Fiddling While Rome Burns

Serious typhoon coming over the island tomorrow and Tuesday.

What better time to have fun.

This might calm us down a bit.

Kikuta san has added new pieces to his exhibition. Off we go to examine.

I was terrfied of eels when I was a young boy.

I am very tempted to buy this. When young in Scotland we fished for eels and my elder brothers would tell me ghastly tales of eels never letting go once they had bitten you. Certainly once caught, they refused to die and decapitated heads would still try to bite you. Double click on the photo and you will see that these eels have a truly malicious view on life. The eels he used to paint the piece were 2.5 meters long!

We then all go back to the boat for a fun lunch. Dockyard friends join us and we have a wonderful time.

Poached Salmon on Raita.
Add a salade lyonnaise.

At times there are 6 of us and a dog. I am the only non Japanese. This does not matter, I understand little but bathe in companionship. In fact I love it. I had always felt an obligation to contribute, to promote, to catalyse conversation. Now, I can sit quietly and grin. So relaxing.

Kiyuna san was at his best.
Kano san, the best of men.

The marina is buzzing with people putting on extra mooring lines, taking down sails. and generally lashing down anything that can move.

We eat and converse.

Hoppepan buns and grapes known in Japan as Shine Mascat. They are very prized, as much for their beauty as for their flavor.
Latte san, Kano san’s dog. Great company.

A wonderful afternoon but around 3:00, the heat finally wears us down. We go our separate ways. Such enjoyment with no alcohol. Strange.

I lie down until 6:00 and then return to rig the cover in preparation for the typhoon.

Before getting to the cover, I double all the mooring lines.

This is going to be the real test. Will the cover be able to withstand the rigors or will she buckle and fill with water? I spend a lot of time making the cover as taught as possible and install the camera tripod as a boom crutch.

Super tight.
Waiting is the worst

So, this is the great reckoning for my cover. Can she withstand the evil typhoon? Do not miss the next thrilling episode.

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Take Cover

Ho, ho a typhoon! It was only a small one but it showed up a design weakness in my cockpit cover.

Looks good

The cover is attached to the boom. However the boom is only held up by the topping lift. If you click on the photo you can probably see two thin lines going from the boom to the top of the mast.

Anyway, the wind, strong, was coming from the South such that it hit the side of of the cockpit cover creating a degree of concavity.

It rained like crazy!

The terrace
Early in the day. It got much worse.

So concavity caused by wind allows rain to collect in cockpit cover. The weight of the rain pulls the boom down, which deepens the trough in the cover. I get there to find a bad scene. No water gets into the boat but it it is not an elegant scenario.

I hope this has not stretched the cover. You can see that that the boom has dropped onto the traveller or maybe horse.

I clearly need a boom crutch that will keep the boom high, no matter what, and consequently keep the cover taught.

I rig my camera tripod to hold the boom high.

This should work for the time being.
This system is very adjustable. Maybe I will keep it.

So, a nice new project to build a boom crutch. There is another typhoon coming in on Monday. Fingers crossed that my hacked together system will withstand Nature’s awfulness.

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It has been a dour last few days. General fed upness with Covid restrictions resulting in little contact with other people, but mainly because I could not get my flute to work.

As I have mentioned, the flute was overhauled by Takaesu san. He was clearly excited by the project and it was obvious that he took great pride in the work he had done.

As I have also mentioned, the flute played beautifully except for the 2 lowest notes, E and D. The flute can play about 3 octaves. The highest essentially I never use for Irish tunes, concentrating on the lower two. The repaired flute played the highest and middle octave like never before. It was easy to get the notes and amazingly they were all in tune with each other. However I could not get bottom D. I told myself that this would come with practice but it did not. It was very disheartening.

I realized that I was playing a completely different flute. I have owned her since 1979 and she has never behaved like this before. I dreaded going back to Takaesu san to complain. I think he would have been hurt.

Last night I spotted something different about the flute.

Back to normal.

There is an ingenious system for moving the cork up and down the head joint. The cork had been pushed down the barrel such that the top of the indicator was flush with the cap. I simply raised the cork out to the position shown in the photo and magically she reverted to her normal personality. Her honk is back.

I am so pleased.

I think Takaesu san, with all the best will in the world, must have set the flute up to perform optimally for classical pieces. But I need a super strong bottom D for the rhythmic structure of Irish flute playing. Now I have it again. I can no longer blame my tool.

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The Pause

Several of my American friends have referred to the period we are living through as the Pause. I think it is an apt description.

Here in Okinawa we are still asked to stay at home and refrain from traveling around the island. Social interaction is very limited. I have only seen one friend all week and that was a bemasked boat trip to watch the sunset.

It was not a very good sunset.
We ate well
Prawn and avocsdo, bacon and stuff, deep fried shrimp on choucroute. Thanks Hoppepan.
Got back very late. Masks on boats, strange days.

I still get mail. Most is from the local government about health insurance. I am still, after nearly 10 years, entranced by the Japanese approach to official communications. So playful.

This is my health insurance bill. 38,500 yen for a year of total coverage!
More health related stuff. Happy family.
I think this is about electrical equipment check. Artwork by the electrician’s 8 year old daughter

My great friend Hanada san now only opens her wine store on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. She keeps me bottles that she thinks I will like.

Such fun. Each time I pop in she is bubbling with excitement and proposes a selection of interesting wines.

Here is a video about my kitchen.

Sad really if the most exciting video I can make is about my kitchen sink.

There is a small typhoon on its way. That should brighten things up. The boat is beautifully covered and well attached to the pontoon.

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Level 4

Says it all really

So, the virus has returned dramatically. Each day we are getting more cases than the whole months of March and April when the virus first arrived. Okinawa is now the worst affected, per capita, prefecture in Japan.

Yesterday, Governor Tamaki inevitably announced that Okinawa would go into the highest level of epidemic reaction, Level 4. This means stay at home.

Well, that is pretty much what I have been doing since the resurgence about two weeks ago. This entry is necessarily rather dull as it covers sitting around on a very hot and humid island not doing much.

Hot and humid! I think it must be age but I cannot remember being so incapacitated by the heat in previous years. As always I have lots of little jobs to do on the boat but even an hour outside leaves me drenched in sweat and dizzy. I worry about heat stroke.

I do manage to buy some proper rope and bend on a new jib sheet. I did the same thing about 2 weeks ago but the rope was useless and kept slipping through the cleats at critical moments.

Amazon Japan.

Taking her out in the heat of the day seems too much effort but we have been on some good sunset sails by which time it is only 28 degrees or so.

Before the rain

One night we got into a fantastic downpour. It snuck up behind as we were oohing and aahing about sunset. Within seconds we were completely drenched. Rain like everything else on Okinawa at this time of year is hot. The crew loved it.

What else?

Ah yes, after 10 years of accepting that cream was not sold in Japan, I was again proven wrong. Well, I knew that you could get cartons of thin stuff that could whipped up for decoration but not thick cream for sauces. What is a Summer picnic without strawberries and cream?

Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton

I have written about my water dispenser. I drink so much cold water in this heat. I go to the local water depot to stock up. This was my first visit and I expected a gloomy warehouse but found a dazzling shopfront with uniformed staff who of course load my car for me.

Interesting backhand v sign.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, I have a new hobby. Great rafts of hard skin have built up on my delicate feet. In a pharmacy type shop I find a great device, a battery driven hard skin grinder.

Get one.

My evening are spent grinding away at my feet.

Have you dozed off yet?

The big news is that I have got my flute back. My friend Takaesu san has replaced all the pads on the keys and has done a fine job.

He is a great bloke.Not wearing a mask, very unusual.
New Okinawan pad on F key made in 1824 in London

The flute plays beautifully except I have yet to persuade her to consistently produce the hard bottom D note that is so important in Irish music. It is rhythmically sprinkled in nearly all tunes especially reels. The drive and lift of good flute playing is to a large extent produced by the D.

I think this is G #.

So, I have been playing a lot and little by little the hard D is returning. Is this because the flute understands what I want or because I am minutely adapting my embouchure and blow? An early 19th century wooden flute is a stern mistress.


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Power Gives Way to Sail

Once more the languid existence of Covid 2020. There has been a very marked upsurge in the number of cases on the island. We had none for months but suddenly it is back. With this comes polite and gentle urgings from the Governor to stay at home and avoid social gatherings. We all ,of course, wear masks, spray our hands with disinfectant and distance. Everybody but everybody conforms.

This new spike has put the kibosh on several dinners and being with people fun.

You get the idea.

I lead a low key life and look forward to the excitement of walking to the supermarket.

Full of surprises

I also visit an exhibition by old friend Kikuta san.

Good bloke
I would buy one of his screens if I had space to put it. He is a very knowledgeable birdwatcher.

Principally, I fuss over various problems on the boat; jib sheets, water in the cabin, sail lacing, and all the other tribulations that boats are heir to.

Of course, there is a lot of time on the water.

I go out with Chris on Sunday. There is a fog coming off the sea which is called a sea fret, or a haar on the East coast of Scotland.,over%20the%20cold%20North%20Sea.

The wind is strong, almost always over 15 knots. It is is cloudy and choppy as we blast over to the Sand Islands.,127.6090131,12360m/data=!3m1!1e3

Coming home is not so easy. She does her best but we are sailing into the wind. long tacks back to Okinawa. In the distance we spot a big cargo/container boat. It is coming straight for us. This happens often and always the big boat just steams on and in fact passes nowhere near us.

This was not the case yesterday. The closer we got the more evident it became that there was a good chance of collision. Had they seen us? So, in theory, power gives way to sail but a 100,000 ton cargo boat going at 20 knots may think differently.

We were rattled as the huge boat came closer and closer. Then it changed course and passed behind us. Thank you Captain of the cargo boat. It was scary.

The video does not capture the distances.

The wind was strong and we beat back. It is not comfortable sailing as you crash into the waves and seem not to be making much distance. However I am determined to get as close to Okinawa before we resort to the mighty Yanmar. It is getting late. At a critical moment my $100 hat blows away into the sea. It floats away at great speed. Turn around and try to fish it out ? Like Hell, we have let’s get home mindset and who cares about a $100 hat anyway? We fire up the Yanmar and motor the last kilometers.

Fresh air.

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Dear Diary

Life trundles on with a general aimlessness due principally to the Covid virus, which makes planning and big stuff impossible. I rather like it. I do a lot of sailing .

South winds, two trips

When I am not sailing I just hang around and enjoy my new place and living in Ginowan.

I love my water cooler

The water cooler is wonderful. I drink lots and lots of ice cold water, which has to be good for me. The hot water is very near boiling and is perfect for pots of tea and shaving water.

I have been eating a lot of nigiri. So good in hot weather.

I have mentioned the Hoppepan bakery that is just a short stumble away. It really is excellent. They do a few classics like croissants but the majority of their buns, cakes, rolls are their own original creations. As I write, I am eating a bun stuffed with walnuts.

Lots of seaffood and pork buns.
Cakey stuff
More seafood.

Fresh air and food.

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Just a reminder that this blog is a diary. The entries have no value other than me being able to remember what I did. I have been diarying now for about 10 years and I only wish I had started sooner. My life before 10 years ago is a blur.

This is to explain the very random nature of this post, which has neither plot nor character but will be fun to read in 10 years time.

I have mentioned that I have struck up a deep friendship with Hanada san who runs a tiny but fascinating wine shop nearby. She speaks little English but also a little French and we get on famously. She will find me any wine I care to drink. I have been drinking excellent wines from the Jura recently.

Bad photo. My hand shakes.

I have of course been sailing a lot. I struggle with the mainsail. I think it is well set with taught halyards but once confronted with the enemy there is always a crease running down the sail from the throat to the clew. More study needed.

I replace the jib sheet with new but cheap rope, which will certainly do the job. The incumbent sheet must be 25 years old.

Flemish flake

My local bakery Hottepan opens at 8:00, which is rare in Okinawa, shops usually open later. This means I can stumble up there, buy amazing croissants and stuff and come home for breakfast.

Breakfast. The brioche thing comes with a slab of butter.

My flute does not work. It has been increasingly difficult to get a strong sound and now some notes have disappeared. I have been here before many times and all indications point to leaking pads on some of the keys. What chance of getting a early 19th century English flute fixed in in Okinawa? Well it turns out to be a 100% chance.

He understands
This is where to go

I go to Docomo because my 1 Gbs internet is not working properly. The charming Anna san gives me collector’s item Docomo toilet paper to make me feel better.

Can you be angry with someone like this?

So there we go, life meanders on.

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This and That

Having established my credentials in Ginowan, I determine to test the reality of the bike to boat, sail, bike back home daydream. Off I go and discover that I can bike along a sort of harbor wall pathway almost all the way to the marina. There is one huge and at the moment empty-looking hotel that blocks the last bit, but once circumvented, there is another nice seaside ride to the boat. However, ominously it is already 33 degrees at 09:00. The trip takes 15 minutes at a very leisurely pace.

Bike and boat.

I mess around on the boat for a while and then head out to sea. A good sail but far too hot and I accordingly come back in after an hour or so. The ride back is intimidating as I already feel very beat up from the heat. 5 mins from the marina there is the amazing Ginowan Tropical Beach and I plan to soak in the sea to cool down before riding back home.

Tropical Beach

The sea was as hot as a bath and I only got sandy, uncomfortable and maybe hotter. So it is completely feasible to bike to the boat but not in high heat.

Tangentially, Arisa points out that having a supply of clean, ice cold water is a very good thing in Okinawa and she kindly arranges the delivery of my very own water dispenser.

Hot and cold running water!

The weather has now changed and we have had downpours for the last couple of days. This is nice as it is a lot cooler and I no longer have rain anxiety as the boat is beautifully covered. I go for walks around my new place.

5 mins away is a fantastic bakery.

What’s more, they open at 08:00, so croissants for breakfast are back on the menu.
I get a sausage bun, a lump of nut loaf and some bread

So I have emptied nearly all my boxes and the apartment is beginning to look quite homely.

I like my new place.

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I Live in Ginowan

There is quite a lot of bureaucracy to become an official Ginowan resident and persuant to the new official address I have to change my pension, health insurance and driving license details.

Off I go to the Ginowan City Hall. It is 33 degrees at 9:00 in the morning. AC is such a blessing, I can not imagine living here before AC. Office waiting rooms must have been hell. They must have had fans but there is only so much a fan can do.

I am gently directed to the right counter to get a residence certificate. A sweet lady who has some English helps me fill out the form. We giggle.

I wait for residence certificate. My number is 505!

I wait in suitably distanced chair. Everyone is, of course, wearing masks. My number is 505, the numbers on the screen are in the 80’s. I settle in for a long wait. Not so, the nice lady reappears and leads me to another window where an equally nice young lady, who speaks good English, greets me. She explains what I have to do. They have to print my new address on my resident card, which will take an hour or so. In the meantime I have to go to the pension and health insurance windows. We giggle. Indeed so much that I snap one of the ear straps on my mask! They immediately bring me a new one. Much giggling.

First stop is the Pension desk, no wait, I explain the change of address by mime. The nice young man gets it and comes back a couple of minutes later and explains everything is daijuobu.

I change building and arrive at the health insurance windows. After a short wait I am summoned. I am #22. Nobody speaks English and we communicate through voice translation apps on our phones. These are now super good. We giggle a lot. They apologetically tell me that I will have to pay 3,000 yen next April. They give a new health insurance card. I now have the best health care for 3000 yen next April! I giggle.

Health insurance. I love Japan.

Back to the original registration window. My card is ready. I have to put 400 yen in a slot machine that spits out a receipt. I have a Ginowan residence certificate, a re-addressed resident card and a new mask.

Next stop is the Ginowan Police Station to change the address on my driving license. No English speakers but it does not matter as they understand why I am there and a nice lady policeman fills in the form for me. We giggle like crazy.

Ginowan Police Station

Ten minutes later she comes back with my updated license. I am official.

All of this was done in a morning. What is more, it was fun. The Okinawans have a talent for turning drudgery into a party. We can all learn from them.

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