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by Greg

Fun times at the Zamami Yacht Race

July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

Photo by Eric Brown

The 35th annual Okinawa to Zamami Yacht race was held on July 7, 2012. The 28 mile race starts from outside Ginowan marina and follows a course through the Kerama islands, finishing outside Zamami port. This year, there were 26 boats that participated, with several others cruising along with the racers to join the party at the end. The racers come from all over Japan and have crew from all over the world. The yacht race follows a handicap system and this year’s winner for Class I (38 ft and over) was Yume Hyotan, with a crew from mainland Japan. Second place was Foxy Lady and third place was Island Boy. The first boat to arrive at the finish line was Jazz, in 3 hrs and 53 minutes. The Zamami Yacht race is one of the biggest and most exciting events of the Okinawa sailing community. The village of Zamami and the residents of this beautiful island put on a great show at the end, featuring music, dancing and great food and drinks.

Photo by Eric Brown

by Greg

Zamami to Naha Sabani Race 2012

July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

Photo by Dave Clumpner

The annual Zamami to Naha sabani race was held on July 1, 2012. This race of traditional sail and paddle boats took place this year in beautiful weather between the Kerama islands and Okinawa. Zamami Maru, a team of residents of Zamami, finished 1st out of about 30 teams in the 25 mile open ocean race. The race was beautifully photographed this year and has been documented annually for the past few years by the resident English teacher, Dave Sensei’s blog. Rob was also there, sailing with Elly and Koba-san on Kijimuna, and documented his experience on his blog.

Photo by Robert Mallon


by Greg

Sailing in Okinawa aboard s/v Intrepid

March 23, 2012 in Local Sailors

Sail Okinawa: Intrepid Voyages from Greg Martin on Vimeo.

by Greg

Okinawa Tokai Yacht Race: April 29, 2012

March 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

          The Okinawa Tokai Yacht race will depart Okinawa’s Ginowan Marina on April 29, 2012 and arrive at Laguna Marina in Aichi Ken a few days later. The race will include 14 yachts with mostly Japanese crew. To find out more and to follow the race, please check out their website and facebook page.

by Greg

Sailors Keep Our Oceans Blue by Learning to Boat Green

October 3, 2011 in Local Sailors

Featured in the American Sailing Journal, Summer 2011

s/v Intrepid motoring clean and quiet under electric power

Is it safe to say that we became boaters because we love being out on the water? We don’t have to be reminded about how wonderful it is to go sailing, fishing or diving from our boats in a healthy marine environment, or how sad it is to see trash on the beach or oil on the water. The idea of Green Boating stems from our natural instinct to protect what we cherish. It is not a new fad, but an attitude that translates into behaviors that reflect our values.

            Green Boating doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. In fact, what I’ve discovered on my boat is that going green has made my overall boating experience safer, more comfortable and immeasurably more rewarding. We all know there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. But even more interesting, I’ve also learned on my boat that there is a right way and a better way of doing things. Early on I learned that you have to sand the hull before applying bottom paint. But after a few times I realized that the job is a lot less messy (and less unhealthy) if you use a dustless sander. The job gets done, your work clothes are less soiled and you notice the birds aren’t scared away for as long. Same thing with cleaning supplies, you could get that nasty stain off quickly with acetone, but then you notice that it also eats the paint and burns your skin. An appropriate amount of non toxic cleaner (brand name withheld- but it comes in a green package) will do the job just as well with a little bit of elbow grease- and it smells better, too! These are just a few of the many basic things that we come to learn as boaters that make practical sense and are also easier on the environment.


Think about the environment when doing boatwork

Out on the water I also learned that the best and safest way also tends to be the most environmentally conscious way. Nobody wants to go swimming in a toilet. That’s why we’ve established NDZs (No Discharge Zones) to keep our waters clean of sewage. Some locales have gone as far as limiting the discharge of gray water by establishing ZLDs (Zero Liquid Discharge zones) because not everyone cleans their boat with the stuff that comes in the green package. Anchoring is another thing to consider. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of losing an anchor on a reef, you know that it can be a scary and expensive mistake. Not to mention, if you’re a diver you know that the damage isn’t only to the boat’s gear inventory. Green boating also considers such things as this.

There are many more basic everyday things we can all do out on the water and at the dock to make our boating lives easier and more comfortable while at the same time protecting the environment that we are there to enjoy. Some of these things are easy and you can do them right now without a significant change to your lifestyle. However, there are also other steps you can take that might be considered a step beyond the basics, but if you’re willing to make the leap of faith, I think you’ll understand what I mean when I say green boating is immeasurably more rewarding.
A few years ago I got tired of the sound and smell of the diesel engine aboard my boat, Intrepid and replaced it with an electric propulsion system. At the time it seemed like a crazy idea, but I can honestly say it was the best thing I ever did. The advantages of an electric propulsion system are: 1.) they are cleaner, with no exhaust fumes to make you seasick, 2.) quieter, allowing for a more tranquil experience on the water, 3.) reliable, since electric motors are simpler than a conventional combustion/ diesel engine they are easier to maintain and fix yourself if necessary 4.) higher torque at low RPMs makes docking much easier, 5.) don’t use fossil fuels. However, these selling points don’t fully express the true advantage of “going electric” with your sailboat.

            The one major drawback to having an electric propulsion system is the reduced range under power. This one drawback is undoubtedly the major reason why electric propulsion hasn’t been universally accepted by sailors yet. However, I have learned that this drawback, believe it or not is actually one of the biggest benefits of going electric on a sailboat. Intrepid’s electric propulsion system can push the boat along at hull speed at full throttle for a short period of time and at slower speeds we can motor somewhat longer. The electric motor truly acts as an “auxiliary” propulsion system- as it is defined, and is there when I need it for docking, getting in and out of the marina and for occasionally gliding between lulls out on the open water.

Crystal clear waters of Tokashiki jima worth protecting

Since my electric powered sailboat has limited range under power, I have had to completely re-think my philosophy about what it means to be sailing. Since I can’t use the motor if I don’t like the direction of the wind, I have to sail as much as possible. Having no choice but to sail has drastically increased my confidence and improved my sailing abilities. I have also discovered how to get the most sailing performance from my boat and found that she was actually designed to sail- imagine that! Of course, it should also be said that certain instincts and skills that all sailors should develop, like sail trim, trip planning and interpreting the weather forecast become very important and you must develop these skills even further when you go electric. For me, this personal transformation has led me to enjoy the sport of sailing so much more.

            In the future we can expect pressure on the environment to inevitably increase, while we continue to be drawn to the water. The responsible and prudent sailor keeping a weather eye on the state of the world would be smart to think of “green boating” as just “normal boating.” With this change in mindset, you’ll discover that boating is just as much fun and can be rewarding on a much higher level.
Five things you can do right now to go green on your boat:
1.) Follow the laws regarding discharge of solid and liquid waste and the spilling of oil and other hazardous materials. Recycle your garbage, like you do on land.
2.) Wherever available, choose non-toxic paints, solvents and other environmentally friendly cleaning and maintenance methods. Do your boat maintenance on land if possible.
3.) Do something about your engine- keep it well tuned, prevent oil leaks, be careful when you re-fuel and minimize idle time. Combustion engines on a boat are probably the biggest environmental concern.
4.) Improve your sailing skills- the more you sail, the less you motor. You’ll enjoy being out on the water, you’ll go faster so less algae will grow on your hull, reducing the need to scrape toxic bottom paint into the water.
5.) Check out lots of other great green boating tips from these references:
Boat Green: 50 Steps Boaters Can Take to Save Our Waters,Clyde W. Ford, New Society Publishers 2008
Sustainable Sailing: Go Green When You Cast Off, Dieter Loibner,Sheridan House, 2009
On the Internet:

by Greg

Bracing for a Tsunami in Okinawa: A Cautionary Tale

September 3, 2011 in Local Sailors

Featured in Lattitudes and Attitudes magazine, July 2011 p. 78

Ginowan Marina

            You’ve heard the stories and seen all the pictures of the devastation in Japan in the aftermath of the big earthquake and tsunami off Sendai, Japan. This is a story of one American sailor’s experience in an area of Japan that missed the physical effects but is still reeling from the psychological effects of the big tsunami.

            In the afternoon of Friday March 11, 2011, I was sitting on my boat in Okinawa, Japan. I was supposed to go sailing this weekend with my friends Rick and Maggie who were stationed here with the U.S. Marines. We were supposed to meet at 5pm but I arrived an hour earlier to prepare. When I first drove into the parking lot of Ginowan Marina, on the west coast of Okinawa, I thought there seemed to be an odd commotion of people hanging around, but I really didn’t think anything of it and went down to the boat. As I walked down the docks I noticed a few people putting out extra lines and fenders on their boats and vaguely wondered, is there a storm coming? As I got the boat ready to sail for the weekend, I had some time so I went up by the marina office to get a can of coffee. As I walked up I met another expat friend, Clyde who said, “Hey did you hear there was an earthquake and we’re on alert for a tsunami?” He said it half with a snicker, like yeah we’ve been through this drill before. As Clyde warned me, it was then that I realized that there were fire trucks and police cars driving up and down the street, announcing to people that they must evacuate. People around the marina were also starting to shuffle around more purposefully and many were leaving.
            People in Japan know that this island country sits on a fault line and gets earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis regularly. They always seem to happen somewhere else though, and never do that much damage. Even so, the Japanese people are amazingly well prepared and even if there was any damage it would be repaired the next day. Just last year, in fact there was an earthquake somewhere in Japan and we had a tsunami warning in Okinawa. They closed the marina all day and told us we had to evacuate, which was a big inconvenience since I was in the middle of painting. Last year when the time came for the tsunami to hit, my curiosity got the best of me and I sneaked in past the guards and waited off by the seawall, with my camera to watch. When the time came when it was supposed to hit, there was not even a ripple on the water and I was quite disappointed, to be honest. I was sure the same thing would happen this time. Tsunami, big deal. I sort of hoped it would come, wouldn’t that be interesting! I got my camera ready again this time.
            Sometime after 5pm, when my friends were supposed to meet me to talk about our sailing trip and also about the time the tsunami was supposed to hit Okinawa, I was hanging out on my boat, looking at the water with camera in hand. It was oddly quiet on the docks, when my phone rang. It was a very bad connection on the phone, with the antenna bars showing full service, but we weren’t able to connect. Just to check my phone, I tried calling a few friends, but with no luck. I wondered, did I forget to pay my cell phone bill? Later, I would learn that as a result of the disaster, cell phone service throughout all of Japan was disrupted. Finally quite awhile later, my friend Maggie was finally able to get through and told me frantically, “I’m so sorry Greg, we have to cancel. I don’t even know what’s going on but Rick just got called for duty this weekend. I guess this tsunami really is a big deal.” Rick, I would later learn would be part of the US military’s Operation Tomodachi humanitarian relief operations.
            Disappointed that my sailing trip was cancelled and a bit lonely being the only person at the marina, I left and then learned on TV with everyone else about what had just happened. One of the biggest natural disasters in our lifetimes had just occurred, with tens of thousands of lives ended and entire cities erased in a matter of minutes by Mother Nature’s unforgiving fury. Words can’t describe what we’ve all seen in the news by now. It’s shocking to see what an earthquake and tsunami like this can do to the one country in the world most prepared to deal with something like this. What I thought was almost as shocking was watching a YouTube video of Santa Cruz harbor in California, that saw the tsunami wave wreak havoc- several thousand miles away- destroying docks, sinking a few boats and damaging several others. I still don’t quite understand why Okinawa was spared, with the computer models showing that we should have experienced something at least comparable to California.

            Looking back on it, the emergency personnel ordering residents to evacuate weren’t just going through the motions. The people who left the marina weren’t just following orders. They were smart. I don’t mean this to sound insensitive, but I have to wonder how many of the 20,000 or so people who died from the tsunami, did so while standing on the seawall with their cameras? Because I know that with my prior attitude, I’m quite convinced that if I was in Sendai, I would not be alive today because I know I would’ve been the idiot to stay behind to watch and take pictures.

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