Little Green Boat

Spruce left the UK in 2011, arrived in SE Asia during 2015. Finished land/air touring in Asia. Afloat again and getting ready to head east to Raja Ampat and on to Japan and Alaka in 2018.

15 March 2018 | Ginowan Marina - Oknawa - Japan
15 March 2018
15 March 2018
13 March 2018 | Ginowan Marina - Okinawa
12 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
10 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
09 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
08 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
07 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
06 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
05 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
04 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
03 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
02 March 2018 | Yap - Micronesia
02 March 2018
02 March 2018
02 March 2018
02 March 2018
26 February 2018 | Yap - Micronesia
26 February 2018

Settling In - Land of the Rising Sun

15 March 2018 | Ginowan Marina - Oknawa - Japan
Andy & Sue
While on passage, during a night watch, an awful lot of flapping was heard from the aft end of the boat. Nothing could be seen when investigated with a torch. A few moments later the flapping commenced again, along with the pungent smell of flying fish, still nothing was found. When de-salting and cleaning the boat down this fellow was discovered beneath the folded inflatable.

15 March 2018
Thankfully, fears of a gearbox mechanical problem did not materialise. The culprit was a species of seaweed previously unknown to Sprucettes. Tenacious stuff! Very tough and stretchy but is not easily broken by the prop or rope-cutter. This had balled up on the folding propeller so it was stuck half-open. Inefficient for going astern or ahead, and it delivered an unbalanced propeller to boot.
Note the extreme amount of clothing. Full wetsuit, gloves, hood and the water felt a tad chilly, we have not measured but think around 20C is likely. Come on chaps! The UK summer water was only 18C and we used to swim for hours as kids. What will happen if we encounter similar seaweed farther north in Honshu, where the water is colder? ….Hmmm, that will probably be Sue’s turn next time.

15 March 2018
Easily available Japanese foods from the nearby supermarket are getting a serious test-drive. We cannot understand any of the Kanji labelling but are trying anything that looks appetising. Yesterday’s brown variety of seaweed was not our favourite, we prefer the black fermented types…well, it looked rather like seaweed?
Sake is another challenge, not even the alcoholic percentage figure is in Arabic numerals, so one has to consume a few glasses to be sure it is even an alcoholic drink and not merely some strange concoction of tea.
A data SIM card for the phone still eludes us. Kirk, a sailing friend from the ether, has sent some tips on what we might pursue. It seems the Japanese telecoms infrastructure remains tightly regulated and mobile telecoms, for non-residents, is a novel concept. While here at Ginowan, we can access wifi in the marina office, we need a ubiquitous solution before we depart. This is the toughest telecoms nut to crack since we were in India a couple of years ago.

A Shorter Passage

13 March 2018 | Ginowan Marina - Okinawa
Andy & Sue
A fine night, without energetic vessel movements, was savoured in Naha. Aaah Bliss! No watches! No reefs in and out! No juggling in the galley and no new "Boat Bites". Following any significant passage it is always rather a culture shock, both in terms of visual stimuli and the daily routine being tuned on its head, particularly for Andy, who usually does the midnight until 6am watch at sea.

A visitor arrived on the quay in Naha this morning. Mr Yutaka Gushiken (call me Ken) from the Japan Coastguard organisation, but off-duty in civilian clothing. He was the radio operator we first spoke with during our approach to Okinawa. We commented at the time on his excellent English pronunciation and adherence to correct international radio procedure. It made understanding so much easier than the slang and colloquialisms heard in other parts of the world. Wow! We are back in a country with a highly professional coast guard service. Yutaka San joined us for a cup of tea and we chatted over a wide range of topics, unfortunately all a little hurried because we were due to depart on the tide. Another fine indication of the warmth in the welcome that yachting visitors to Japan receive. We were pleasantly surprised that Yutaka San took the trouble to come and meet us.

Our short passage to Ginowan started well, a large part of the 8-mile route was conducted behind one of the huge marine defence walls that seem in abundance. If we are going to have to weather a typhoon somewhere, please let it be buried deep among these substantial fortifications. Building work on reinforcements and additions is still under way.

At around our half way mark the boat gave a judder, the engine made a strange noise and we suddenly lost power through the transmission! Could there be a fault with the hydraulic gearbox? Checks for temperature seemed ok, we were running, but at reduced thrust. We decided to press on, albeit slowly. Should we stop to check the propeller, maybe simply something snagged, or could a blade have thrown? But if we stopped would we get moving again? The decision to keep going at low engine revs held. Once alongside at Ginowan Marina we can see something strange on the propeller. We shall deal with it on the morrow. For now, an abundant supply of fresh water means we can de-salt the boat. Seven of the nine day passage was spent with water and spray coming right across our craft, salt crystals have grown on the rigging, canvas, deck. Anything touched or brushed against results in a white powdery salt coating. Spruce is aged and crusty, like her crew.

For today the marina office is closed, Tuesday is the marina staff's weekend. We hear this is fairly common throughout Japan, although we hope to be visiting smaller fishing harbours for most of our 3-month cruise. On Wednesday, we hope to find there is no problem with us spending a week or so here in Ginowan while we chill out, do some boat jobs and get stocked with Japanese foods from the nearby supermarket. Still we have no data SIM card for the phone, we hope to find one later today so we can get back on the internet. Thus far we are limited to emails via satphone or HF radio.

Photo shows Yukata San with Sue in Spruce's cabin (note the fleece!).

Arrived in Japan - After 9 Days Under Way

12 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
Andy & Sue
Distance logged since Yap 1256M: To Okinawa 0M: Ave Speed 5.7Kn. The positions can be seen on the map in the blog.

The fickle region of wind proved never on the cusp of a proper wind shift. With wind speed continuing to range 7-20 knots accompanied by shifts of 40-50 degrees and sometimes taking us 30-degrees off the course required to reach our destination, we resorted to motor sailing the last 100-miles or so.

Japanese fishing gear deployed at night does seem to carry lights. Well of course, we didn't spot the ones without lights, so maybe there is a flaw in our reasoning.

We arrived in Naha to a reception committee of some 15 officials armed with forms galore. All were very welcoming and most friendly. We settled in to some serious form filling and language juggling; good humour pervaded the proceedings. The upshot was a total of some 2hour 40min expended in getting ourselves and the boat officially declared as in Japan. We have officially arrived! Yippee!! That far fetched idea from 2016, of sailing from Malaysia's west coast to Japan, via Borneo, Raja Ampat and Micronesia is reality...but it has not quite sunk in yet. A visit to the loaded shelves in a Japanese supermarket has started the process of pinching ourselves, we shall continue the reality check with a cosy cabin feast of sushi and other traditional fare, toasted with a refreshing glass or two of sake. Even the imminent tug-of-war over an undersized duvet, when tonight's temperature plummets, will all be part of the pleasure in having a complete change in climate, culture and scenery. Tonight we shall remain on a quay in Naha, tomorrow we will move to Ginowan marina. Our fingers are crossed that they have space, our emails were never replied. Sprucettes signing off, not on passage tonight...a full night in bed. Huzzah!!

Arrival Tomorrow - 8 Days Under Way

10 March 2018 | On Passage Yap towards Okinawa
Andy & Sue
Distance logged since Yap 1107M: To Okinawa 147M: Ave Speed 5.7Kn. The positions can be seen on the map in the blog.

Another day and night spent close hauled. The daytime winds of up to 28-knots moderated before night watches and 25-knots was the heaviest gust. Before dawn this morning we entered a region of fickle winds, strength from 8-knots to 23-knots and direction shifting (sometimes suddenly)by up to 60-degrees. We gave up trying to balance up the hydro-vane or get the autopilot to work effectively and have resorted to hand-steering until conditions stabilise. The night watches were sailed not quite being able to lay our course to Naha, but that has recently changed. Maybe this fickle region is the cusp of a proper wind shift and something stable we can use to let Spruce sail herself to Okinawa without all this manual intervention. That will be much more relaxing.

A few seabirds have been seen: fulmars, shearwaters (3-types) and some sort of boobie. Fewer than we expected, though. One fishing float was passed a few miles back, the first in Japanese waters, flags flapping but we couldn't see if it sported a light. As we get closer to Okinawa tonight we don't want to become tangled with fishing gear.

Both of us are getting highly excited at the prospect of arriving tomorrow. We thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit to Japan (via airline) in 2016. This visit will give an opportunity to sample Japan away from the normal tourist trail. Language challenges will abound. We hear the locals are most friendly to visiting yacht crews and we have a translator on the phone. Good job, because "Konichiwa" alone won't get us far.

Our friends John & Kathy aboard Mystic Moon (last seen in Malaysia) are presently in the Philippines waiting for some "trawler weather" to head this way. They will be joining us in Japan when the weather changes from the extant "Channel Weather" as they term it. Wet and windy certainly. It is getting much cooler now as we progress north, these winds from the northerly sector will also be hurrying cold air this way. Cabin temperature down to 21.5C... outdoors it is "freezing" for us tropical bunnies. Note the photo, long gone are the sorongs.

Sue wants a spell off the helm, so ,must go and do my stint.
Vessel Name: Spruce
Vessel Make/Model: Hallberg Rassy 42 - Enderlein Design
Hailing Port: Portsmouth, UK
Crew: Sue & Andy
About: Sue is an artist, plays the flute and guitar. Andy enjoys technical challenges and hoped to learn to speak more Spanish. Unsuccessfully:-( Maybe this year?
Extra: During 2013 and 2014 we sailed across the Pacific to New Zealand and then Australia. 2015-16 brought us north into Asia. The past few years cruising has enabled us to visit many countries, meet lots of interesting people and to understand the world a little better.
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Spruce's Photos - La Gomera 2011
Photos 1 to 39 of 39 | Main
Norna with Pete and Kourtney aboard as we left La Palma for La Gomera. They would also sail to La Gomera in a few days.
Dolphins came to play en route to La Gomera. We love that deep ocean blue.
Another dolphin suspended in a blue world
Robin and Sue enjoying our sea mammal visitors
Striking volcanic pinacle in Valley Hermigua
Sugar cane chaff after harvesting
Long downhill hike - Valley Hermigua
Every bit of water used for irrigation
Frog in the sun
Reptiles abound
Dasheen - much more abundant in the Cape Verdes.
Nearing Hermigua
A type of lily ... we think?
Terrace to enable cultivation on steepslopes.Many of the old terraces seem to be no longer farmed. Maybe uneconomical or maybe people don
Wonderful high altitude vistas
Many Agave plants are preparing to seed. The end of a plant and the beginning of more
El Teide on Tenerife from La Gomera
El Teide on Tenerife from Alto Garajonay - La Gomera
Robin on the top of La Gomera
Sue stopping for lunch
Robin staying in touch with Hanneke back in London
A second type of coral in sparse evidence
Frogs sunning themselves.
Valley Hermigua - La Gomera
Celebratory drinks after the walk
Friends Stuart, Kylie and daughter Sam put their motif on the wall at San Sebastian in 2009. We hope to meet them back in the Caribbean later in the year - last seen in Newport Rhode Island Sept 2010.