Seto Nakai = Inland sea (Japan) part 1

What makes an inland sea? Naturally I would think its a great body of water that is surrounded by land, with small entry/exit points. I would also think that its protected from winds and waves, leading me to assume that it will be a easy and smooth passage. HA ha ha…. opps, it was really not that simple… but we are learning all the time and this is a great experience.

Our planned route from Fukuoka -> Kitagi -> Osaka -> Kobe is 350nm, going under 4 passes. Passes, as we understand are parts of Seto Nakai where its narrow and where current flowing in or out can be very strong at peak times, thus making it necessary to time our passage carefully. If internet is available while on route, check this website to get updated on the current flows… http://www1.kaiho.mlit.go.jp/KANKYO/TIDE/cgi-bin/curr_pred.cgi?area=0003&br=notns-win32&year=2013&month=08&day=22&hour=20&btn=Before+1+hour

Kanmon pass. About 5nm long passage.

Kanmon pass. About 5nm long passage.

Kanmon Pass is the 1st pass that we will be going thru and then we would officially be inside the inland sea. We left Odo Yacht Harbour 0945hrs, hoping to make it thru the Kanmon Pass just before the current change … yes we know that we were cutting it really close, so maybe we will anchor off the side of the pass and wait for the next chance.

From Fukuoka to the Kanmon Pass, we were passed by many ships, and just as many were heading towards us and going where we came out from. This is a stretch of busy waterways of moving vessels. Feels like it is busier than Singapore Straits with moving ships rather than anchored ships. We enjoyed watching them go by, it was quite interesting to see their colors, shapes, purpose, and why not let them big boys show us the way ๐Ÿ™‚ They were quite nice and gave us lots of room…. except maybe a few that didnt give us as much room as we would like.

Real time entertainment provided by good looking passing ships.

Real time entertainment provided by good looking passing ships.

1800hrs, we and finally turning into the pass (point 5 on route map). This is later than I hoped for… I was counting on getting a 2kns boost from the current heading into the pass, but we didnt get that until the last mile before the narrows. When inside the narrows, we we enjoying speedy passage… up to 8kns… maybe we’ll make it huh? 1900hrs, our SOG decline slowly and by 1930hrs, we were doing 4.5kns. Uh, okay, slack tide is fine with us too… So at 2000hrs, we went for it (point 10 on route map). Our speed just before the pass was a comfortable 3kns… and just after we passed under the bridge, we see disturbed waters… probably a whirlpool, but we had no idea that it was so strong… Doug pushed up the throttle till 3700rpm and we were doing 1kn for 5mins. We were fortunate that we still had control of Calliste.. as in we could have lost controls to the whirlpool, but we didnt because Calliste’s engine was powerful enough to gain at least 1kn. So we gained ground slowly and in about 0.25nm out from under the bridge, we start getting 2-3kns with 3200rpm. We lower the rpms gradually as we were just trying to maintain 3kns getting out of the situation. 2nm away from the pass, we were back to 2400rpm and doing 4kns.

BTW, there was a huge signboard with amber lights and simple message. We didnt understand the message until much later… dumbo me. What does flashing “W”, “5”, “>” means? After passing thru the pass, I finally understood the message. It was the direction and speed of the current at the pass itself.ย  .. Therefore, at the time when we pass under the bridge, we were heading into a 5kns current! And the final part was only a small stretch, so it was easy to think that we would make it alright with 3kns under our keel… until we hit the narrowest spot. So we learn, when the board says its 5 against us, dont even try. Just go hang out on the sides and wait for the next chance… in about 4hrs.

That's a SUB!

That’s a SUB!

It will be another 24hrs before we hit the next pass. Phew, chance to relax and enjoy the calmness being inside the inland sea. It does seem to be much cooler around here than back in Fukuoka… I wonder why.. hmm… And the view is not bad, lots of peaks around us, some are quite a distance away. Had a lot of internet connection… ๐Ÿ™‚ so I had a lot of quality iP4d game time.

IMO, this is the most dangerous pass in the inland sea.

IMO, this is the most dangerous pass in the inland sea.

And look at that, a U-boat right here in the inland sea! We could have run right over it, but its their duty to watch out for us! The passing small islands, hills, U-boats, military boats, fishing fleet, shipping fleet, and things like that kept us entertained. Its nice to have something to gawk at every once in a while.

After our 1 experience with the Kanmon Pass, we thought no problem, we’ll be able to handle all passes… WRONG! We timed our 2nd pass to perfection! I ask Doug if we should be worried about us moving with 8kns behind us, and he thinks not… 1900hrs, we entered the pass as it was starting to get dark. By the time we reach the bridge, it was dark and we could hardly make out the outline of the islands. Relying on lighted buoys, we chose the most direct passage.. I mean, these openings are like 0.2nm wide, it was very dark and a 8kn current is pushing us rapidly, so it was difficult to actually turn and use our plotted route. So instead of being at point 27, we went under the opening right of the island separating the bridges.

We were prepared for whirlpools, but this time with 8kns behind us, we should be out of it in a minute… yeah right! Seriously powerful whirlpools turned us left and right as Doug wrestles the tiller for control of Calliste. Again, throttle was up to 3500rpm and we were moving 15kns at times, but other times we felt like Calliste was being sucked backwards into the island. After few minutes of riding the choppy turbulent waters, we had a flashlight flooding over us from behind. It was the Kaikyo patrol and they were sprouting a series of Japanese over loudspeaker… we figure they were trying to give us directions on how to get out of it, but we couldnt understand… After 5 minutes for urgently futile background noise, they finally understood that we are not Japanese, and switch to English… about the time we the worse of the turbulence was over, but still it was nice to hear the patrol saying “Captain, follow me.”

View of Yuuko Marine from Calliste at anchor off the beach at Kitagi

View of Yuuko Marine from Calliste at anchor off the beach at Kitagi

We let them show us the way out, following in their wake. When we were totally out of danger, Lang went down below to use the VHF. Patrol has many questions for us, and a message that it is a standard procedure to contact them whenever we were going thru a pass and we must do so in future pass crossing. Okie…

48hrs passed since we left Odo YH, 2 pass down and 2 more to go… we arrive at Kitagi island at early dawn and eager to get some rest. We got Customs permission to visit this closed port and so we did. We anchored off the beach on east side of Kitagi in 8M… rested for 2 nights. Hmm… it was quite nice and cool.. we got quite a few williwaws coming down at us, maybe 40kns gust, but our anchor held us in place. Very appreciative of this little shelter and rest, while we wait to visit with Colin and Mika at the Yuko Marine.


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Sailing 2015: Port Townsend(WA, US) -> Costes Island (BC, Canada)

Sailing 2013: Singapore -> Okinawa -> Kobe

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