I am usually fast asleep on the 2 hour flight from Osaka to Okinawa, being the last leg of a 24 journey from the States. This time i was wide awake, with the airplane sound system turned all the way up listening to Okinawan music. Had to restrain myself from singing out loud. After a couple of nights at Jim and Marie's place in Ginowan, I am ready to start. I put the Khatsalano together in the morning. After a lunch of sokisoba, they drive me over to Kadena Marina. Loading the boat seemed an impossible task at first but went fairly smoothly. Sent some extra clothes home with Jim, but still had some extra space. I launched out despite an approaching squall. My first destination, Yomitan, only 4 miles away. I hit the beach as soon as the rain hit; emptied my kayak and set up camp. Up at dawn, packed, ate and launched before 6. Man it was hot. It was nice to have a view of the Kerama Islands to the southwest. Jim told me it had been raining almost consistently since May. The air and water was still and the temperature and humidity approaching 100.
It took me 4 hours to paddle the 12 miles to Manza Beach, stopping frequently to drink and savor the coral cliffs of Cape Zanpa and the coral heads of Onna Bay. Took a quick peek into the cave below Manzamo cliff and rounded the corner to Manza beach. Set up i camp and walked up to Manzamo . I saw my old friend Nori, who runs a souvenir stand. My son and his children used to play with my kayaks and Nori's pedal boats in sheltered waters betweeen Manza and the ANA Hotel when I was stationed on Okinawa 1999-2001. Nori lent me a bicycle so I could get around a bit easier. Hit the sack that night after rushingly putting the rainfly on when a sudden sunshower hit. In an instant, the sky started glowing with an awesome Okinawa sunset. Went to sleep to the sound of traditional Okinawan music being played at the ANA Hotel. As I was preparing to launch, Nori came to see me off. He suggested I head for Kouri Island. I had been to Kourijima frequently. It is located a couple of miles north of Nakajin on the Motobu Peninsula. The bridge that was being built when I left Okinawa was completed, but the port area was still very active with fisherman and diving outfitters and the island really had not changed. As I was eating dinner at the minchuku ( Japanese Inn) The One Armed Harmonica Player of Kouri Island appeared with his 91 year old mother. He serenaded her while she was eating her soba and after dinner, he drove her to the port and set her on a chair on a pier and serenaded her for another hour while the sun set.
From Kourijima, short paddle over to Okuma, site of US Armed Forces resort. Grabbed some breakfast and went to get a room. Found out there was a typhoon alert. This turned out to be an over reaction to the formation of a trough near Guam. The alert was lifted 2 hours later. Spoke with a couple from Kadena Air Base who were celebrating their anniversary. I was amazed by how clueless they were about life outside the gate. Headed out around 10 after sleeping and shortly arrived at Ginama, my last port on Okinawa. Set up camp and hitched a ride toe Cape Hedo for a late lunch/early dinner. That evening, an older couple from Naha asked me if camping was ok. They set up their site. The man, Mr Fujiwara worked as a chef at a Naha hotel. 25 years ago, he got divorced from his wife and spent a year cycling around Japan, from Tokyo to Hokkaido and down to Kagoshima. He hopped a boat and came down to Okinawa and decided to settle here.
Next morning, broke camp, packed the boat and had an awesome breakfast of Mangos and coffee with the Fujiwaras. Launched out and paddled the 4 miles to Hedo, said bye to Okinawa and headed ENE toward Yoron, 16 miles away. The water was flat and the air was hot, almost 100 deg. Crossed in 4.5 hrsbut almost dehydrated. Stopped mid crosssing and drank about 2 liters of water and ate the dried mangos Mrs Fujiwara gave me. I came through the surf breaking on the reef and walked the boat about 200 ft through the shallow water barely covering the reef to the beach. Walked up the clifff to the Blue Coral Restraunt and had a beer. First crossing completed.
Up early on Yoron and another hot flat day. 22 miles across to Okinoerabu Island in 6.5 hours. Every 15 minutes to stop and drink. Finished a gallon of water during this crossing. Okinoerabu's Pacific coast is surrounded by a large reef and landing would need to be in a port. Paddled 2 miles NNE to China port and made my way into the fishing port through the labrynth of breakwaters. Saw a Canadian flagged sailboat tied to the pier but no one aboard. Landed, ate and it was real hot. Tied off the Khats and went over to the nearby park for a nap. Slept about 2 hours then headed along the coast some more. All coral reef and nowhere to land until Wadodomari. After 8 miles of paddling, saw a decent spot to camp near the town, but would need to ride the breakers in. Caught a couple of nice rides over the reef and set up my camp on a sliver of beach below the town. Hitched a ride to the supermarket and back and had a quick dinner of pepper steak. Off to bed.
Awoke the next morning to fog, packed up and headed NNE along the coast. Rounded Cape Kunigami but unable to site Tokunoshima about 24 miles away. Headed sw along the China Sea coast. Lots more landing options. Took a long break in a secluded cove. I make my way down to another port and take a nasty slipon the boat ramp while landing. Decide to cross to Tokunoshima by ferry so pack up my gear and break down the boat and catch a ride across the the island back to Wadodomari. Watch the Mariners play while waiting for the ferry. Catch a cab at the port and head for a hotel for the night. My right foot is blistered and sore so I put on some moleskin. The hotel is by a beach so launching will be easy. Slept in until 7 and reassembled and packed the Khats. I had planned to paddle along the Tokunoshimas coast and camp before heading to Amami but there was a fresh breeze from the SW and the temp was about 5-6 degrees cooler so as I headed out I veered to the east heading between Yoro and Uke Islands. It was really nice to have my deck awash. Swells were in 3-4 ft range and that breeze felt fresh. The waves built over the course of the 25 mile crossing peaking out at 10 feet. Nice to have some whitecaps.
As I came closer to Yoro the waves became quartering and flanking to my port. As I entered the mouth of the strait between the islands, my progress slowed. I eddied over to Yoro and hugged the shoreline. Saw 3 people on a secluded beach but the water over the reef was too shallow to land and the port was only a mile up. Landed at the fishing ramp and tied off the boat. Lots of free range goats nearby. No soda machines! ( a rarity in Japan). There was a dial phone in the port and a decent beach to camp and a faucet. Found a store that sold only cold beer and snacks. Had a beer and paddled over to the beach and set up camp. The residents of Yoro all seemed to be in their 80s with a few younger folks around the port and the ferry captain. The houses were all stone with tin or aluminum roofs and tatami floors, traditional Okinawan style homes. The streets were lined by coral walls and in front of many houses was a 7-8 ft stick with the tip painted red. I do not know the significance. The fire department was a small red pickup truck. Found another store that had a better selection and got some dry fruit to have with my beefaroni. Too hot to sleep in the tent so I went over to the breakwater and lay down under a very clear, starry sky. Spent the night watching meteor showers. Around 4 am, a gentleman woke me up and gave me a couple of small fish. 15 minutes later, they were cleaned and frying in my pan. Pretty nice breakfast. Yoro was like stepping into a time warp. No phones. Cell service? Quiet streets. What a cool little place.
About 6 am started to paddle. The 60ft long ferry was idling and some folks were milling around. I pulled out the port and started crossing over to Uke Island. I knew the ferry would be coming soon so I kept my ears open and checked behind. I purposely headed over toward a small Island in the strait and near some shoaling water. The ferry had started his trip. I paddled a bit more, sure that I was out of the main channel. The ferry was about 200 yds away, bearing down on me. I turned quickly and waved my paddle. The ferry veered and slowed and missed me by a good 50 yds. Made it over to Uke Island with no further incidents. Stopped at the port on Uke. Glad to see a soda machine. Had a snack at the post office and headed across the Uke Suido (Uke Strait) to Kakeroma. Waves were starting to build as I headed toward the Pacific. Suddenly, my left leg shot forward. My foot peg had slipped. I headed over toward a protected cove, landed and fixed my peg. I went along the coral headed shoreline out to the Pacific and about 1 mile north along Kakeroma's Pacific Coast. Enjoyed the swell and following surf over th edeep reef. Cut through a small rock garden and turned west into the Amami Strait. Lots of sea caves and rocky beaches. A waterfall was cascading down the steep cliff. I surf landed on a rocky beach.
After landing, a large wave hit the Khats and tossed it up on the shore. I barely got out of the way of the surging boat. Re grouped for a surf launch. A bit worried about my hull and being dragged over the rocks. Launched uneventfully, but noted my keel bar was askew. I was afraid that it had snapped. I landed in sheltered cove on Kakeroma and surveyed the damage. The bar had merely seperated and all was well. Some scratches on the hull but no breaches. Decided to store the skirt and enjoy the calm paddle across the strait to Setouchi, Amami Island. I was out in the middle of the strait when the tide turned. Suddenly, sets of 4-5 foot rollers came toward my flank. I wish I had my skirt, but glad that I had the sea sock in. Caught the first wave and rode it forward. Next wave came up and broached me. I was bracing into the wave. My cockpit was full of water but I remained upright. I got into some calm water near Amami and bailed my cockpit. Landed in Koniya Port and stowed my boat and found a hotel. 4 days until the All Japan Sea Kayak Marathon.
Took 2nd in the folding kayak division. I had initially planned on paddling to mainland, but my navigation skills are a bit too soft and the weather was not cooperating.I had wanted to paddle some aroud Amami, but with a typhoon approaching and a lift to the ferry and Kagoshima Airport, I headed home. Had a 2 day wait in rainy Kagoshima before I could get a flight so I just walked around and watched TV while mending some gear. Night before I left, ended up getting hit by a car. What a way to end and fund a great trip
pics here http://foldingkayaks.org/gallery/tsunami?page=6
trip photos on pages 6-9. Feel free to look at my other pics as well