Sailing opportunities in Japan have proved elusive, and so I jumped at the chance to go this Saturday in Sasebo, Nagasaki. The weather was beautiful as we pulled into Huis Ten Bosch– a Dutch-themed theme park/marina. I know almost nothing about the theme park because we stayed on the boat for the whole time, but this was what I wanted to do anyways. Heck, I always have Solvang the next time I go back to Santa Barbara…
I was shocked to see that the boat that we were going to race was none other than a Catalina 34- just like the one that we took out on occasion at the O.C.C. School of Sailing and Seamanship after work. Stepping on that boat was like stepping off the docks and back in to Newport Harbor after a two year hiatus.
The Stasha, a well maintained Catalina 34 from Nagasaki.
I met some really cool Japanese sailing enthusiasts and was surprised to learn that sailing is really an international language that transcends other linguistic and cultural barriers like Esperanto only wishes that it could. I was aware that the language of sailing is international, but it proved to be a rosetta stone that made my ability to discuss technical issues in Japanese to a degree which I had before that point only aspired to achieve.
The calm the day before the storm.
Many of the boats filling the dock spaces were from all over the world, and I passed many foreigners. I was amused to have people tell me that “Your English is really good!” or to stare in disbelief as they heard me speak back to them in my native language. This happens quite frequently, but the density of gaijin increased the frequency of such encounters.
I learned that Huis Ten Bosch provides a nice facility as well as nightly entertainment (live bands, parties, and even a fireworks show) for free to attract foreign sailors. If you are planning on sailing to Japan, I would recommend looking up this place- kinda like Disneyland, but not at all when you stop to think about it (huh?).
I woke up early on Sunday, amped to be part of a crew racing in a club regatta as I felt the wind sweeping into the portholes. But something was wrong. I climbed on deck, greeted by the howling of halyards and rigging ripping through the gale force winds. The fenders grinded and squeaked against the creaking docks. Masts were swinging back and forth and small wavelets sloshed back and forth in the small, well protected harbor. White caps formed inside the small bay outside of the harbor- no small feet considering the fetch of the wind was quite short, truncated from the rest of the Pacific by an intercepting mass of land. And it was raining. Hard.
We ate breakfast, closed up the cabin, and headed home. I should have felt discouraged that my final chance to sail in Kyushu was cancelled due to TOO MUCH wind, of all possible things, but I was happy. I considered myself fortunate to share a weekend with many kind Japanese sailors with whom I was able to connect with and get back into some of what I left behind in Southern California. I just wish that I could have taken out a Lido 14, or some other small craft with those guys. With small sailboats, the more wind the better I say (which might just be my last words one day).