28. Miyako-jima to Ishigaki-shima
Typhoon Jelawat Coming
October 1, 2012
We have been holing up in the Miyakojima Guest House near Maehama Beach while Category 4 Typhoon Jelawat roared through.
Just before the storm hit, we went down to the beach with the three young women who were also staying in the guest house. They had come to scuba dive but were stranded with us. The rain was crashing down, the wind threatened to carry away the small women who huddled together onshore and the seas were raging. We had to be very careful when we took our dip to stay very close to shore as the currents created by the storm threatened to sweep us away. I was especially worried when Evan went around and past the small spit of sand that protected us from the currents. Would he be stupid enough to jump into the seas on the wild side? I was relieved when I saw him loping back in his curious gait, safe.
The storm howled for three days. Occasionally one of us would venture out briefly, but things like metal roofs were being flung about and we needed to keep our heads.
After the storm passed all the sugar cane crop had been flattened. There was no power for a while. But I was surprised at how little damage was done. This is not the Philippines where people live in fragile wood enclosures. The buildings here are low cement block structures with small, protected windows. The power and phone cables are underground. Here in typhoon alley people get on with it after the storms sweep through. But do they have crop insurance?
After the Storm. Photo by Shiro Ose
October 2, 2012, Tarama Island, 24.676, 124.705
We left Miyako-jima at 7:11 PM last night. Shiro was in the bow, and I was steering, in the stern cockpit. The plan was to leave in the evening so we would arrive at Tarama-jima in the morning. This usually works.
We had to sail and paddle from Maehama Beach against the wind for three hours to reach our first GPS waypoint, Miya-26. This was near a reef that we were keen to avoid. As we headed northwest, we encountered a fast current coming at us from between Miyako-jima and nearby Irabu-jima. This was colliding with strong swells still left over from the typhoon.
I noticed an unusual rolling motion that I hadn’t experienced before. It was as if the two wave sets were harmonizing and creating something entirely new and different. Our mast began swinging in unison with the waves. Except for the light blinking on and off on the reef, it was pitch black. As we neared the reef the mast broke right at the mast mount where it protrudes through our deck and the sail came tumbling down on top of us. For a while we were helpless. I had to pull the mast and sail off of Shiro and me. He then tried to keep us off the reef with his paddle while I removed the broken mast piece, jammed the rest of it back onto the mast step and raised the sail again, although reefed small. Meanwhile we were drifting perilously close to the reef.
We got away in time. When we talked about it later, I said that the whole operation had taken only 10 minutes. It seemed that way. Dan and Evan figured it took a little over half an hour. A few hours later Evan was steering, and their mast broke and landed on Dan’s head, who had been sort of sleeping. Sailing with light gear in heavy seas can be tough. We need to reef our sails more.
October 3, 2012, Tarama-jima
This may be an out of the way island, but there is so much plastic garbage on this beach. All I could see was plastic. It was as if the sea had everywhere been covered with plastic, with no space for fish or seaweed, and one giant tide had come up, gone down and left this astonishing assembly of human ingenuity and carelessness behind. Of course, when you looked more closely, you could see that some deposits had arrived quite recently, and others were much older. The new plastic was shiny. Its edges were smooth and sure and, if it had printing, was still legible and bright. The older pieces were rougher and spotted, having already started the slow, inevitable dissolution into noxious chemicals.
Shiro on Taram-jima Beach
There is no way you can walk along here without stepping on it. Shiro and I found bottles from China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, all over. As usual, people are very neat. They screw the caps on the bottles before chucking them. The people here are tidy too. Yesterday there was a gang of older people sweeping off the sand that the typhoon had deposited on the road above the beach with home-made brooms. Swish, swish. But no one seems interested in cleaning up this beach. Odd.
October 5, 2012, Ishigaki Harbour, 24.345, 124.148
Arrived yesterday morning at 9 AM. We managed to make the eastern shore of Ishigaki three hours before dawn and had to wait until daylight before making our way around the reefs. Good thing, too, as the reefs extended out further than my chart indicated.
Arriving at Ishigaki
Now we are camped on the slope that the fishermen use. We had a good meeting with the Coast Guard, who were helpful. They even wanted their photo with us beside the boats. However, the weather till the 12th shows high north winds, which we can’t use to get to Yonaguni-shima.
Camping at Ishigaki
October 10, 2012, Iriomote.
Yesterday we paddled up the Nakama gawa to its headwaters. We climbed up the river of cascades, relishing the cool water in pools and falls. Incredibly verdant vegetation. While we were paddling upriver in the heat, Shiro remarked that he really wanted a shower. I remembered the headwaters from years before and it didn’t disappoint.
Arriving at the headwaters of the Nakama River
Things aren’t going too well at Feathercraft without us. We can’t wait around for weather. Have to go back.