Welcome To Japan

Miles Total: 1,670
Cabin Temp: 73 Water Temp: 60

We’re in a marina today for the first time in 28 months, after a very interesting arrival and check in to Japan. The last day of sailing was absolutely beautiful, as the winds eased and we closed the Japanese coastline on a close reach in warm sunshine. When we were close enough to hail the Coast Guard on the VHF, Rob had the first of many conversations with them about our arrival. Unfortunately the Coast Guard officer spoke very little English, and our Japanese vocabulary contained only one word – sushi. It was very challenging sorting out what we were supposed to do and where we were supposed to go.

A cruiser in Palau had a Japanese magazine of marinas, and I managed to figure out which of them were near Osaka. While on passage I emailed about 6 of them to inquire about rates and availability, and only one replied. We had the location of the commercial port closest to that marina with some help from home. The Animal Quarantine folks wanted to know our ETA, so I emailed them and the marina with our closest guess about 3 days out. The Coast Guard officer wanted to know where we were staying, so Rob told him our marina name and gave him a midnight ETA. He called us back he said the marina thought we would be there at noon the next day. We still didn’t know if we were supposed to go to the port to check in or the marina, but finally got that sorted out. We updated our ETA to 2:00 am, then realized that arriving in a small foreign marina at 2:00 probably wasn’t a good idea, so we told the Coast Guard we would drift until morning and arrive at 8:00.

Only ten ships coming into Osaka
The entrance into the inland sea near Osaka is about 14 miles wide, and we realized we were not going to make it through before nighttime. The freighter traffic was unbelievably heavy, and as darkness approached I became increasingly concerned that we were going to sail 25,000 miles, only to be splattered by a ship entering the harbor. Rob was certain we’d be fine and we were continuing on, when suddenly it was like the whistle blew and there were 22 ships headed straight out the entrance right at us. I was in the companionway watching the AIS targets on our chartplotter, while Rob navigated a path between them. Finally we were through the first pinch point and into the sea, where we had 24 miles to another even tinier passage. We chose to motor up that 24 miles and wait outside the narrow passage until daylight, so we drifted and took turns getting a little sleep, while the freighters went past us in and out of Osaka Bay.

At 5:00 Rob woke me up and we were ready to negotiate the passage, which is less than 2 miles wide. When we’re in the ocean we prefer to not to get within 2 miles of a single ship, and now we were sharing a passage only that wide with several of them. But first we had to get across the traffic lanes to the other side, which meant physically weaving a path between 800′ ships traveling 15 mph both directions. Once inside Osaka Bay we motored another 10 miles to our marina, which is in a small town about an hour away by train from Osaka. It’s absolutely lovely here.

Official greeting by Tannowa Yacht Club membersWe were met at the dock by the harbormaster and two gentlemen who were HAM operators who had heard me talking on the Okira net. The officials were scheduled to arrive at 9:30 so we began cleaning up the boat. Quarantine showed up at 10:30, then Immigration came carrying two huge cases of gear. When they saw how small the boat was they decided we should come up to the office, where they unpacked computers, a fingerprint machine and camera, a scanner, and a printer. They gave me a form to fill out detailing the ship’s stores, and it asked about drugs, specifically codeine and morphine. Unfortunately I answered truthfully and suddenly things got complicated – very complicated. Turns out those are both illegal drugs in Japan, even with a prescription. Now we had to wait for a senior immigration officer and Customs officials. In the end they came down to the boat and sealed up our drug container, taking lots of pictures in the process. After one quick visit with the Coast Guard we were done with the officials, and it was only 3:30 in the afternoon.

In the meantime, though, I was using the internet connection in the office and thanks to my sister’s help we managed to find a ticket home for Rob that we could afford, so he flies out early tomorrow morning for 10 days to be with his folks. I’ll stay here and work at keeping Maya on the boat and putter around until he gets back. So far from what we’ve seen this is an absolute jewel of a place, and we’re both looking forward to doing a little bit of exploration before we head back out for our final passage home.


Tannawa is here.