Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Sailing away to Zamami island
Memories of sailing adventures to Zamami on s/v Intrepid
Most people who visit the Kerama islands take the ferry from Tomari port in Naha. You can take the fast ferry, which can get you to Tokashiki, Zamami or Aka jima port in about one hour. For a cheaper fare, you can also take the bigger and slower ferry which takes about two hours. But one option that not many people know about though, is the really slow ferry...
The slow boat to paradise... Whose idea was it to meet so damn early? At 0500, the six Intrepid crew members are not too genki this morning but a cold can of Georgia coffee helps wake us up. As we depart our slip at Ginowan Marina, it is glass calm with Intrepid's electric propulsion system gracefully maintaining the peace and quiet. Without the fumes of a diesel engine, the crew enjoys the sweet smell of the early morning low tide in the marina. The gentle whir of the motor lets our helmsman know that she has just enough power to move the boat through the marina at exactly the right speed. With a full battery charge we can motor for several hours at low throttle if we needed to, but for this weekend trip away from shore power, with the solar panels and wind generator still yet to be installed, we need to conserve power. So while still in the marina, as soon as we get clear of the docks the crew points the boat into the wind and hoists the mainsail.
It's about a half mile sail to the #2 buoy: our Point "Alpha." Since we're doing a sailing class, we have a few sailing drills to practice before we head out and sail to our island destination and can think about relaxing on the beach. The winds aren't too strong, but just for practice we put a reef in the mainsail and then shake it out. We also have to practice a crew overboard drill but you never know when that can happen so, never mind... let's go to the Keramas! Steady on course 270, we set the sails for a port tack beam reach and with about 10- 12 knots out of the south, we're making about 5 knots towards our destination now. Ahh, this is so nice... but before the crew gets too comfortable: Man overboard! Oscar goes for a swim and our crew skillfully posts a lookout and pilots a figure eight maneuver, coming back to pick up the life ring on the leeward side on the first try. Awesome... now, let's go to the Keramas!
Entering Zamami port under full sail, we can see people on the breakwater and the ferry terminal seawall and they're definitely watching us, too. A small dive boat comes as another goes out. Okinawan boaters and our fellow Umin Chu are serious about the custom of waving to other boaters. We feel like we are entering a place where all our good friends have been waiting for us, and indeed the Zamami villagers are some of the nicest people in the world. We don't want to embarrass ourselves though in front of spectators so now that the high hills of Zamami have blocked all the wind, it's time to furl the genoa and drop the mainsail.
Zamami is an amazing place. For such a small island, there's a lot to do. Or you can do nothing at all but relax and of course doing that is probably what we all have in mind. With Intrepid safely secured to the seawall, with chafing gear on the mooring lines to protect against the wake from the ferry and the change in tides, it's time to go explore the island. First we call Magyi-san and take the only taxi on the island, up the hill to Takatsuki Yama to enjoy the stunning view of the islands. Then we stop briefly at the 105 store, the village supermarket and get a few cold Orion beers, dried wasabi peas and squid jerky to enjoy on Furuzamami beach- one of the most beautiful beaches you have ever seen.
Zamami village seems to always have an excuse to party. In the summer they host the Zamami to Naha traditional sabani sailing and paddle boat race. The annual Zamami yacht race is usually the following weekend. This year in November there was a matsuri event every weekend. These events and others are always accompanied by parties with traditional dancers, eisa drummers and good music and food. And of course plenty of Orion beer...
Today the show is a lot of fun. There's these old guys with funny make-up and wearing diapers dancing on the stage to a skit and some fun music. A sketchy looking character in a green swamp thing costume is lurking around the crowd, too. Crazy! It's almost time to get up and dance the kachashi with all the other drunk villagers. With Intrepid moored right behind the stage as a backdrop, sorry but I can't seem to wipe this smile off my face.
While the crew explores the reef, I take this opportunity to inspect the hull. The bottom was just cleaned, but I can see it's already starting to get some growth, especially on the white boot stripe, which bothers me since its so obvious. But with a little bit of scratching with my thumbnails, it's mostly gone.