For the first time I can actually post about sailing Tokyo Bay in this SailingTokyo blog! From now on I’ll try to provide some useful information to those looking to sail in this area.
Here’s the first useful tip: always check the tide chart! Most harbours around Tokyo Bay, especially the Chiba side, are extremely shallow. I found this out the hard way.
I launched Watari at 17:00 Saturday evening.
It would have been nice to get her in the water a little earlier, but the wind was too strong all afternoon to safely use the crane, and only died down in the evening. After getting her in the water I had to complete the engine to drive shaft alignment (the hull was slightly flexed out of shape while in the cradle onshore), make sure there were no leaks, and get the engine running in the boat for the first time. I had a bit of trouble with fuel lines getting crossed, which required bleeding air out of the system after, but I finally got her in good working order by about 19:00. I then motored her about a kilometer over to the Kisarazu yacht harbour and her appointed berth.
During the trip over I retired her old name and re-christened her “S.V. Watari” with a bottle of Yamazaki whiskey over her bow and a wee dram for the crew. Here’s a view of Kisarazu harbour from the water:
It was a clear night and the wind had died down to nothing, so it was an easy motor over to the yacht harbour and the spot the marina staff told me I could tie up at. I worked on her past midnight getting various things in order, then turned in for my first sleep aboard. I woke up to a beautiful sunny day, and a very calm harbour. So calm in fact, that there was no movement at all. No rocking, which is quite unusual even in the best harbours… I quickly discovered why. The marina staff forgot to mention, or perhaps didn’t remember, that it was one of the lowest tides of the year. By the time I realized it Watari was already grounded on a falling tide:
Lesson learned: the captain is always responsible for their own vessel, and should never blindly trust others, even marina staff. I should have checked the depth of her berth and the tide charts myself! I never imagined that someone would construct a yacht harbour where it’s so shallow there’s a risk of grounding, but there you go. It was quite worrisome to watch the water ebb away from beneath her, but by securing lines to the dock and kedging out two anchors attached to her halyards she settled down into the mud and stayed upright with no damage until the tide came back in. A testament to the strength of her keel and the repair job I did I suppose! A boat with a fin keel would have toppled over on her side for sure, most likely damaging both keel and rudder in the process. Anyhow, a very close call and an important lesson learned. The worrisome thing is that most of the yachts in the harbour were grounded during this extremely low tide. If this low tide were ever combined with a high wind the resulting pounding could damage a lightly built yacht, so for this reason I can’t recommend Kisarazu harbour to any except the most shallow-drafted keel boats.
When she finally floated free again I motored her out of Kisarazu harbour and into Tokyo Bay. It’s important to note that Tokyo Bay has clearly marked shipping channels. The main channel which runs in and out of the bay is designated commercial shipping traffic only, and is restricted for pleasure boats. Enter this area and the harbour patrol will chase you away. When traveling on the East side of the bay one must stay close to shore and out of the channel. It’s also very shallow here, so a good chart and a depth sounder are essential. I don’t have my depth sounder hooked up yet, so I had to pay careful attention to my location.
Nevertheless I was able to get her out into the open part of the bay and safely get the sails up. It was blowing about 15 knots, gusting to 25, and under reefed main and the #3 jib she sailed beautifully! I was really impressed by how fast she is for such a heavy, sturdy boat, and above all how stable she is! She heeled over about 30 degrees in the strongest gusts, but came back up immediately. I was pleasantly surprised how straight she tracks too. With just a bungy cord on the tiller I was able to raise and lower the sails singlehanded without much trouble. I was very happy to see that I could sail her solo with relative ease. Further tuning of her rig and systems will make this even easier.
It was hard to take pictures while sailing solo as there was a lot going on, but here’s a quick video and some pics of me sailing in front of the factory area of Kisarazu:
After a couple hours of sailing back and forth in front of Kisarazu I headed back in and dropped the sails in the lee of a moored supertanker, then motored back in. This time I made sure the marina prepared a deeper berth for her. You can see in this pic how she’s moored between four pilings:
There’s no dock here, so one needs a dinghy to get to shore, or to borrow the marina’s runabout like I did.
This part of Tokyo Bay is very industrial, and I’m frankly rather tired of it. I’m looking forward to sailing her a few hours south to her new home port as soon as time and weather allow.