We leave the beach of turtles and snake and head over to the beautiful bay of Aheren. Aheren is the most beautiful bay in the world and Kinjo san’s mother lives there.
I say, as the wind gets up, “Lower the center board, Ben.” No reponse from the center board. It is jammed in the up position. I immediately know why. Stones have been forced, following night of crashing into the shingle, into the center board slot and the center board is locked by pebbles. Bad news! We cannot sail without the center board.
I haver and tizzy. We will have to go back, haul Dileas up on a beach, dismantle the mast, turn her over and then try to take the stones out.
Ben is young and says “F*ck that” and dives overboard, He swims under the boat and with the help of the handle of a pair of pliers he, bit by bit, extricates the stones. We are far from land, there is a wind, this is dangerous but Ben is determined. After the 28th dive under the boat he frees the last of many stones and the center board is released.
We are back in action! Heroic stuff from Ben.
We now sail to Aheren and pull Dleas up on the beach.
We walk over to Kinjo san’s mother’s guest house and congratulate her on the birth of her grandchild.
Much joy, the whole family is brought out to greet us. We are served cold tea and mango sorbet. I ask f I could use a computer to find out the weather forecast for the next day. Kinjo san’s mother phones Kinjo san, who is on the mainland, she phones my assistant Naoko, who is on the mainland, who phones Kinjo san’s mother. in 30 seconds, I am speaking to Naoko, I pass the phone to Kinjo san’s brother and Naoko explains my concern. He explains to Naoko that the weather forecast is good and she subsequently explains it to me. Amazing.
We set off in the early afternoon but immediately run into a horrendous squall. We start the engine and I decide to fill her up. The moment I put in new Zamami fuel, mighty Tophatsu chokes and splutters and runs like a consumptive. The wind is high , the rain is very solid, the engine is sick. I head back to Aheren and we drag the boat back up the beach in exactly the same place that we had left an hour ago.
I realize that I had put far too much oil into the gas and that the motor was very unhappy with this mixture. I know that a working motor is going to be crucial for a safe return to my wee but and ben in Onna san. Only solution is to pour in more gas to dilute the mixture. We go back to Kinjo san’s mother’s guest house. There is no gas station in Aheren, the closest one is on the other side of the island 15 kilometers away. Kinjo san’s mum drops everything and drives me straight over there. We talk about the joys of eating goat. My oil sludgy gas tank is lightened with 1.5 litersof clean gas and back we go to the boat. Thank you Kinjo san’s mum! The folk of Okinawa are canty and couthy and kindly, the best.
There is a strong temptation to stay the night in Aheren – have a shower, we are dirty, sleep inside, eat something other than Spam, being strong we shake it off and head off for the next beach.
Now confident in the potency of the mighty Tophatsu we sail off towards the North and as the sun goes down we pull up on a new beach on Amuro jima
So starts new adventure.