04 July 2015 | Boat position at Sunset Marina, Fukuda, Japan: 32 44.35'N; 129 48.94'E
Picture: Fishing boats anchored at the small boat harbor in Fukuda, near Nagasaki.
Each island we have stopped at so far has had an outdoor loudspeaker system which can be heard everywhere, Yakushima was no different. While we were there, there was usually an announcement before sundown. We assumed that the system is for emergencies such as a tsunami, typhoon or some other disaster and/or for general announcements. Our Japanese neighbors, Shinichi and Taki from S/V "Umehara Keiichi" confirmed that such is the case. The previous evening's announcement concerned new garbage collection regulations but this evening it was about three separate typhoons coming our way. Immediately we planned our route up north and were underway by 18:30 that evening, taking advantage of the usual evening calm.
As usual for Yakushima, it was raining when we left; Shinichi held his umbrella and bid us farewell. Taki, his friend, had already left that morning for Tokyo. Even though it was wet, windy and getting dark fast, we were relieved to leave the concrete wall because, on that island, the wind and rain can be horrific and slammed us against the wall numerous times. On one occasion, the canvas canopy over the cockpit, called a bimini, blew off and ripped. The trip to Nagasaki took us two nights and one day. Except for a 30 knot-plus minor storm early the first night, the journey was almost routine. We had a good wind the first half but motored for the second half. The most excitement was at dawn when we were approaching Nagasaki. I had been on watch since 2:00 a.m. All of sudden, through the morning mist, an enormous ship without any lights loomed up out of nowhere. I did not know which way it was heading or whether it was at anchor. I checked the AIS and it did not identify itself. I looked at the radar and could not figure out whether it was coming at us or going away from us. I panicked and woke Ted up. What I thought was the "gigantic freighter" turned out to be an island! We looked it up on Google Earth. The walls of the buildings are built all the way out to the cliffs and the entire island seems covered with large apartment blocks making it appear like a huge ship! But all the buildings are abandoned so there are no lights on the whole island. Later we found that it is one of the Nagasaki's tourist attractions. The island is called "Gunkanjima", literally means "Warship Island", because it looks like a huge warship. It was a coal mining community from 1889 to 1975. After the underground mine ran out of coal, the island was abandoned. According to the pictures on Goggle Earth, some of the apartment block roofs had caved in and windows appear broken but the outer walls of the buildings look intact. There is a tour to the island from Nagasaki harbor that lasts four hours and includes a one-hour tour of the island. It costs about 5,000 yen (US$ 41).
We had prearranged our arrival at Sunset Marina, which is located on the outskirts of Nagasaki. The marina employees came out to direct us to the visitor's pontoon and helped us with our lines. As usual, the Coast Guards were the first to board "Shuang Yu". Five personnel arrived in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) equipped with raingear and umbrellas. Yes, it was raining. We filled out identical paperwork to that which we had filled out on previous occasions and they took pictures of our ship's documents, the boat and even us. After the formalities, we were assigned a corner slip next to a high wall. The whole marina looked like a concrete well, no view, but very protected; definitely a good secure typhoon shelter. There were large stainless steel rings embedded in the concrete wall so we tied our lines to it on one side and the floating pontoon on the other. By the time we finished putting lines on both sides; "Shuang Yu" looked like a mad beast that had to be restrained. We were prepared for the worse thinking that at least one of the three typhoons headed our way will hit us.
We took down all the canvas shade covers from the cockpit except for the small section that covered the companionway (main door from the cockpit to below decks). The genoa and anything else that could be blown any came down and was stored in the front cabin. Besides securing for the typhoon, we also worked on the boat. The "to-do" list is a constant on-going job list for all cruisers. The first typhoon missed us completely but it hit Okinawa. The second typhoon veered off to the left to Shanghai, China, but we felt the affect of it for two days and two nights. The wind whistled and howled through the rigging while the halyards from other boats slapped steadily against the masts making loud clanging sounds. The "music" created from the strong wind was like the sound affects from a horror movie. Even though the marina was full of boats, owned by locals, Ted and I were the only ones staying in the marina. It was a bit lonesome and eerie. The third typhoon, referred to as a "super typhoon" veered off to the right so we only felt a strong breeze from it. We were truly grateful that we did not have to experience the full force of any of the three typhoons.
While waiting for the typhoons to pass, we explored Fukuda on our bikes. It is a small, quiet, fishing town. Every evening teams of youngsters row big wooden boats around the harbor. The rowers are kept in time by an on-board drummer and a bell ringer. It is a wonderful pastime for youth and the adults who are in charge. They do warm-up exercises, including a short run, then row for an hour or so and finish with "cool-down" exercises and another run. We saw large groups of parents and other community members watching the events; it looked like they were strong supporters. The drumming and clanging of the bell during the rowing created in me a nostalgic feeling, perhaps because of similar activities we saw in Western Samoa.
Ted and I would frequently do the five-minute ride to town along the narrow ocean front road and through the fishing boat harbor. Once we discovered how easy it was to get into town, we no longer felt isolated. We could buy any groceries we wanted at the two supermarkets and a wonderful fruit and vegetable stand. They also have one of the best sushi restaurants we have been to. The bus to Nagasaki takes only about 30 minutes and cost less than $10 roundtrip for both of us. Weighing the pros and cons of staying in "Sunset Marina" or "Dejima Marina" in Nagasaki city center, we chose "Sunset Marina" because it is located in a beautiful rural setting but still has all the shops we need not far away. There is a fancy restaurant above the marina which caters mainly for weddings and parties. I did yoga in the park near the restaurant some mornings. The view is spectacular, deep blue ocean, verdant lawn, tall mountainous cliffs in the background and a sky which is forever changing. I could see why brides and grooms want to be married there; it is an absolutely gorgeous place. Time flew by and before we knew it, we had been there two weeks.
Our next door neighbor, Nichi, visited his boat three times while we were there. He speaks fluent English, which is a rarity in Japan. He is a metallurgist and owns several manufacturing plants in Japan and Indonesia so he travels abroad frequently. He is a busy man but spent quite some time talking with us and helped us to purchase three big red fenders, which we desperately need when we dock next to sea walls. He sent us some spreadsheets which contain the Japanese alphabets (Hiragana, the Japanese alphabet and Katakana, both based on pronunciation). They use three systems of writing: Katakana, Hiragana and Kanji. I can read some Kanji because it's the same as Chinese. Often place names and signs etc use Kanji so I feel more empowered in that sense but not knowing the spoken language is a handicap. However, we are getting by fine so far just with smiles, nods, gestures and my limited recognition of Kanji. Ted uses Google Translate most of the time. One big problem, since I look Japanese, everybody expects me to speak Japanese. With that great expectation, I must learn to speak Japanese!