Pitcairn Island & Mangareva
Kialoa II Information
From the Beginning...
Frank & Cynthia
Future for Frank & Cynthia
Frank's Resume
Tribute - Lillian Robben


October 1, 1988

Frank Robben on KIALOA II

My yacht Kialoa II took me to Japan as a result of a Japanese group which sponsored our entry in the Hiroshima Cup Yacht Race. This started in Pearl Harbor on June 1st and finished in Hiroshima, sponsored by the Japanese as symbolic of the beginning and end of the Second World War and billed as a "Race for Peace". A Japanese peace group, the One World Fund, sponsored us and we were joined by 4 Japanese sailors. The other 4 crew were myself, first mate Michael, cook Josef, and purser Shirley.

We departed from Honolulu at noon on June 18, set a spinnaker after rounding the Diamond Head buoy off Waikiki beach and sailed most of the 4, 000 odd miles under a spinnaker. The race was quite slow as the trade winds expected for at least the first half of the distance died after the first day, leaving most everyone rolling in the slop with fitful winds from variable directions. The couple of boats that went further north had head winds but made better time as they had real wind. One of them, Kagero, eventually won the race, coming in 4 days ahead of the next three boats (we were third in this group, fourth to finish).  The other boat that went north, Mimi, unfortunately made an error in position near the Midway Island group and ran aground at night on French Frigate Shoal. No one was hurt and the 4 crew were rescued by Navy helicopter from Midway, but the boat was a total loss.

We took 30 days 12 hours and arrived at the finish, off the island of Miyajima, in the early evening while a fishing festival was taking place.  It was a magnificent sight and reception, with all the gaily decorated boats, a lighted parade of boats and firework displays. Except for being slow and rather hot and humid it was a great race.  Actually it was more like a cruise except for flying a spinnaker under sometimes difficult conditions. We ate first class,due to Josef's planning and great cooking, showered almost every day, had three watches and generally plenty of sleep, and all got along well together as well. The Japanese set the style by not ever complaining and always being ready, with a smile, for any sail changes or other tasks, at any hour of the night or day.

Boat number two, Nakiri Daio (which belonged to our principal sponsor), finished 4 hours ahead of us and was first in our class, Cruising A Division. Boat number three Mix Max finished 1 hours ahead of us and was second in the IOR Division. After our group about one boat a day came in and were still coming in a week and a half later when I flew back to San Francisco. There were a total of 22 boats that finished.

Our Japanese hosts provided a wonderful reception, put us up in hotels for the first four days and had innumerable dinners, banquets, and awards ceremonies. The island of Miyajima, where we finished and anchored, is a national park and shrine about a 30 minute train ride from downtown Hiroshima. It is beautifully forested with pines and maples, among other trees and shrubs, and has a peak of 1700 foot elevation with a number of Shinto and Buddhist shrines both at the peak and scattered on the western slope.

On September first Val and Mildred Price, friends who helped sail KIALOA II from Hawaii to San Francisco last year, arranged to join KIALOA II for a two week cruise in the Seto Inland Sea.  This is in the southern part of Japan and is formed by the islands of Honshu, Kyusho and Shikoku.  The land is all volcanic and there are, I understand, about 1,000 islands in the sea. Most of the larger islands are populated but many small ones are not. At the western end are the city and straits of Shimonoseki, the eastern end the city of Osaka, with Hiroshima on the north side nearer the western end.  The following are mostly excerpts from letters and notes made during this trip.

On September 6 we are tied to the quay, stern to, in the little fishing village of Futanazu on the southern part of the island of Shikoku. We are on the south side of the inland sea, almost directly south of Hiroshima and near the straits where we entered the inland sea on the trip from Honolulu. A beautiful village, almost like out of a fairy tale. Early this morning I got up and walked around. There are some older houses, and quite a few new ones, all crowded tightly together with streets barely wide enough for one very small car.  It looks so tidy and neat, and prosperous as well. The hillsides are steep and lush green, with terraces and little plots being farmed. There are little monorail systems running up and around the terrace plots, pulling little carts about as big as a child's wagon with little motorized engines. The impression I have is of a village that a child would construct, neat and cute with lots of little places tucked into the hillside, little cars, stores and all; and the gardens on the steep terraced hillsides are mostly planted in orange trees.

There were several schools, very neat, and as I walked back to the boat schoolchildren were starting to arrive, on bicycles, in cars, and on foot. The girls have blue uniforms, skirts, and the boys uniforms also.

The harbor is little, all surrounded with heavy concrete walls except for one narrow entrance. There are about 30 fishing boats, maybe 20 to 40 feet, all tied to the concrete walls, mostly bow in with a stern anchor. The harbor is also quite deep, 60 feet where we are.

Quite a few Japanese have come on the quay to look at the yacht, mostly children and women. We invited a number aboard, including the whole class of the music teacher who spoke excellent English. Most Japanese seem to know some English but are very reluctant and self-conscious when trying to speak. Many brought gifts, food and presents, of some kind. we were probably the first foreign yacht in quite a while to visit the town.

Yesterday we were, in Beppu, a resort spa with of hot springs coming right out of the ground in some sections of the city. Somewhat like Calistoga in Calfornia, but much larger with many more hot springs and baths. Quite a few of the houses are heated by the springs and have their own hot tub. The tourist info says they get l23 million visitors a year!.  That is a lot. We were tied up in the commercial ferry dock area, alongside an unused dock and had many Japanese visitors who would stand and look at KIALOA II while Michael and I were working on it. One fellow we invited aboard invited Michael and me to his house for dinner that evening. I accepted, Michael declined and stayed to cook dinner for our guests.

Yuji Kaneko picked me up in his "jeep", very small, and with his two boys aged 8 and 10 took me for a fast tour of the city. A somewhat wild ride, too fast I thought. Rushed, my host seemed very excited at having an American for a guest. We finally went to his house for dinner, a quite small and simple place in a beautiful location. We had suki, a meat and vegetable dish cooked in an electric wok at the table by his wife Mitsuka, which you dipped into a raw egg in your bowl and ate.  Quite interesting style of eating. Yuji was a cook on a Japanese tour boat that went around this part of Japan, his wife was a Cub Scout leader he was a Boy Scout leader, they had two car, and both were very active and energetic. They did not know much English but had invited another guest who knew a bit more English. She was a schoolteacher with a class of 10 year olds. Everyone came back to KIALOA II after dinner to see the boat.

The next morning (yesterday) it was raining again and we decided to move on. It took until noon to leave, with last minute shopping and errands.  Soon the wind came up, we changed the large jib for the working jib while the wind continued to build to 25 - 30 knots; it was a bit rough and wet (especially with all the rain) and poor visibility. We were headed for a little port and harbor about 8 miles further than Futanazu, but since several were seasick and cold we turned into a large bay that looked like it would provide shelter and were preparing to anchor there when fishing boat came roaring up, by sign language he indicated that it was not a good place and motioned for us to follow him. Naturally we did so, went back out and around a bluff, and then into this very picturesque harbor and village of Futanazu.

We left Futanazu Friday, having spent two days there, and although it rained much of the time and was gray and overcast it was beautiful. On the second day most of the group hired a van for an all day tour of the peninsula, while I relaxed a bit and took a hike to the town of Misaki, on the other side of the peninsula and open to the Pacific Ocean.

It was warm and sunny on this day, and a small island with a beach invited us for swimming and exploring. Later we went through some narrow straits, past a large shipbuilding city, and tied up for the night at a very small village on this larger island. This was not kept up like Futanazu and was partially deserted, with many houses in bad repair and now used merely for storage. The hillsides were extensively terraced and farmed, mostly oranges, and looked prosperous. I went jogging over to the other side of the island, and swam off a deserted beach.

Leaving mid-morning, we went through more narrow straits near noon. It appeared that the village of Toyohama located there was having some kind of festival, with decorations in the streets. We stopped and tied up outside the breakwater of the harbor. The harbor was empty of boats and was later used for rowboat races. There were a steady stream of visitors, mostly older fisherman in this case, and we stayed to tour the village, see a bit of the festival, and to see the rowboats paddle around with costumed oarsmen and unusual paddles and sculls.

Our final destination that day was the city of Setoda on the island of lkuti Sima where there was reputed to be a beautiful Buddhist shrine built in the last 50 years.  It turned out that the city was also having a festival the following day. Again, we had a steady stream of visitors, all interesting and interested in us and KIALOA II. The following day we toured the city and shrine, which was very beautiful, and then watched the festival procession. Some of the group joined the procession, were given hapi coats and helped carry a heavy decorated chair around the streets. Two of our guests got their wish and had a Japanese style bath at the local hotel in the evening, courtesy of the owner.

One visitor, Dr. Akira Nagai, had seen us on Japanese television and had a Japanese sailing magazine with pictures of us and KIALOA II at the finish of the Hiroshima race.  He and his beautiful and gracious wife treated us to a traditional Japanese style breakfast at his grandfather's house, one of the oldest in the city. The house was an exquisite example of Japanese style and construction, had museum quality paintings and works of art, and was very tastefully built and furnished. He invited Dr. Nagai to sail with us to the next island and joined us that afternoon. We went to a small island, Manabe Shima, which he knew, and anchored after dark off a small beach.

The next morning some of his friends at the little hostel on the beach swam out to the boat, and we later swam and rowed in to accompany Nagai-san to the village on the other side where he could catch a ferry to go back to his island.

The next day found us stuck in a small harbor on the island of Megi Shima, a place where there were some caves made by Japanese a long time ago, who maybe were pirates. Val Price's uncle, Willard Price, who wrote an adventure book on sailing the Inland Sea in 1951, mentioned this island. According to those that visited them, the caves were not that much to see. It was raining, gray and dull, and this village and harbor felt the least interesting and somewhat unfriendly of any of the places we had been.

We were stuck because we were aground, which I knew might be so from the depth and tide times. Me had decided to leave that afternoon because of the rain, and start back to Hiroshima, but by the time everyone was ready the tide had dropped too much. There was nothing to do but wait for the next morning when the tide would be high enough.

The following day started early and motored for 10 hours, getting most of the way back to Hiroshima. Me anchored off the beach of a small, tropical looking and uninhabited island for swimming, exploring and spending the night.

We had wonderful adventures in the Japanese villages, and cities, we visited, and truly enjoyed the Japanese we met. It was a quite incredible experience, much more than I expected. The Japanese we met were so gracious, interested in us and the boat, and often came laden with gifts. The islands are beautiful, with somewhat tropical appearing vegetation, and often neatly terraced sections on the steep hillsides.

I will switch to present tense, this is from a letter. Sunday evening here, in Miyajima, and on KlALOA II. There is a bit of a breeze, not so hot today, and it was generally sunny and beautiful.  I took Mildred and Val to the ferry terminal at 5:30 PM, and then went for a long hike up to Mt. Misen, the top of Miyajima, about 1700 feet. I took a path that kind of ran out, you know, gets narrower and finally is only a deer path, then I was working, through the underbrush, and there was a steep rock cliff that I could not get up. So I gave up, went back some, and followed the path in what seemed like the wrong direction, but at least not back to where I had started. I 'ran into a lot of cobwebs, no one had been on the path for a while, and I tried to clear them with my arm. Cobwebs and spiders everywhere. Finally it came out on a road, which I followed a bit around the island, and then there was another path with a sign to Mt. Misen. I stopped at a nice shrine on the way up, and then there were the shrines at the top.

fit the lockout there was a small group of Japanese teenagers who had camped overnight, they were just getting ready to leave. I sat on a large rock at the top for a while, and -then started down. I headed for the aerial tram, when I got there I discovered I did not have enough money to take it down. It looked like it cost t5.&0, quite a bit.  I hiked down and went back out to the boat.  This all took about 4 hours.

ft week later Michael  and I  left Hiroshima and headed for Pusan,  Korea.   I planned to get KIALOA II painted there, at a more reasonable price than in Japan, and also purchase a new inflatable dinghy.

Me left Miyajima Sunday afternoon about 3:30 PM, put up the sails and sailed past the ferry terminal and the business section. Later put on the motor <not much wind) and anchored at a nearby island at &:00 PM.- Left 5:30 the next morning and motored all day, got to the SW end of the inland sea and the Shimonoseki Straits by 7:00 PM and anchored near the shore .just before the Straits. There were other larger ships anchored in the same area, it was fairly comfortable. The day was fairly good, no problems, just me and Michael and lots of time to think. I also read one novel, unusual for me, and started another. They were not good novels.

Tuesday morning we left about &;30 , motored through the Shimonoseki Straits, gray and overcast, near calm, under a suspension bridge connecting the main island of Honshu with the southern island of Kyushu. Much heavy industry, several steel plants, one seemed idle, the others smoking with a smelly, heavy yellow pall. We had only a sketchy chart of the area, copied on a blueprint machine and without many of the buoys, but it was satisfactory and we found our way out into the ocean and the southern end -of the Sea of Japan. Set- course for Pusan, and about 10:00 the wind came up enough to set the #1 jib top, main and mizzen, and sail.

We made better time than I expected, maybe a current helped, with average 9 knots for the day. By 10:00 PM we were closer to Pusan than I had planned, within 30 miles, and did not want to come in at night, as that is forbidden. So we hove to with the main only at about 11:00 PM and drifted until 4:00 OM Wednesday, then set sail again and headed up towards what we thought was the main harbor area. I again had just a large scale chart, old, which I had Xeroxed from one I borrowed. Very sketchy, no details of the harbor area at all. But it became obvious as we got closer, there were so many ships you could just follow a large one. Got to the inner harbor by 8:30 AM, were called to a military barge to explain what we were up to, then went to the Pier 5 area and found a space alongside the dock.

When I went ashore I found customs at the entrance to the Pier 5 area, and they started the formalities of checking in. They are only set up for this for large ships and we had to follow the same formalities.  You are supposed to use an agent to handle all the paperwork, but the officials were very helpful, and there was much talking among them in Korean. They told me to prepare some statements, and they called immigration. Soon two immigration officers arrived, one on a small motorcycle and one on bicycle. They decided I should go to the immigration office, but it was complicated, to get there. Finally a third officer came on another small motorcycle, with a back seat, so I rode on that with him to the office. There they helped me fill out a number of papers (ones that I would need copies for customs also, and did not get, stuff that an agent normally does.). Also got a health (quarantine) clearance. Then I walked to the downtown area, changed money and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. It was about $H. 10 with a beer, <l splurged here) for a plate of noodles with shrimp and shellfish mixed in. Filling), but not fancy at all. So prices are less than in Japan, but not cheap.

I took a taxi back to the boat, a 5 minute ride, which cost about $1.50, very reasonable. Then I continued with customs at Pier 5, they needed more papers and forms, pretty much same as the ones for immigration. Finally I took a taxi back to the area where immigration was, went to customs and the port authority there; they finally had the proper forms and stuff got taken care of.

We are only able to stay here for 15 days, we need a visa for a longer time that must be obtained in another country. I knew this might be true, it was hard to find out in Japan and it would have taken several additional days to get a Visa at that time.  If necessary, we can return by ferry to Fukuyoka, there is a Korean consulate there, and take care of this.

Last night a line was. banging on the mast, so I went out and fixed it, and adjusted the fenders. There are gusts of wind here, the lines still bang in the gusts. Last night the wind came up strongly about 9;00, abeam of us, 30 knots and pushed us hard on to the pier. It is a wall with heavy black rubber pieces, we must have the fenders adjusted to keep the sides of the boat from being marked up. Fortunately the tidal range does not seem to be too large.

But it is a foreign place, where I have no contacts and do not know how to find anything. He must locate possible shipyards first, visit them and see about hauling and painting KIALOA II.  I do not know how to do this yet, hope we find some help here.

The pleasant customs officer visited us on KIALOA II after finishing his paperwork; he was very interested in both the boat and us. He asked a lot of questions, had fair English and had read a lot. He also invited us to visit him at his home and gave me directions and his telephone number.

Compared to Japan, Korea has a bit of Mexico mixed in and the people behave quite differently. I also understand the Koreans have a reputation for not always being quite honest and being sharp traders. So I will have to watch my step, I already saw a bit of this on one taxi ride where I lost a $20.00 bill through some fast shuffling. But in general the Koreans I have met have been very helpful and gracious.