rain.

When I do get to sail I will have to anchor from time to time. Around here the sea floor is nearly always coral and chucking a standard anchor into it rips up the coral badly. Not good. Okinawan boats have special coral anchors which are designed to hold well without damaging the coral, er too much.

I go to see my friend Nagahama san in the most catastrophic metal workshop in the world and he agrees to make me anchor. The result is a masterpiece.

Hand crafted in stainless steel. Thank you Nagahama san

I buy 2 fathoms of chain and we are ready to anchor when it stops raining.

A mess of anchors

I then head to the dentist. Mori sensei looks at the Xray and comes out with truly Japanese Kabuki Theater groans. I am scared.

I say, “What?”

He says, “Extract!”

I say “When?”

He says, “Now!”

He gives me a couple of pints of Novocaine using a syringe that plays electronic classical music. I get The March of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

He then pulls out my tooth. Ai san is also the best fun.

Mori sensei has extracted 2 of my 60 year old teeth and both events have been less disturbing than a visit to the hairdresser, er always disturbing for me as I have no hair.

Hic dente! Notice OIST pen

Ai san gives me my tooth back in a very pretty little tooth shaped box.

No alcohol no exercise. These two do not normally go together.

When I came to Okinawa to work at OIST, our ambition was to make the university one of the best in the world, so this is very gratifying.

Strangely enough, David Swinbanks and I were at St Andrews together in 1970!

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Whisky From Small Glasses

The rain goes on and on. I realize I have to fabricate a low lying cockpit cover to try and keep the majority of the rain out of the cockpit. Off I go and set to work. I also charge up the second battery. I have a major phobia of the battery being flat as I am blown onto a lee shore and so being unable to start the engine. Accordingly I have two batteries both of which I charge obsessively.

It is very damp, hot and dark but I scurry around cutting a tarpaulin to size for the cockpit cover.

Wet before the storm

Then happens the most violent thunderstorm I have, maybe, ever experienced. The sky is black at 2:00 in the afternoon. Lightning blasts down into the harbor and thunder cracks at insane volume. I am so scared and hide in the cabin as rain hammers down so hard that visibility is reduced to 5 meters.

So I brew up some coffee on the amazing spirit cooker that I have grown to love and settle in until the storm to passes over.

What a great device!

The storm does not pass over but grows wilder and frankly very scary. I expect to be fried by lightning at any moment.

I have my IPhone and earbuds and settle down to listen to a book I have bought from It is a detective story called Whisky From Small Glasses. It is set in Campbeltown, the town where I was born. It is very well read with perfect rendition of Glaswegian, West Highland and Ulster accents. It mixes Highland wit and jocularity with unspeakable violence. So far from the gentleness of Okinawa but it is where I come from.

The storm howls and roars on, the boat tugs at her mooring ropes, as I listen to a story that has so many cultural references to my early life. Great afternoon!

Nothing like the real thing
I wish I could have filmed the lightning but I was too frightened


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Luke Solo

I have great ambition for single handed sailing around the Ryukyu Islands. I determine to sail all by myself on Sunday to see if I can manage on my own. It is a very beautiful day but there is hardly any wind.

The first challenge of going solo is raising the sails. This has to be done facing into the wind otherwise the sails fill and become unmanageable. It is nice to have someone on the tiller keeping the boat headed into the wind as you pull on the throat and peak halyards to raise the the mighty main sail. I get the the boat into the wind and with the motor just ticking over I tighten the tiller tamer such that the tiller cannot move from side to side and accordingly bring the boat to port or starboard, filling the half way raised sail and causing mayhem.

It works well and I raise the mainsail without fuss. The jib is easy as it has a roller reefing system. You just pull on a jib sheet and the sail sets. Actually it took a lot of work with Nick to get the system to work smoothly but now it is perfect.

Inside the cabin. 30 degrees outside.

So we flap around for an hour or so but there is not enough wind to drive the boat anywhere. However the sky is blue, the sea is blue and I am happy. The wind such as there is, is blowing on shore and I finally give up and start to run back to the harbor. Now the wind disappears completely and we have to motor in. I manage to get the sails down, the fenders out and come alongside without too much embarrassment.

Not very exciting but all good experience.

Petit a petit
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At Last

So the dreadful weather lets up and at last there is a nice day. In Okinawa you expect the weather to be wonderful all the time and we are left bewildered by poor conditions.

Luckily Emily is free to crew and off we go. This is essentially only my second sail since I went out with Nick a month ago.

The passage out of Ginowan Marina is not easy. Of course you could motor out and in but then why have a sailing boat? The wind is offshore so getting out is pretty easy. However, getting back in means tacking across a fairly narrow channel with reef on both sides.

So, we practice running out and the beating back in. Beating back to Okinawa in previous boats has been a long and tedious business, but the Norfolk Gypsy is very taught and points well into the wind. Hooray!

Emily is patient as we do not actually go anywhere but rather practice.

The weather is overcast at the start of the sail but soon the glorious turquoise takes over

Here is a short video.

Emily helms

Let’s hope that this is finally the start of sailing fun.

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My best friend died suddenly on Sunday. I am desperately sad.

Sandy was the most entertaining man I have ever met. He lied about everything so convincingly that he created his own universe of hilarity into which you were sucked to join the fun.

He was a genius

For 30 years we had the best times. Each meeting was a opportunity to generate humour, whether linguistic or practical. In this we were always aided by his wonderful wife Zandra.

Thank you Sandy. I had been looking forward to spending a lot of time together at the chateau.

Not to be.

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So Much Rain

It hosed down last night. I get to the boat to find the grating floating around on over 2 feet of water.

Very impressive. The water level is only a few inches from the the engine hatch.

I install the new Gulper. At the moment she only pumps out the bilges but Kiyuna san and I have dark plans to hook her up to the cockpit sump as well. Very hush hush.

I love my Gulper

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A Bad Time for Pumps

There are 2 pumps on the boat, a hand pump that can pump water from the bilge and the cockpit well and mighty Gulper who blasts the stuff from the bilge automatically. Both break down within days of each other.

I am particularly upset by the demise of Gulper. She was such a happy pump but her gear wheels stripped and modern medicine has no cure.

So Gulper goes to it.

The hand pump, I had less affection for. She had a floppy red diaphragm and did not work well. Finally the diaphragm ripped and she no longer worked at all. This left me pumpless in Gaza.

I have now found a boat parts shop or chandelry on the mainland who are wonderful. They speak English and it seems I can get everything I want there. Buy stuff from them. Knowing they are there has done wonders for my sense of security.

They send me a repair kit for the hand pump, this is a diaphragm and valves with associated screws and circlips. They were made in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. I hope Brexit treats you well Whale Pumps, your produce is the best.

I repair the hand pump today. The floppy red diaphragm was clearly an amateur, homemade job.

I start to re-assemble.

There is only one way to re-assemble a Whale Gusher hand pump and I get it wrong 3 times. It does not matter. I have all my time, it is not raining and I like this sort of activity.

The Dark Prince

It is now in place and works so much better than the previous pump.

Black Diaphragm

So, next I turn to the cockpit seats draining holes. They do not drain and are clearly clogged. I blast high pressure water up the pipes and all kinds of grot is dislodged. They now drain.

I mount the tiller tamer. This device allows you to block the tiller hopefully allowing for self steering. I dread putting in a reef in bad weather with the tiller lashing around. This device should keep her heading into the wind whilst I wrestle with the mainsail.

Notice clam cleats

Mounting the clam cleats necessitated bending my arms into yogic positions through small access ports.

As I am writing this post, 6:00pm Sunday, the doorbell rings and there is a hand delivered new Gulper!

I am sure we will be very happy together.

Good day. Thank you Japan.

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