RACING TO JAPAN and CRUISING IN THE INLAND SEA
October 1, 1988
Frank Robben on KIALOA II
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.
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
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.
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 ½ 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.