Nobody we know have been to or even heard about Ishigaki. Its one of those out of the way places that nobody really talk about… unless its in your backyard I suppose… but its not in ours.. We are there because we found it was the nearest port for checking into Japan from Taiwan.
…..So we made it here and what do we have …. A Star Cruises Ship! Superstar Aquarius, in port at the same time as we are.. and I wanted for a long time to cruise this trip too… but it was too expensive for me. Nothing makes sense ok, it was really more expensive to sail our little yacht than the cruise ticket, but we didnt have to share the amenities with fake smiling crew and loud tourists. See small little Calliste in the picture? Out at sea, we are our own government.
We stayed 3 nights tied alongside a black steel hull sailing boat that was rotting away. A friendly sailor near us called the owner to ask if we could tie up, so we had permission to do so. Its not nice if we just tie up ok. As yachties we do not like to side tie to another boat without asking, altho rafting up without permission is very common around Taiwan and Japan.
Did we like Ishigaki? Well… really… no… but it was convenient for us to check in there and the officials were very helpful. I guess the biggest put off was language. We had a lot of difficulty communicating our need to get personal mobile internet, or internet cafe, or free wifi. It didnt make sense that such a advance country like Japan, does not have prepaid internet for tourist who needs internet. We just couldnt believe what we were hearing … and so we thought they were not friendly to us tourist. Well, the best thing that happened to us was meeting Mark and Brandy on SV Restless.
There is a well stocked supermarket about 15 mins walk, restaurants in about 10 mins walk, unsecured wifi in 10 mins walk, coin laundry in 5 mins walk, city in 20 mins walk, free water from faucet at the park. .. All these walking in different directions, asking questions and not getting good answers wore me down to a point that I felt it was difficult to do anything here. It was frustrating… and Doug was going into a funk… so we left as soon as we reloaded our water and reprovisioned with fresh foods.
Its about 250nm to Okinawa… and I thought we make it in 3 days for sure… but wrong! We had a unexpected bad weather on the 2nd day out… and dah decided to heave to, altho we were making 6 knots. It was uncomfortable either way, but we lose ground heaving to and that hurts. We continue to have heavy weather on the 3rd day, but I decided to plow ahead. It took us 3 hours to regain the 6nm that we lost heaving to.
As we approach the island group that is 40nm West of Okinawa, we find that we could not maintain the heading that we wanted to. A strong current and headon winds were pushing us 45deg to starboard. Ok, so it seems that we can try the passage thru the group instead of going north of it… Navionics on my iPad seems to think that we can, so did the non-detailed CMap charts on our Standard Horizon chartplotter… but opps… right at the pass, we saw the depth sounder saying crazy numbers. 1 minute we were in 60m, and the next we only had 4.5m ! It was choppy, we could not see thru the water and there was nothing that suggest it was shallow where we were… we panicked… of course.. slow down.. and then we were back in 50m again. Just like that. And this happen for a few more times, then we figure out that we were going over som serious underwater peaks! OMG! Fingers crossed!
We decided to name this the foreboding pass. It look so unwelcoming as we approached it, and then it gave us the scare of this whole trip! Fortunately, after passing between the 2 larger mountains, we got back into consistently deeper waters. Phew! Altho the going was still tough, we did manage to get 3 kns. We observed a blue hulled sailboat ahead of us… it seemed like heading the same way as us, but then it turned back, and then turned up again… why? strange… maybe those on board are looking for somewhere to anchor and wait out the headon N wind, but I think they didnt manage to find a good spot for this, so they move northwards again. Later on, as we were exiting the north passage, I saw the blue hull boat anchored at the village on the north island of this group.. oh okie.. so we dont have company going to Ginowan. Alrighty, we are on our own. There a chance we might make it just before midnight…
10 miles out from Okinawa, we are finally getting better weather conditions now. And what a view! Lights everywhere and constant stream of planes flying into and out of Naha. Certainly was a interesting last 10 miles… and even a fancy wheels light show.. No mistaking, we are headed to a big city.
It was midnight and we are again approaching a island at dark. We navigated with Navionics on iPad, followed the lights and made it in, found a open end dock and just tied up. There is no working staff that would welcome us and assign our berths anyway.
We turned on the VHF, thinking that we might call the coastguard or something… then we heard Restless calling for us! Wow, they were checking if we made it yet.. they overtook us on our 1st day out and also got that same bad weather as we did, but they do better with the bigger boat and arrived 1 day before us. ..
After 35 days of travelling, limping along with the motor knocking problem, we decided that we will stay at Ginowan for a month at least. We feel pretty secure in here and this seems to be a great place to be staying while exploring Okinawa. We love walkon berths with water and electric! Yeehaa!