TOKYO--There are days where everything shatters, such as the
glass bead day I described some time ago, and others where
everything works out. Such as today.
Got to Hota, a small fishing port on the Tokyo bay side
of the Boso peninsula, shortly before noon. Turning the
inflatable from an unsightly lump of PVC into a tidy 10-foot
boat complete with wooden floor boards and loaded with
bento, beer, and cell phone took about 30 minutes. Off
the back hangs a shiny silvery 5-horsepower Honda outboard,
about as non-polluting as outboard engines get, because this
is a 4-stroke baby that keeps its oil to itself rather than
slavering it all over the place as common 2-stroke engines do.
Thanks to the typhoon brush-by yesterday, the air is
uncommonly clean. Miura peninsula on the other side,
about 12 km away, can be seen as if waiting to be touched.
To the south, Oshima, the first of the Izu islands, looms
as a gray-brown but distinctly visible shadow. The sea
is fairly calm (docile half-meter waves) and the wind is
north-easterly, which is good, because it blows from the
land and therefore whips up no great rollers, such as the
southerly wind from the Pacific can.
It looked so easy
I set out, intending to do some coast-hugging as usual and
maybe exploring Uki-shima a short way off the coast, doing
a little snorkeling in my jellyfish-proof suit. But then, I
suddenly remember that when I bought this boat a few months
ago, I had had this crazy idea of crossing Tokyo bay with
it. After all, it looked so easy on the sea chart--but a few
bouts with serious waves a little distance off shore had
soon cured me of the notion.
Yet today, conditions seem to be perfect. Next to the waves,
the biggest problem when crossing this part of Tokyo bay is
the monster ships that constantly ply the Uraga strait,
headed for or coming from Yokosuka, Kawasaki, Yokohama,
Tokyo, Chiba, and Ichikawa (between them some to the busiest
harbor real estate the world has to offer). But today, I at
least can see the ships from afar with pinpoint clarity,
which makes it easier to judge their speed and keep out of
their way. The waves look quite manageable, and the sky
seems non-threatening as well (and of course I have heard
the weather forecast), so after leaving the shore I simply
keep on going, fixing my sights on the flashing
chimneys of Kurihama power station.
Sounds like fun
In an inflatable such as mine (and in most other power boats
as well) you cannot vary speed continuously as you can in a
car. Rather, you basically have only the choice between
slowly (very slowly) chugging along, being pushed this way
and that by whimsical cross currents and playful waves, or
getting "on plane," that is cranking up the engine until the
front part of the boat (hopefully) lifts out of the water
and the boat suddenly gains a considerable amount of speed.
The latter sounds like fun, and it is, provided you do it on
a lake with a mirror-like surface and no obstacles in sight.
On the sea, planing usually means that you continuously
burst through a wave crest, only to crash (sometimes pretty
violently) into the trough on the other side, which can get
pretty tiring (as well as thoroughly wetting in a small boat
such as mine).
But here I am, heading into one of the busiest sea lanes in
the world, and chugging along at 2 or 3 knots simply will
not do if I want to evade the occasional (and surprisingly
fast-moving) mammoth plus the many assorted mid-sized
vessels that suddenly loom pretty large on the horizon. What
I end up doing is using a combination: cranking up the power
(and holding on tight) when I have to evade, and letting up
a bit when it seems permissible.
Farther than it seemed