Alishan spent the New Year's holiday in Ishigaki and this was quite different from the last 10 years.
There was no Waidako for Marijke at 7 am on Jan 1st.
No Tamaseseri for Jaap on the 3rd.
We missed Fukuoaka during Oshogatsu and felt "sabishi" (Japanese for lonely)
But hey, we really had nothing to complain about with these temperatures. It was blowing Fat Gales most of the time, but it was NOT COLD!
Alishan was safely tied down, so who cared?
We were all prepared for our sabishi New Year's Eve when at the last moment friends Kenichi and Nobuko were able to book flights and came to visit. Together with them we drove all around the island, explored beaches and caves , had a count down party, enjoyed great food, and even found time to visit Takatomi Island.
And suddenly we were in the New Year. What did we do those first few weeks of 2007?
Well, first we managed to screw up our internet connection (great help staff at the internet office wasn't able to speak any English and my Japanese is plausible but not technical ..), but after a few hiccups we got back on line. And even better! With our own dot com: www.syalishan.com (you are already there)
Once we were back in full swing on the internet we started working on the HP, checking and studying the weather patterns for the trip around the bottom of Taiwan, doing pre-hongkong prep work and booking flights!
That was a first for us : making on-line flight reservations. Tell you later.
In between we socialized with Hiro san, the Taniwa Café crowd and the few local yachties who hung around for the quiet winter weeks.
Of course we tried to keep ourselves in shape with hiking and jogging. We discovered and got into the local diet: bitter melon, green papaya, smoked ika (squid), and daily maguro (tuna) and/or mambo (sunfish) sashimi. The last being our favorite (Nori though only wanted tuna)
Hiro sailed around the world with his family in the "80s, on his home built yacht Erika. They happened to be in The Netherlands the same year we left, 1984 and we might have shared some anchorages in Southern Europe. For sure we share friends (of friends);-)) The cruising world is "small". He wrote a book about the trip and is one of most well known sailors in Japan.
Good to have met you here Hiro! Hope to see you again one day.
See here Tamashiro san and Ayako. We had met 15 years before during our first visit to Ishigaki Island. They took us on a hike to this look out point where we had "brunch" Too bad it started raining, but the instant ramen (noodle) soup was super;-))
One of our beach combing trips with Fukami san, and this time we couldn't believe our luck: We found 6 glass floats all in 1 location, washed ashore after the strong NE winds. They aren't used by Japanese fishermen anymore and they must have come from far up north, probably the Russian east coast. The local tourist shops offer US$30 each! Fukami san took the smelly lot home to clean them up and decorate his beautiful orchid garden.
Our regular, never ending boat jobs kept us quite busy. Specially filling the water tanks pfff. Nice place Ishigaki, but for H2O we had to waterjug to the park across the road, a 500 meter walk. The bicycle was a great help, but that job had us seriously considering a water maker!
Marijke got her nose into her shell collection. Now all her beauties are listed, recorded and properly stored in boxes. Any room left for more?
About those flight tickets. Remember Alishan was supposed to be in Hong Kong.
Friends from Fukuoka had booked a flight to HK in January to visit us. AND, Jaap's family was going to make a pit stop in Bangkok on their way to New Zealand. Super fun to meet up with them. Unfortunately the meet-ups had the same dates, so we had to split up ..And we were still in Nippon!!
How to get there?
Well, 1 option was: Flying to Okinawa, then to Taiwan, then on to Hong Kong and Bangkok. (There are no international flights from Ishigaki). Anyway, this was a VERY expensive way.
The other option: From Ishigki with the big ferry to Taiwan (7 hours) and from there flights to HK/Bangkok. Perfect and way way cheaper. The only catch: The ferry goes only once a week and the return trip is via Okinawa and Miyako jima, a total trip of 36 hours!
The ferry that runs between Ishigaki, Taiwan, Okinawa.
We found somebody to look after the cats and left Tuesday Jan 23rd. We spent 1 night in Keelung, Taiwan (great night market) and took the bus to Taipei the next day. Form there Jaap flew to Bangkok in the afternoon. Marijke got on the plane to Hong Kong one day later.
Keelung, fast-food self service restaurant. It was great to see and taste another culture again.
One week later on Monday night we met again at Taipei Airport (how romantic) and got on the ferry in Keelung the next day. The return ferry trip was so~so okay. Big ship, few passengers and they still put 6 people in 1 small cabin (we "probably" had discount tickets). But we slept and read and watched the gulls.
The weather and sea conditions? I had hoped for the usual stuff: 25+ knots winds and 4 meter seas, just to see how such a big ship would play with those elements. WRONG. We had no wind at all and flat calm seas all the way. Of course as soon as we got back on board of Alishan, a coldddd front hit the fan with 30+ knots from the north.
It was nice, that break from Japan, super to meet up with friends and family, and it was great to come back home to Nori and Wakame.
By now it was February, The Month of Windy Winter Weather in Japan, even in Ishigaki. There were gorgeous days, with warm sunshine and hardly no wind, but whenever the winds were from the north: Gale and Cold. Those cold spells lasted for a few days after which the wind would shift back to the East and right away it became comfortable again. Those times were good for hiking and even a day sail with Fukuichi san, who does sail-charters around the beautiful waters of Ishigaki Island. see: www.clubswing.net
Sailing with a Smile on Clubswing on a not so sunny day. Notice the color of the seas around the islands. That's 4 meters deep! The darker spots are coral bommies.
This is a typical Yaeyama fishing boat: The driver stands up front in the bow on the look out for coral bommies. The engine always has lots of horsepower, so here she goes!
Then came February 11th, the day of the Chinese New Year.
Ishigaki officially belongs to Japan, but geographically as well as culture wise is much closer to Taiwan and mainland China. Chinese New Year is an important event here, family members come "home" from all over Japan. Every year there is a celebration with a small, but colorful festival on one of the outer islands, Kuroshima. The island is inhabited by less than 200 people, but there are at least 1000 wild peacocks, and more than 4000 cattle! Together with some friends we took the ferry, just a 30 minute speedboat ride. This island is amazingly green and flat, it looks a bit like Holland ;-) ,so what better to use than bicycles to move around?
See here some shots during the festival.
Well, the Year of the Pig had started. Now it was time for us to make a move. All the waiting and weather pattern studying paid off. On Tuesday February 27th, after 11 years in the Land of the Rising Sun we sailed west into the Sunset.
A farewell present of homegrown veggies from our Ishigaki friends.
To all of you: Thanks for the vitamins and the good times!
Here we are moving along the NW coast of Iriomote Island. Typical overcast sky, poor visibility. What will the next few days bring?
Beside the odd rain patch and a little sunshine, it was the same grey stuff, most of the way.
The first 36 hours were with light NE winds, not enough to sail, so Yanmar (the engine) did all the work. In the Bashi Channel it was blowing a steady 20~25 knots, still from the NE. In the early morning hours of the 3rd day Alishan motor-sailed around the bottom tip of Taiwan accompanied by a counter current, at least 3 knots smack on the nose, causing 3~4 meter seas. But by lunch time we were in the South China Sea. We got welcomed by a group of dolphins and gone were those nasty seas! What a difference! Boy, were we happy to get out of that Kuro Shio, the strong current that had been teasing us ever since we left Fukuoka!
The rest of the trip to HK was a slow~boat affair. By times enough wind to sail, still NE. At night it was Yanmar who did the hard work. Of course there was a lotttt of shipping, mostly Chinese fishing boats. The full moon was super, unfortunately we missed out on the eclipse as we had some cloud cover that night. (and we didn't know about it).
Sunday March the 4th at 1100 am we entered Hebe Haven and picked up a mooring at the Hebe Haven Yacht Club. It had been 15 years since our first visit to Hong Kong with Jan Haring.
Hebe Haven is just around the corner, what will it look like? Hm, the same, just quite a few more boats.
After checking in with the Marine Department and Immigration, it was time to re-explore the city
And start on TSL, The Shopping List.
This is Aberdeen, located only a 10 minute walk from Lee Sails' office.
Aberdeen once more. In the middle on the right the famous Jumbo floating restaurant.
And this Hong Kong too
And this Hong Kong too
Hong Kong and Shopping.
Still a shopping paradise for us esp. after "expensive" and unreadable Japan.
Here we go, on just an ordinary day: From Hebe Haven, we took the mini bus, subway and mini bus to Aberdeen to visit Lee Sails (http://www.leesails.com/ ) and ordered a full set of sails for Alishan. Afer that it was on foot, across the bridge to Ap Lei Chau, where all the Chinese ships chandlers are. After some dim sum we went by bus to Causeway Bay and bought some clothes. One more subway ride brought us to Kowloon where we found a good bookshop with a much needed sea mammal reference book, and around the corner was an electronic shop which we left 1 hour later with a computer, a printer and a digital camera. Our ultimate shopping day!
Somehow we were introduced to this CSW (Chinese Sewing Wonder). The thicker the material it has to stitch, the better it works. We thought it might come in handy one day, so for US$50 Alishan got an other locker filled.
Considering all those boats, it is a Clean Hebe Haven. Thanks to the weekly cleanup sampan.
At the end of March, our Japanese Paparin and Mamarin came over for a visit.
Afterwards a few calories: Lobster with mayonaise~butter sauce and crab in chinese wine.
Barge in Ishigaki port. Do you see the 5~4 dots?
In Japanese it means: itsu-no-made-mo.
What means something like; For Ever Good/Great/Strong/Healthy.
Hence the KEEP UP!!
The statue or the background commercial?
What a man can read in the toilet at the ferry terminal in
Covered in solid concrete: So you thought you could steal my bicycle again?
Cats In Action !?!