This post has been a long time in coming, I finally found the time to sit down and type it all up. Sorry to have taken so long with it.

When I started preparing to move to Japan, I thought that it would be sad that I would not be able to go sailing for an entire year. However, I happened across a website of Japanese sailing clubs one day while trying to discover if Japan requires a boating license (they do) as countries in Europe do. This page led me to the websites of two clubs in Fukuoka, and, with the help of Google’s translation feature, I was able to find a club similar to the one I’m a member of back home.

The club members where a bit surprised when I arrived. The club isn’t easy to find on the web if you don’t read Japanese, and the marina is difficult to get to without a car, or an incredible knowledge of the bus system. After sorting out membership, and paying my dues (which was an adventure in itself), I was finally a member of the club.

Above is a photo of the marina dingy tarmac. This is where all the boats live, lashed to the ground, while not in the water. In the background, near the launching ramp, you can see the boats from the local university getting ready to sail.

These are the private boats of some of the club members. I was told that at least one of them is over 100 years old, and her owner is over 80 years old and a great sailor.

The median age of the club is pretty high, in my 30s, I’m one of the youngsters. Some of the members of the club have been on a high school or university sailing team, but just as many started sailing when they joined the club.

Back home, the sailing club is pretty disorganized, you can show up at any time, leave at any time, and checkout any boat you want. The club here (which I’ve been told is pretty laid back) is very organized.

The day starts at 9am, there is a meeting about the day’s activities, followed by assignments to boats. Then we rig the boats, change into our sailing gear, and then, before we put anything in the water, we have a group stretching session followed by a final briefing. The stretching part cracks me up, the Japanese love group stretching, if this was a track team, then I’d totally understand, but this is sailing. I play along because a little extra stretching doesn’t hurt. Of course, I should be thankful, in addition to stretching, both the high school and the university teams have group “whooping” sessions where the object seems to be to appear to be as excited as possible. The day concludes with yet another meeting before we all go home. It’s not bad, it’s just different.

Here, one of the members rigs a “Hopper”, which, as far as I can tell, is identical to a Laser.

Another type of boat here is rigged with one of two different cleats for the main halyard. This will probably only be of interest to sailors. The most common type (above) is just a small metal nugget which perches on its cleat. The slightest nudge will dislodge it, so it must be held in place with a short length of line.

Another similar halyard cleat, which is less common, is the slightly adjustable model shown here.

In both cases the halyard is steal cable cut to the length of the mast, ensuring a perfect fit when cleated in place.

The reason for this design is to facilitate quickly dropping the main sail. This is necessary when docking as it’s a down wind run to the launching ramp, and approaching with too much speed could mean running aground on concrete.

There is a lot more to tell about this club, but I’ll save that for another post.


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