The Japanese island Chichijima
Day 0 – 15.11.2017
It’s still dark when we ignite the generator and the port engine. Then we tie the ropes to the dock amidst the playful color nuances of the dawn. Finally we slip off the port quietly… as real pirates. Here one is allowed to navigate the narrow coral sea pathways of Ponapei only in the day but we were late to do so yesterday so this was the only way to leave without the need to go trough the slow procedure of the immigration again.
A small bird lands on the deck of our boat “Alabama”. Then we see not only one but three rainbows on the horizon. These are all good omens for the long journey of 1500 miles that lays ahead of us before we reach the Japanese islands Ogasawara. The wind is strong, coming from east, and we raise all four sails one after the other. It is time to say goodbye to Ponapei Island, Micronesia and the Pacific. We feel grateful and a little bit sad as the people, nature and climate here became our favorite after we have spent almost a year in this part of the world.
Alabama sails inclined by the strong wind and jumps over the big waves. Sails are stretched to the maximum and we reach the speed of 5 knots and sometimes even 13 knots!!! Everyone is overexcited and runs around in joy… except the people who have sea sickness.
At lunch the French pirate Seba and I spot a big storm coming our way. While a discussion is going on how to tackle the situation rain starts pouring and the waves, blown by the wind, reach us. The storm is now upon us and we lower all the sails immediately. The winds becomes really strong and it’s raining heavily. Later another storm arrives and it isn’t as the ones we were used to up to now, this one is coming fast and is more abrupt. The middle sail gets a little torn – we obviously have to be more careful with the sudden weather changes.
Anyway today is a good day for fishing. We catch four fish – two big oahu fish and two small mahi-mahi. The newest member of the crew, the American Nick, is lying down on the kitchen floor, vomiting from time to time and making banana cake in the breaks. What a fun!
Tom with the freshly caught fish
During the day we reef (lower the mizzen – the main back sail) as the wind is too strong and we can topple while we are sleeping and “Alabama” will become a submarine instead of a boat 🙂
Day 1 – 16.11
We wake up several times this night because of the strong wind. At dawn we raise all four sails.
In a day, 11 hours and 11 minutes we have crossed 222 miles, which is around 160 for a day!
Day goes fast. We tweak the sails, tighten the ropes for better speed and balance. The crew is feeling good. Even the people with sea sickness are feeling better. “Alabama” flies with 8 knots.
Day 2 – 17.11
The sea is purple. The wind gets stronger and the boat sails faster and faster. It is inclined to its port side. The boat’s bow goes high up, as if it is a dolphin jumping out of the water, and then slams the sea forcefully creating a mist, or better said a river, of small drops flowing over the deck. The speed now is 10 knots!!! We eat lunch and then the crew goes crazy. People start dancing on the slippery rocking deck. Later we catch a 80 cm mahi-mahi fish.
In the evening there is a discussion whether to lower some of the sails in case a storm comes, but at the end we leave them raised. A new personal record is set – 211 miles for 24 hours!!!
Day 3 – 18.11
The rope of the front sail (the big Genoa) is torn. We take it out of the water and later Alejo climbs the 20 meter mast to pass the rope through the roll. The statistics show 511 miles are crossed and 998 miles are left to Chichijima, Japan.
Day 4 – 19.11
Flying fish jump over “Alabama”. Seba saves one that landed on the deck, but Tom finds another one dead in the machine compartment. Alejo, who is vegan, sees this as a sign from fate, barbecues the fish and eats it. Today winds stops blowing for some time and we have to use the engine. At some point the small front sail gets torn and it takes forever to sew it.
Everyone is a little tired today and we sail using the autopilot. Sailing with a yacht is not like flying with a plane or being in a huge cruiser boat filled with entertainment. Nick is shocked by the silence, the emptiness, the lack of Internet, and basically all these things that feed the so called “monkey brain”. The good news is that people who suffer sea sickness feel much better.
It is the new moon. Glowing plankton and stars are below and above us. We see the constellation Ursa Major for the first time in months. Seba installs a swing attached to the front sail. We swing over the blown waves sea trying to not get smashed into the boat’s hull. This is so much fun!
Day 5 – 20.11
Slight east wind and no waves. We advance using the motor. Today is Marchelo’s birthday and the celebrations start in the morning – Taiwanese pancakes, porridge cake, purple bananas and cinnamon. In the evening the party continues with Baba Ganush and garlic chapatti. The French pirate Seba is fasting for a third day in row – he doesn’t eat anything and he drinks only a little water at night. Tom and Alejo also did a 24 hour fasting in order to cleanse their bodies.
Every morning people drink fermented noni juice – the plant is widely used in the Pacific for millennia. Using noni has many health benefits and it becomes more and more popular all over the world. Noni is a powerful antioxidant, cleanses the body, helps in cell regeneration and cleans the pituitary gland, preventing its calcification. The pituitary gland is also known as the “third eye” and is associated with the spiritual evolution of the human.
The crew of “Alabama” stays creative. Arfa draws painting when she is not vomiting or lying unconscious from the sea sickness, Marchelo composes four songs of which we most like the Japanese one called “Tomato salad” 🙂
In the morning Seba told us that while he was tightening the jib (front sail) he flew out of the boat and was hanging on the rope he just tied. He said he was swinging and hitting himself on the anchor but luckily managed to climb back. Good that he did so because if he had fallen out of the boat during the night we could have not heard him and we would have lost him forever.
Day 6 – 21.11
578 miles left to Chichijima. At the moment we find ourselves between two anticyclones and there is no wind because of this. The sea is flat, the wind changes its direction slowly, making a big circle around us.
When at sea one becomes very attentive to the wind, the weather the waves, the potential storms. The reason is that all these things affect the sailing and even one’s life. Very often you can see someone from the crew spreading their arms like a bird, trying to identify the wind’s direction.
At night we usually turn off all the lights so that people can spot potential storms. There is no anemometer on the boat so we measure the direction of the wind by the movement of the several rugs we have put here and there on the deck for this purpose.
Everyone is content today as the sea is flat and no one suffers sea sickness. This pause is put to a good use and the torn sails are sewn. “Alabama’s” sails are really old and need constant repairs and extensive care. All is calm and timeless. Nothing foreshadows what is to come tomorrow. There are 414 miles left to Chichijima.
Day 7 – 22.11
The night before we had strong wind and we set all sails reaching the speed of 7.5 knots. Today black clouds cover the morning sky, waves are around 3 meters tall and hit the boat splashing over the deck. The next storm comes in the evening. The sea is angry, purple and filled with white waves. At the end of the storm the big sail, our priceless Genoa, explodes and now it looks like a torn rug.
During the next storm Alex hits his pinky finger and it bends in a not so nice way. He can’t move it and everyone panics thinking it’s broken. In the mean time we change the front sail in the middle of the storm. It feels like we are in some extreme adventure movie. The bow goes 5-6 meters in the air and then falls down and hits the waves. Alejo ties the hooks while we hold him with a rope fastened to his belt. The boat rocks wildly and it is really hard to walk on the slippery deck. We leave the mizzen loose to maintain stability and turn on the engine. This is a rocky night. No one sleeps. Everyone is monitoring the weather.
Day 8 – 23.11
During the night we need to raise and lower all the sails two times as the wind slowly turns towards us and we have to adjust our direction by 15-20 degrees. Then we start the engine but the autopilot fails because of the constant changes of the wind.
I am so exhausted in the morning that I sleep all day. There is no wind and without the sails the boat rocks quite hard. It is a little scary. Because of this there is always something flying around and we have just two or three porcelain cups left. In the mean time Afra pours hot water on herself while cooking.
At 8 p.m. there are just 170 miles left. Maybe there is a day or a day and a half till we arrive. Magy and I have never imagined the the wind will literally blow us to Japan 🙂 People are happy and a little crazy. The evening is dedicated to baking and peeling cacao. There are around 200 kg of organic cacao beans on the boat and we are worried that the border control on Chichijima island might make us throw it away. After drinking tons of thick coconut milk with cacao everyone becomes overexcited and people go to sleep late at night.
Ден 9 – 24.11
In the evening the sails are raised to starboard (on the left side of the boat) as the wind changes direction and now blows from northwest. In the morning it changes again and we move the sails port side. Soon we lower them fully because its a crosswind now. There are less than 100 miles to the island, or around 9 hours of sailing. The last few days weather changes significantly. Every day it gets colder and its often cloudy and dark. Giant waves crush in the boat and hinder our advancement to land.
Day 10 – 25.11
8:36 a.m. We see land!!! Hahijima Island is on our right and Chichijima on the left. These the only two inhabited island, that are part of the island chain located at the southeast side of Japan. We are around 700 nautical miles away from the main island Honshu.
Chichijima is becoming bigger by the minute and it shows us its raw beauty. We see high jagged rocks covered in strange vegetation and blown waves crashing the coastline splashing sea water drops up to 20 meter in the air. Our joy is immense. Welcome to Japan!
Anyway once we are here we have to follow the strict rules of this country. Our crew have been issued a special permit, done by Mr. Widny, the owner of the boat, to enter the closed bay. To our surprise the port authorities don’t answer our calls so we have to anchor before entering the port and wait for permission.
We are excited. The authorities respond in an hour. The reason it took so long is that they were searching for someone who knows English. Permission granted. We throw the ropes and step on Japanese land.