This past Golden Week saw a TSPS fleet embark on another week-long cruise, this time to the west coast of the Izu peninsula. Boats that made the trip were Distant Dreamer, Bifrost, Fuji VII, and Sophie, and stops included the beautiful ports of Shimoda, Mera, Arari, and Misaki. Unfortunately, heavy rain, very strong winds, and high seas kept the fleet in port much more than expected.
The cruise began with Bifrost leaving her home port early on Saturday, April 29 and encountering strong winds and a two knot counter-current on her way to Shimoda. Distant Dreamer left Yokohama the same day before noon for an overnight sail direct to Mera via a rounding of Oshima and Mikomoto Island near Shimoda. She arrived in Mera 21 hours later, having encountered light winds most of the way. Fujii VII departed Seabornia Marina on Sunday, and made directly for Arari, arriving a little past noon on Monday. Distant Dreamer was joined in Mera by Bifrost who sailed up from Shimoda. Together the two boats sailed to Arari Monday morning arriving a few hours after Fuji VII. Sophie joined Distant Dreamer, Bifrost and Fuji VII in Arari arriving in darkness at approximately 19:30h after a fast six-hour sail from Shimoda, her home port. The fleet was complete and rafted up alongside Minoru Saito’s Nicole BMW Shoten Dohji III, in port for a complete refit after his epic round-the-world sail. That night plans were laid for the remaining 5 days of the cruise.
Because of the equipment aboard the four boats, the experience of the eleven crew members, the nine smartphones, and the three iPads, the boats were all too aware of the weather. The forecast was for rain, and lots of it for long stretches of time. The cruising plan slowly evolved from an adventurous one that included visiting three ports to the north of Arari to a much more conservative stay-in-port-and-wait-out-the-weather plan. And so the fleet remained in Arari for three long and wet days and nights, before Distant Dreamer, Bifrost, and Sophie busted out when the rain let up on Thursday morning.
The next port of call was Matsuzaki, a small town with dock/wall along a river bank a few miles south of Arari. However, upon arriving first in port, Bifrost discovered the river was swollen with the heavy rains in the mountains of Izu, enough that with high tide, the entire docking area would flood. Additionally, a 2 to 3 knot current in the river made docking difficult and dangerous. Per Knudsen aboard Bifrost waved off Distant Dreamer and Sophie as they approached the port and the decision was made over the phone to return to Mera, another two hours down the coast.
All three boats arrived in Mera easily enough under pleasant winds and gray skies. The skies later cleared and the remainder of the day was spent lazing aboard the boats, searching for basic food stuffs, and watching a very strong blue-sky gale build gradually. The forecast was now calling for Force 10 winds, 4 to 5 meter waves, and beautiful blue skies over the next 24-36 hours. Experience has taught us to effectively double the forecast figures if you want to approximate reality, and so the decision was made to remain in Mera for a second night. In the afternoon of the second day, in the middle of the gale, a 34-foot sailboat came lurching into port flying only a storm jib. They had departed Shimoda early in the morning bound for Aichi, but the conditions forced the crew to quickly revise their plans and make way for Omaezaki. The wind and waves, however, were coming exactly from where they were bound. With no hope of making Omaezaki before sunset, they beat a hasty retreat to Mera for refuge from the storm. The TSPS crews were there to lend a hand when the boat docked and the wide-eyed, exhausted, and bewildered look on the faces of the crew said all that needed to be said about their day on the water.
The crews of Distant Dreamer, Bifrost, and Sophie felt a little peckish near sunset and so the region’s only taxi was enlisted to ferry the seven to a restaurant in the hills above Mera. Discussion on the sailing plans continued and Distant Dreamer skipper Mike Snyder decided a 05:00h departure Saturday morning from Mera would make it possible to reach Misaki before sunset. The seas remained very high as Distant Dreamer left port Saturday morning, but fortunately the winds had dropped to Force 5-6 and the passage south to Mikomoto Island was rough but uneventful. Upon rounding the island, the seas and wind moved astern, and the boat settled into a smooth groove all the way to Misaki. Meanwhile, Fujii VII left Arari at about the same time and was five or so miles off Distant Dreamer’s stern for much of the early morning. Upon reaching the Shimoda area, Fuji VII headed due east perhaps to pick up a favorable current, rounding Oshima on its return to Seabornia. Bifrost left Mera mid-morning Saturday and had an easy sail down to Shimoda, where she stayed for the night. Sophie spent the day sailing and returned to Shimoda on Sunday.
Bifrost departed Shimoda for her home port of Velasis early Sunday morning in fine weather, but a few hours after turning the south east corner of Izu and heading north east, she encountered very strong winds and high seas. Gusts peaked at over 45 knots and the boat hit speeds in excess of ten knots as she surfed down the waves. Not trusting the autopilot, Per and crew Claus hand steered the boat all the way to Velasis Sunday afternoon.
Distant Dreamer departed Misaki on Sunday at around 09:00h and was soon caught up in the same gale Bifrost was experiencing further out. As she entered Tokyo Bay winds built to speeds in excess of 35 knots and the first hour or two was spent dodging traffic. Once inside the bay the seas flattened but the winds remained. Low tides meant arrival in Koyasu, her homeport, needed to be after 14:00h, so Distant Dreamer stopped at Bayside Marina for a few hours before completing the cruise under power on Sunday at around 15:00h.
So, all boats got back to their home port safely. There were no injuries or major equipment failures suffered on the cruise. In this very important way, the cruise was a success.
So that’s it. A brief summary of the goings-on of the four-boat fleet on an eight-day Golden Week cruise to Nishi Izu. One key lesson learned on this cruise, one that confirms opinions of last year’s Golden Week cruise: do not go cruising during Golden Week. The weather sucks.
The crew of Distant Dreamer has posted their images and video here in a video slideshow of the cruise. We will be adding other photos as they become available.