The sail from Hell…respect lost
I had another sail tale to tell before this, but I figured my couple of readers would rather have something more exciting to read about. This is it and maybe my last sailing post…reasons you can see/guess after reading. At least for a long while until I can purchase my own boat again.
I was asked by the company Pres aka the “master” to go do a boat pickup in Shizuka. This is near Tokyo, one can see Mt Fuji from this town. I was in that area once before to pickup a boat. There was a somewhat new employee with me, also not a real sailor, he is just learning the ropes.
This trip was just sprung on me, so I was not pleased about it. Partly because I do not like sailing this route from Tokyo to Osaka. There is an area called the cape of Japan were the Black Tide or Black Current is located. Many ships have gone down there I have heard. Because of the strong current all the time in order for ships, especially small ships to get by one has to sail only a few yards from the rocky shore. Twice I have had to do this in the dark. It is very unsettling.
Another reason I was not pleased about this trip was I had to back out of a band event after I said I was going to do the show, then the trip was cancelled, I said ok I can do it, then the trip is back on again, I re-cancel. I need the work and I thought I was helping a friend. It makes me seem like a flake to keep waffling. When I give my word I will do something I do it. That is the way of honor. My code as a Zen Lohan Priest is to be honorable an an example, not to be a flake.
The other and the main reason, is as of late there have been several Typhoons, one after another happening here in Japan. One was just hitting a few days before #12 and the trip was cancelled, another # 13 was due. The “master” said he had extensively checked the weather and the window between storms was the perfect time to go. There was be fair weather, no worries…
However LZ had also checked and did not feel good about me going she felt it was dangerous. She had spoken with and told the “master” what she found about the forecast but was told it was going to be fine. Safe sailing was important, no worries…she was told.
The day came, I met the other worker at the train stop. He had been briefed I was told on all aspects of the trip, everything was under control. We took the train to our destination. The trip there was easy, regular trains then the bullet train, then a local train. We arrived at the harbor. It was the kind of place that all the boats where moored out on lines. There was no dock to speak of, at least not for long term staying.
The boat was brought into the small temp dock where we needed to prepare the boat for the trip. Install sails, clean, get the boat inspected and registered. Some official had to come down to check the boat and give paperwork. Finally all was done.
Someone at the office gave us a ride to the local convenience store. It was disappointedly small. I made do with what I could find. The surprise for the area was how close we were to Mt Fuji. I had a great view from the store.
We finished shopping and went back to the boat. I thought we were going to eat then just hangout for the rest of the night, then leave early. Wrong we ate then set out for home.
LZ felt it was good when I told her. She said better to leave early and beat the in-coming storm. She was seeing some huge waves day after tomorrow. She was worried even though the “master” blew it off and said it is all good! She tells me please email her from my phone every three hours the following day. Hugh wave were expected in my path.
It was very very hard to see as we were leaving the port in the dark. I struggled on finding my way out. The new kid gave directions, he had a GPS, and he had also made the sailing route, so directed me. I had to question some of what he said because what I could see was not were we should be going. It did work out finally and we were on our way. I hate hate hate night sailing in strange places!!
We slowly made our way out into open waters.the weather was calm and we made our way.
Once well under way we went into shifts. There were a few light rain spots but nothing serious. However reading the sky I could see some un-pleasantness forming here and there in the night sky…
As we moved on, my shift second shift was starting, the sky did not look good at all. Sure enough a storm hit, Thunder, lighting and big rain. Not fun, not good. Not a pleasant place to be out on the open sea, tall mast in a lighting storm. Even my mentor Capt Mary did not like sailing in lighting storms and avoided them she had said. I went over what could happen if struck by lighting. I unplugged my phone and iPad. I did some quiet prayers and sat in the companion way trying not to get so wet. It somewhat helped…somewhat. Just before the end of my shift it, the rain and lighting stops, the new kid takes over under fair conditions, no rain, no lighting, no thunder. I go below and sleep, resting for my next shift.
Once again my shift and yes, once again, I am rained on, the kid sleeps dry. I am not pleased, but it is what it is…I roll with it.
The next morning I am up at 6:00 am for my shift. I awake with a start, feeling something is wrong. I am disoriented. All seems correct, but I am off. I am very warm, hot in fact. I am thinking I am overdressed for the weather? It is warm, but this feels different, more like a fever. About 1 hour into my shift, I feed the fish. Afterward I feel better, but not perfectly normal. On we sail…
We start the approach to the “cape of Japan” . In the past two times making through this area it has always been in the dark. Unpleasant, unnerving. It has to be done, I have been told close to the shore, which is full of boulders. The whole area is a mess of surf breaking big Arse Rocks! I am always paranoid. More so not being able to see in the blackness of night! This time it is timed we are passing in the day light.
As we are nearing the area the ocean surge is increasing, from the Typhoon in the south. Big big waves and surge. As we get closer the winds increase and the wave get jumbled. This is not going to be a pleasant passing I am thinking. I am watching the rocks, the waves, the surge, feeling the wind, watching the rocks. The kid is paying more attention to the GPS course than what is in front of us!! Following it steadfastly. I said something about watch where we are going, see the light water and foam those are underwater rocks , dangerous, be careful. He slightly nods, looks and goes back to watching the GPS, and clicking the autopilot for adjustments. I watch closely our headway, and standby ready to take over the helm.
Slowly slowly we make headway, whilst I am silently praying and figuring how much further we have to go. We are nearing the end of the section. The surge increases and the seas get major confused.
The auto pilot can not handle the mess and the jumping, the arm comes off the tiller. The kid is trying to steer by hand, in the big surge and making me very un-comfortable with his lack of skill. I take over. We continue onward, there is no choice. The surge increases, the confusion increases. I am picking up a engine smell. But we make it past the last of that section, and things calm a bit.
We are coming up on the last section, and close to the rocks, I recall this area from the lighthouse memories at night. As we approach the water is not too bad, we seem under control. I go below for a quick use of the head. I enter and hear a loud screeching noise, like a bearing rubbing with no oil. I rush to the deck. There are clouds of black smoke coming from the engine. I quickly throttle down as the motor starts losing power. We are near the rocks and in big surf again. I quickly go forward to release the jib so it can be raised. However there is problem. I can not deal with it, with the kid steering. I go back to the cockpit and take over the steering to find some wind. I send the kid forward to deal with the jib. I am franticly trying to catch some wind to move us away from the rocks. The wind is everywhere but nowhere. Finally the jib is free and I raise it, still the wind is shifting, the surf is pushing us. There is just enough power in the motor I see to hold us in place, and finally with both sails up and find a position and we ever so slowly inch away from the rocks.
At the same time as the smoke and noise started, the rain also started. Now it is a downpour as we slowly inch away from a wet rocky death on the shore. Still I can not breath easy as we at times seems to move , other times seems to slide backward. I am soaked from the downpour, but I see us slowly inch away, and past the rocks and light house.
Finally we are clear, I struggle to catch my breath for the next fifteen minutes, while sitting in the rain deluge. The kid and I breath heavy, heads down trying to re-center. For the next 2 hours we slowly make headway in high seas and heavy rain. I am soaked to the bone. I check our fuel and notice the next problem it is low. Another problem, we can not refuel in the rain. If water gets into the fuel, the motor stops. I do not know much about diesel engines, but I know that much. I asked the kid how far to the marina? He had given me a change of course just as we were passing the rocks. I can not deal with that now, I said, I was trying to keep us alive. However now was the time to face that. I was told 6 hours. We did not have 6 hours of fuel as the pace we were going against the wind. Maybe three, maybe if lucky four with help from the wind. I sat, calmed my breath and thought, waited, asked the Universe for guidance and a break.
About an hour later there was a break in the rain. It was still a light rain, it did not fully stop but it slowed dramatically. I came upon the idea to use one of the extra sails as a cover. I had the kid get out the extra fuel can and I covered him with the sail as a tent while he refueled the tank. That done, I felt better and settled in for the long wet trip to port in the big wave and head winds.
The kid had been getting sick over the last hour. I felt bad for him, but now that things were some what settled, I noticed myself feeling illness coming as the rain started again then slowed and stopped. Then it started and I was hanging over the side of the boat. Again and again, I tried to force myself to get stable, mind elsewhere etc. I needed to go below for something as the waters calmed slowly. I went below and tried to rest laying down. Usually it is a bad move to go below when sea sick, but I had no choice with this, also because I was starting to shake with a chill. It helped some. However after a bit I was at the sink, heaving, over and over. Even moving my head caused me to hurl into the sink. I was in bad shape. Not only was I throwing up and had the major chills and was shaking badly. The only thing that saved me was there were heavy blankets on the boat. I wrapped myself in one. God it felt good. That warmed me greatly. The kid told me I could rest, things were under control. I slept. Once again I awoke with a start I felt the boat make a sudden change. I asked what was going on. The kids said he had to avoid another ship. (I found out later he almost hit one that came up without him noticing. ) I went back to sleep.
Slowly the seas calmed and we picked up speed and started making time. I slept on and off. The last hurl into the sink left my stomach empty. I was feeling better, just weak. I finally hear the kid talking to someone at the port. We have made it. I go on deck to help prepare. I do what I can in my weakened state. Once ready for docking, but still a distance out of the marina I go again below to rest, until we are making the dock approach. Finally we are docked. I feel better, the last vomit emptied my gut and I felt an improvement. This lead me to believe it had sometime to do with what I had eaten and had gotten some food poisoning.
I find out the new plan is we will stay for the night in the harbor, there is another Typhoon due to hit that night and most of the day tomorrow. I say a thank you prayer and go lay on the dock. The kid calls “the master”. With the news of staying over night I decided I was staying in a hotel even if I had to pay. I told the master I needed to stay in a room for the night. I was figuring I had pickup some food poisoning from the night before’s meal and told him. He agreed to my statement, however there was a lot of confusion that followed due to translation. My wife was told I was returning home as I was too sick to continue. It took a while and several phone calls to get everything corrected.
After some dinner, a very light one for me, re-adjusting the boat at the “masters” command, because he felt the angle was wrong for the up coming winds. He was very concerned about the boat being damaged. We finally got to a room for the night. It was first said I would get the room the kid would stay on the boat. That changed later for whatever reason. It was not really a hotel as I was expecting. It was a room with a futon, bathroom and shower in the hall, a hostel type of place. There is a name which I do not recall. A traditional Japanese cheap place to sleep for a traveller/ student. I shared the small cheap room with the kid. WTF I was thinking, not pleased but rolled with it, as I had no choice. I reminded myself, just be thankful you are not on the boat in this storm, you are dry and warm. I fell asleep grateful.
After a shower and some dry clothes I went to bed, exhausted and disgusted. I was told breakfast would be at 6:30 a.m. not the 8:30 I requested when asked and was told ok. Meanwhile the rain and winds had started in ernest, I was glad to be out of it, and slept expecting a day of rest tomorrow, at least most of it.
The next day the storm had passed that night. We were expecting to leave in the afternoon around 3:00. However the storm had passed overnight. The morning was pretty clear. The kid and I had worked it out, I would rest until 9-10 then we would leave. He in the meanwhile would get the boat ready. Next thing I know I hear from LZ saying that she heard the kid was going to sail the boat back alone, leavng in 1 hr , because I was too sick and was going to take the train! Whaaaat! Where did that come from I say. The kid and I have it worked out. I explained, she called him, and confirmed that was indeed the case. I lay back down…a few minutes later, the “master” calls, saying, I could take the train back, because the kid needed to leave in 1 hr because of the tide. (which was BS). I said he is not able to make it alone, I will go with him, now. I got up and went to the marina. We cast off shortly afterward.
We slowly made our way out of the marina out to the open water. That took about 1 hr. The kid had told me, I could rest all the way back to Osaka, he could handle it, he was good. So far the trip was smooth…it did not last…
Shortly later the wind and waves picked up…more and more! It was heavy storm conditions without the rain! I had to again take over. The kid did not know what to do, and at one point was trying to sail under full sails. I dropped the jib, still the wind and waves overpowered us. We were already under 1 point reef. The second reef point was not rigged. I had to improvise a way to put it in. After much effort I managed to put in the second reef and it held, for a while. Later I had to re-rig a way to get it more stable and hold better. The second reef helped, greatly. Still the wind and waves increased. I checked for a nearby port, but there was none. So we had to continue, with the strong headwinds, inching our way forward.
I had found that near to shore the wind was more manageable. I also noticed even the big ship travelled there rather than out further. It was easier to sail, but more dangerous with more big traffic. As the wind was on our nose where we needed to go, I under took a tacking pattern to make headway. Slowly slowly progress was made. I had checked my weather map and saw we had about three to four hours to go before the heavy wind area ceased.
Finally after a few hours of this, we had comfortable sailing. We were able to pickup some speed and make good headway. We approached one more area of minor concern due to the speed of the current. However we were able to go through even with the counter current at 4-5 knots, under sail and motor. Somewhat near to shore. Then we were back in the home bay of Osaka. I noticed there was smoke from the engine again, but not enough to be overly concerned as it is a diesel engine. I went below to rest. I was there for about five minutes when I hear two very loud bangs ! My first thought was we hit something or the motor had thrown a rod. I went on deck, asked the kid what happened? He did not know. However the motor was ok. I checked for water leaking , entering the boat. Everything was ok. However, we found the steering was extremely hard to handle. The tiller was hard to move. Whatever it was, perhaps a fish trap had damage our steering. We still could control the boat but not easily. No matter we were home.
The next issue was getting the boat into the marina. Our harbor is just under a bridge. Because of our arrival time and the height of the boat at high tide we could not enter. I had guessed we were going to dock just before the bridge and the boat would be moved in the morning at low tide. I had seen that done before and did not think it was a big deal. However, the “master” had it in his mind he wanted the boat inside the marina, so we spent the next 1.5 hours trying to get under the bridge and could not. The master was not pleased. I found out later, he was upset and he spoke badly about me, not getting the boat back in the time, as he wanted ! WTF!
Once it was figured out we could not make it inside. The “master” comes to the boat, takes great care in making sure the boat was protected against being scraped on the seawall tie up. He made sure everything was just so.
Not one word of concern or thanks or apology to me for having to go through the Typhoon, because of his bad call, and rushing. Nor thanks for getting the boat back safe, nothing! He only concern was getting his boat safe in the marina. Even after the kid told him the only reason he made it back safe was because I was there. He was very casual about that. Ok, I get it none of this is a big deal for a circumnavigator who has gone around the African cape, but I am not that guy. I am out there working for him, not because I was out there for fun. So to me that says, only boats matter not the people who work for him! Compassion for all life is one of the number one items on the list for those who practice Zen. He failed as a “master” in my eyes.
My lesson was learned, and my respect lost. My spirit was shattered! For the next three days I was depressed, this was someone who I thought was a friend, someone who on many times I went out of my way to help. Including this time. Even LZ said this was a bad time to travel and showed him the weather maps. He said it would be fine sailing, even after he was shown otherwise. LZ says as a Zen Priest it is part of my spiritual training to rise above this. I am struggling to do so. Even just a thank you would have made a difference in my feelings.
The day after the day after…I had a sailing class to teach. When I was going to the boat, the three yard workers ( not the “Master” who acted like everything fine and normal) lined up when they saw me, and bowed deeply saying thank you for my effort. That was touching and warmed my spirit.
One thing for sure it will be my last sail from The north to Osaka. I have more Trauma from this than getting rescued off the coast of Mexico. This maybe my last sailing adventure blog post. Not from the Trauma, but because I will not trust his words on sailing conditions, nor will will I take another pickup a used unchecked out unknown condition boat from the North Pacific side of Japan to bring to Osaka. He may just cut me off. Oh well, I worked 24 hours and get paid the same as working a 8hr day. The only extra is food coverage. Perhaps it is best to have this motivation to find another income source.