Events are completely overtaking our blog writing again. We are currently already three port stops from Yakushima, but we’ll try to write in chronological order now, so let’s start with our three-day stop in Miyanoura port on beautiful Yakushima island.
We arrived in Miyanoura port after a lovely overnight sail from Naze. The wind was fresh and from an angle that is very comfortable for our boat (broad reach), so apart from the heat and humidity that we cannot get away from, the conditions were fantastic. Big Sis was on watch until 2 am, so Mr Finn and I had plenty of sleep that night too (thanks Big Sis!). The Miyanoura port, as most ports that we stop at, is a working port but a quiet one. We knew from the sail blogs of those other rare sailors that have ventured to Japan in earlier years that they had stopped in Miaynoura, so we had a bit of a shock when we made our way into port as our depth sounder showed that it was almost too shallow for our boat (none of the many charts we have showed the depth of the port). In fact, we soon realised that it would indeed be too shallow three days later at spring tide! However, we had no choice but to stay at that port, as that was the only port that we had permission for from the Ministry of Transport (having driven around the island, we later realised that there weren’t any better locations to moor anyway). We quickly decided that we would use the spring tide as our “deadline” to leave Yakushima, since the forecast was for good weather too. The other option would have been to sail out of the port before the low tide, and wait around for the water level to rise again, but we didn’t fancy having to dock in the port again, as it was a bit tricky the first time around.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Yakushima island – a World Heritage Site – is extremely beautiful. Its natural wonders include the “Yakusugi” cedar trees, which at best are 3000 years old. These trees grow in the mountains, and as the island cannot really be appreciated from the towns dotting the coastline, we rented a car and drove up to the mountains. The vegetation in the mountains reminded us of New Zealand with its moss-covered trees and rocks, streams, waterfalls and the smell of lush greenery. It was also 5 degrees cooler in the mountains than at the seaside, something we truly enjoyed!
We were also lucky enough to encounter lots of wildlife on Yakushima. A sea snake (Banded Sea Krait) decided to take a liking to our boat and kept swimming around it for a couple of hours. A land snake (Tiger Keelback) also chose to show itself on our way around the island. We saw several monkeys (Yakushima macaque) and deer (Yakushika) up in the mountains. The monkeys on this island apparently sometimes ride on the backs of the deer, but that is something we did not manage to witness. In the evening, on our way back to Miyanoura port, we stumbled upon the magical sight of hundreds of crabs crossing the road on their way to the beach – Mr Finn had a hard time trying to avoid crushing them!
We also had the unexpected pleasure of witnessing a live space rocket launch in the area. We got a warning about the launch on our Navtex boat messaging system, and of course then wanted to see the rocket, as we had never seen a live launch before. Apparently, it was a big thing for the Japanese too.
We also got a great send-off from Yakushima. The evening before we were due to leave, we returned late to our boat and slightly wondered why there were cars parked everywhere in the otherwise quiet port. We showered and were ready to go to bed (we had a 5 am wake-up the next day) when we suddenly started to hear the sound of fireworks. We went up into the cockpit and enjoyed a fantastic 20-minute fireworks show for which we had an absolute prime view. We later learnt that the fireworks marked the end of the Goshinzan festival, and the Japanese take their fireworks very seriously. The fireworks we saw in Okinawa a few weeks back paled in comparison with the Miaynoura display. When the fireworks ended and the cars started to leave the port, we felt very privileged to have been able to watch the show from our very own boat-home!