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 - Trek to La Ciudad Perdida
Photos 1 to 81 of 81 | Main
No room inside
A view on the early trail from a high vantage point
Mules hauling food ahead to the Cabana where we
Kate & Marlyn on the first day
A swim before the uphill commenced
Early part of the trail
Local cattle, a species from Africa we were told
First night
Mules patiently waiting for the day
Marlyn & another member of Magic Tours staff working in the cook-house
A clay oven/stove - four at this camp and all different sizes
Muleteer urging his charges onwards and upwards
A farmstead beside the trail
More mules lugging food and equipment. No mechanised transport on this trail.
Enrique (nicknamed Pinochio) preparing food. If he said the trail was going to be "a little bit uphill" then get your climbing gear ready :-)
Packing sacks to load onto the mules
Cabana 1 - the only hammock accommodation, thankfully.
Mule early in the morning ready for loading
Early morning light
The group heads out
Kate ready for some knee punishment on the downhill bits
Another swim - we usually had one per day. Left to Right: Orla, Thomas, Andrea, Rachael and Mikey
Not sure what these were but didn
An ancient Native Indian burial site, probably plundered many years ago
A rest at a summit. Fresh fruit to moisten the mouth
Inside a Kogi (Native Indian) home
Inside a Kogi (Native Indian) home
Frog sleeping during the day
A Kogi mother and children
A Kogi child
Probably a beautiful butterfly to be...don
A Kogi village
Our guide, Jesus, briefing us on the Kogi culture. The mortar and pestle artifact in front of him is used to hold lime which is used to mix with and chew cocoa leaves. The mild cocaine dose released assists the Kogi to combat sickness at high altitude, hunger and keep them moving in a hostile environment.
Mosquito nets over bunk beds at Cabana 2
Trying to dry wet gear in the late afternoon rainy period
One of the weird and colourful bugs en route
River flowing during a comparatively dry period
A Kogi woman weaving a strap for a mochila, a bag to hang over the shoulder)
Entertaining ourselves in the evening.
A plant seen quite often in the forest
Mikey and Andrea lead the way across the river. Orla and guide, Jesus, following. These rivers can quickly increase in depth making crossings hazardous. Crossings were made before the afternoon rains and melt-water emerged from the Sierra Nevada snow-cap
Another plant
Andy and Lena in a hollow tree
Fungi on a tree...not quite all in focus but you get the idea
Another strange fruit on a tree at the Lost City...not sure what it is?
Large palms not removed from the site of the Lost City when they cleared the site in the 1970s and 80s
A Map-Stone. The small star bursts (if you can see them) are settlements and the long lines are the river routes.
A Kogi Native Indian man walked up the main pathway - it gave an air of historical times
One of many routes up to Ciudad Perdida
One of the horse fly type of bugs - the proboscis goes straight through trousers and they aren
Its was all up from here
We tink this is know as a Number 88 butterfly but can
Looking down on the lower levels of La Ciudad Perdida from the higher part.
Andy meets the one of the local army detachment. Security of tourists has been a high priority for the Colombian authorities since the trail to La Ciudad Perdida re-opened. These chaps are heavily armed and very friendly to tourists.
Andy with the vista behind. We needed to be up there early before it clouded over, but the insects were vicious.
Our group enjoying the scenery
The "throne" occupied by the Shaman while passing judgement and giving advice to the citizens.
View from the city
River water had to be purified before filling our water bottles for the day
The five day part of our group Left to Right: Jesus (Guide), Lena, Andrea, Thomas, Ibra, Scott
A bonus swim for a few of us on the penultimate day. Enrique took time out from kitchens duties to take us down a steep hill to a fantastic waterfall. Mikey emerges from the torrent.
Maeve & Rachel desperately hang onto their bikinis
Joanie avoids being bowled over
Another strange plant
The final furlong, almost finished. Left to ight: Kate, Joanie, Maeve, Rachel, Orla, Mikey, Mark, Andy
This spider was about 6" (150mm) across from leg tip to leg tip...nobody was willing to put their finger close for size perspective.
One of the many beautiful butterflies. They didn
A rest at the top. L to R: Orla, Enrique, Rachel
A wasp nest on a leaf
The cow wasn
Another pretty plant
At the finish: Joanie
At the finish: Rachel
At the finish: Orla
At the finish: Maeve
At the finish: Mark
At the finish: Mikey
Packing the mule sacks for the next group to depart
At the finish: Kate
The hardest working member of the team. The mules carry food and other essentials along the trail leaving the hikers to carry only light weight packs.