September 10th was our FINAL day of cruising for 2009. We had a short run, 30 miles up the busy Bay of Osaka on a gloriously sunny day. The boats are tied up at Ashiya Bellport Marina in Osaka, Japan. It’s a nice and very modern marina facility.
Some of the highlights since our mid-August arrival in Yokohama:
We were delighted with the attention we received at The Yokohama Bayside Marina. The staff was very attentive and helpful. This was especially important as we rode out a typhoon while in the securely tied in our berths. Four staff members camped out overnight in the marina office standing by should we or other boats need their help. The typhoon season in Japan is similar to the hurricane season in Florida, the same months of the year and with about the same frequencies. We are expecting at least four to strike here in September and so far have experienced two. Being done with our voyage this year, we won’t experience any at sea and are in a secure location should they strike our marina. Photo of the three Captains heading off for a planning session…typhoon-like conditions.
One Saturday evening we were invited to what we thought was a yacht club party. Much to our surprise, it was a party held in our honor! We enjoyed the company of several yacht club members over trays of sushi and pizza, plus beer, wine and sake. Ken (Sans Souci) had brought several GSSR t-shirts, hats and such as gifts for the members. They set them all out on display. They seem to get really excited when we explained our logo (polar bear standing on top of a piece of shrimp sushi, facing backwards symbolizing the wrong way gang). Then the map on the flipside which shows Japan as our ultimate destination…was it possible they or us felt even more honored?! Later, the dock master announced that the yacht club members must play “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who got what of the trophies…this was hilarious. Of course, they asked if we played such a game in America?
Braun with the young and enthusiastic marina staff at Yokohama Bayside Marina.
We took several land trips via the very clean and efficient train system into Yokohama and Tokyo. There is alot to see and do in Tokyo…just try not to let 8 million people get in the way (good luck). For all of its population, the city is incredibly clean and orderly, not at all typical of Asian cities. Taxi drivers wear little white shortie gloves; their cars are immaculate inside and out. The obsession with pop culture, youth culture, and cartoon culture is all around. Then there’s the food – which pervades every aspect of Tokyo life. The Michelin Guide has given Tokyo restaurants more stars than any other place in the world, including Paris. Supposedly, there are more famous French chefs that operate restaurants in Tokyo than anywhere, including Paris! The Japanese are some serious foodies…one can either explore the full and exotic range of Japanese food and drink – which the presentation is a theater of sorts or enjoy the myriad of French, Italian, American, Indian, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, you name it restaurants… Frankly, we’re still enjoying the wide variety of Japanese fare. Find the “gaijin” (foreigner) in this photo!
A trip to Tokyo would not be compete – as Braun would dictate – if you didn’t make an early morning (5:30am) pilgrimage to Tsukiji, the largest fish market in the world. The daily tuna auction is the spectacle most people come for. We sloshed through narrow wet walkways surrounded by piles of crates of seafood (most of it still alive), dodged mini forklift trucks that shift the goods around to stand near a big refrigerated warehouse and watch buyers and brokers in gum boots moving among the giant headless tuna fish, calling out prices and ringing their bells. It was pretty cool…and, hard to believe, there was no fishy smell! Some of the fish brought $90-100,000 EACH.
Yokohama proved to be an ideal location to layover for a few weeks. The harbor frontage is very contemporary with its scattering of Western-style buildings, Chinese temples, endless shopping malls and sizeable foreign community. The ladies of the GSSR were so pleased that Costco was located nearby. We decided we should check it out. Our taxi driver, however, corrected us – it’s “COS-TEE-KO” – no problem! No matter – it’s just like any Costco lay out I’ve ever been to. Lots of American products and labels in English as well – bonus! However, you know when next to the Kirkland brand of mixed nuts & beef jerky and you see dried squid sticks…you’re not in COS-TEE-CO back home J. Sake San in kimono with yummy peaches purchased at Cos-Tee-Ko.
We left Yokohama and leisurely cruised south in route of Osaka. Collectively, we couldn’t agree that our “mission” was accomplished until we completed the 400 + nautical miles to our final berth in Ashiya. We visited some memorable ports along the way – Shimoda, Katsuura-Ko to name a few and were once again warmly received by the ever hospitable Japanese. Honestly, the way the treat us…we feel unworthy and humbly grateful.
Photo of Sans Souci at anchor in Hamajima Ko. Photo of beautiful coastline of Katsuura Ko. Photo of the GSSR celebratory dinner!
We will set off for home (Alexandria, VA) in a couple weeks…looking forward to catching up with family and friends – and, of course, start planning next year’s voyage! It is still settling in as to how far we have come since leaving Seattle in April (over 6800 miles). Stay tuned…Braun plans to share in our blog a sampling of the “mechanical adversities” to provide some color for the rigors that the boats encountered. Suffice it to say with good planning, preparations and a solid boat…it can be done! We are very thankful for ALL those who supported us – our fabulous crew, the weather advisors, the “go-to” guys & gals back home reached by cell or Satilite phone…and, let’s not forget God Almighty who really looked after us!
Grey Pearl is signing off until next year…hope you enjoyed the ride, we sure did!
Tina & Braun