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Old 09-03-2011, 08:06   #16
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On Your Route, the Ryukus etc - What I Think ...

... is that, when confronted with the choice between speed and safety, you have made the choice that any serious cruiser would make.

I also think that it is an honor to be in the presence of such obviously accomplished individuals who, like yourself, and the gentlemen advising you above, are capable of offering me much more than I can offer in return. As seems obvious from the thread above, you have taken the good advice of some old hands and done a lot of research on your own to come up with what seems like a smart strategy.

What I might be able to offer that is somewhat valuable, is my personal experience with the coastal conditions that you are likely to encounter in the Ryukus, once you head north of Taiwan. What I will say for starters is that I have noticed typhoons originating further north this year than at any time in the last decade that I have lived in the Phillipines.

I can also say that, while these storms have often chosen paths originating in the east, crossing Luzon and heading into the Taiwan Straits, this year I have witnessed many of them bearing completely east of Luzon, and, instead of heading into the Straits, they have moved north off the EAST COAST of Taiwan, directly effecting the course you plan to take. From there, the cyclones have directly impacted the southermost Island of the Japanese mainland.

Given my admittedly unscientific observations, I would say that your choice of timing is even more prescient than one might assume. If last year's La Nina typhoon paths offer any clue as to what we can expect in the coming season, I would say that you have most likely picked a time frame safer than what the traditional measures might indicate.

I am not sure of your overall schedule or how long you want to dally in the Ryukus, but if you are being safety conscious, you need to get north of Okinawa, ideally by July 1 and well before September, which is the most active month and the time when the real typhoons usually begin to hit.

I surfed and boated along the coast of Okinawa for 7 years, and based on my experience, I can tell you that, along the coast, April, May and June are usually dead calm. In seven years, I never witnessed an April storm, but I have witnessed at least one major May typhoon and a number of early June typhoons as well. And, just because a storm is early does not mean that it will be "mild". In fact the exact opposite is sometimes true.

July is less predictable than June, and August can be very dangerous with seas reaching over 30 feet. Last year, at least two or three big storms rolled right over the top of Okinawa, disrupting communications and closing the whole island down - an event which is not at all uncommon during that season. Last year, many more typhoons and tropical depressions passed to the east of Okinawa, right through your projected path, and close enough to cause significant problems for anyone near the island chain leading from Ishigaki up to the mainland.

Again, I am not sure of your time table, and I am sure you are aware of these dangers, but folks often dally in Ishigaki, in Okinawa and in the small islands immediately west of mainland Okinawa because these spots offer beautiful scenery and some surprizingly gorgeous, well preserved reefs. Be warned, however, that dallying too long can have consequences.

Not sure how much you have looked at Okinawa, but, on the west coast, about halfway up the island, there is a US military-run yacht harbor called "Kadena Marina", named after the city close by. The folks there are usually very friendly, the marina is open to visiting yachts, and the rates are cheap. The marina is a great place to wait out a typhoon since they have a unique system whereby they lift yachts out of the water, hoist them onto specially designed, often huge trailers, and tie them down to metal anchors embedded in the asphalt and concrete pavement of the marina.

Bigger boats and visiting boats are usually moved to the Higa river just north of the marina, and folks tend to make a party out of the event, staying up all night, tying up to large barges and to anchors placed on cliffs bordering the river, drinking and conversing until the storm passes. It's a sight to behold.

What I can also say is that Okinawa is probably one of the safest places to sit out a typhoon, anywhere between Taiwan and the Japanese mainland. If you need to enter the Higa River to sit out a storm, be VERY conscious of the tides. They can vary about 6 feet or so, and, during especially low tides, each entrance of the river will sport reef which is exposed more than a foot above the waterline. Coming in at night, can be hazardous, especially with a typhoon imminent, due not only to the tides but due to the local fisherman racing in to find a place to tie up.

In any case, those are some of the rather unique observations which I can share with you in hopes of giving you at least some tidbit of insight which you might find worthy of consideration. Given your tendency toward thorough research, perhaps you can find some data somewhere that will back up some of the admittedly subjective observations above, and if not, well, at least you now know something about Higa river typhoon parties : )

Take from the well, and drink passionately.

Best regards.


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Old 11-03-2011, 17:23   #17
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Tsunami Update: Radioactive Leaks

Lates on the Tsunami ....

Not to make light of a situation which is causing serious tragedy across the entire nation, but the Tsunami may be the least of our worries as international travellers. It's morning here in Asia, and the latest is that, at 9am, steam was intentionally leaked from one of the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Shades of Chernobyl here ...

Finally, the government has formally acknowledged that both the Fukushima #1 and 2 nuclear plants may "fail". The THRTEEN generators which run the electricity needed to run the cooling systems and back-up cooling systems have "failed" due to the quake, so the reactors cannot be cooled at the moment. Evacuation orders have been extended from 3 kilometers to 10 at the moment. You may very well want to put all plans on hold til we find out more about the actual threat.

While the Tsunami wave hit 9.27 meters in Fukushima province, in Okinawa, it was only half a meter. Interesting, Crescent City California, had a 2.5 meter Tsunami that caused quite a mess. Makes one wonder. NHK World (Japanese Cable TV in English) is perhaps the best venue in |Asia for foreigners to monitor the situation

Good luck to you and to all our friends in the north,


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