海王丸での航海体験日記 (Geoff) 3日目

Kaiwo Maru:Day three July 27, 2017

This morning we took the usual role call. There are two role calls, one early in the morning and another after lunch. We are expected to be present five minutes before the role call announcement. In fact by the time we heard the announcement for role call, we had already finished role call. This five minute rule applies to all other activities.After role call, they got the hoses out and started spraying sea water all over the deck: it was time for Turn To. The water was warm. Turn To is well noted as being a tough chore. This was probably from when a ship like Kaiwo Maru sailed to Hawaii. The ship would sail North towards Alaska, in order to catch the low air pressure to take the ship to its destination. Of course the temperature would have been unbelievably cold. For me, crouching down while scrubbing the deck was hard enough. By the third day, we had pretty much reached our destination, so the ship anchored in the nearby stretch of sea of Omaezaki, Shizuoka. We went up to the bridge to observe the lowering of the anchor. An anchor weighs around four tons, and the chain that it is attached to is huge. So the whole process is carried out under very close scrutiny. To lower the anchor there are two gaping holes in the front deck part of the ship that are opened up. Between these, the huge chain is hauled via a large cog, that is stared off by hand. I asked how the chains are stored below and was told that they are too heavy to lift so the chain drops into the the hull in a pile, naturally.

Later, they opened up the stern sail known as the Spanker. To do this required three crew to climb up the web and then balance on the parallel ropes while reaching across between two vertical ropes to get to the mast where the Spanker was attached.

This looked pretty dangerous to the untrained, and as we were asked to bring our harnesses, I felt my palms get sweaty again at the thought of the prospect of doing the same. But, fortunately, we only had to pull the ropes to open it up and pull other ropes to close it again. Three experienced crew members again climbed up and tied the sails back to their original position in no time. One of the members was a slightly mysterious slim gentleman with a grey goatee beard and sunglasses. I would often see him doing pull-ups under the bridge above the deck. As it turns out, he was in charge of all of the rings, nuts and bolts. Later, we went to look at the rooms where these and the sails were stored – incredible.

Our instructor told us that the college trainees would take twice as long to do the same to unpack and pack away the Spanker sail. I think it would have taken me a lot longer.

The afternoon activities comprised of four 45 minute sessions back-to-back. For this we divided up into pairs and were then assigned a group of college trainees to work and solve tasks with. The four sessions were:

  1. Planning a sea rout
  2. Emergency contingency related to the rudder
  3. Risk management
  4. Heaving line (throwing a line with a weight on the end over the side of the ship in practice for docking)

Working with and solving problems with the college trainees really got us involved on a hands-on level. I could tell that some of them had really done their homework.

At the end of the day, our chief instructor invited us to comment on the program. Most of my colleagues were repeaters. It was interesting to hear their thoughts. Overall, in comparison to other years, the curriculum was much more in-depth. Other years, they felt treated more like guests, but this time they felt as though they went through pretty much the same training as the college students. I have to admit the lectures were very in-depth. For example we learned how to make a safe passage schedule to our destination using maps, compasses and triangles. I can honestly say that it has been a very educational experience.

Finally, I would like to mention the college students. Most of the students will go on to work in the shipping industry. I was impressed at their level of skill and their overall good manners. It’s good to know that the future of Japan’s shipping industry will be in such capable hands.

It’s the last night for us, and while it has been a truly worthwhile experience, it has also been a tough one. So we enjoyed a nice last evening with a small party and each other’s company.

Geoff, aboard Kaiwo Maru


海王丸での航海体験日記 (Geoff) 2日目 

Kaiwo Maru:Day two July 26, 2017

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I woke up before my alarm went off at 6, at the much earlier than usual time of 5:30. Then it was time for morning exercises and breakfast. It was difficult to keep balance while doing the morning exercises, some of us (me included) were wobbling because of the rocking of the ship.

And then, it was time for “Turn To.” This is when someone sprays sea water all over the deck and a row of crew members kneel down and start scrubbing, using half of a coconut shell. The deck is made of teakwood and the best way to preserve it at sea is by washing it with seawater and scrubbing it with half a coconut shell. The rough edge of the coconut shell acts like a sort of brush. It was a lot more difficult than I had expected. It was difficult for me to keep my balance. Plus we all shouted out “Washoi”, a kind of “heave ho.” Shouting and scrubbing tired me very quickly.

After cleaning and breakfast, it was time for us to start learning the ropes. I explained to my shipmate that Westerners use this expression to convey the idea of learning something new. But, as this was a ship, the word literally means learning how to tie and arrange the ropes. The ropes of a sailing ship are one of the most important parts. We learned how to tie the ropes in a figure of eight around a pin that keeps the rope that controls the yard arm (the cross section of a mast).

After doing some rope work, it was time for that thing that I was dreading a little (only a little), yet was determined to do in order to push me out of my comfort zone: climbing the mast!

We were only allowed to climb to the “Top Platform”, which sounds like the very top part of the mast (Bird’s Nest) but in actual fact it is the lowest part. Having said that, it was about 15-20 meters high, which is pretty high when looking down. We took off our shoes and socks, attached safety harnesses and wore hard hats. Our instructor gave us a demonstration and assured us that the harness (an automatic slip action type, like a car seatbelt, would stop us from falling to the deck below. Climbing the web known as a Shroud was not so difficult, but the platform at the top overhung and we had to extend our arms in order to climb over it: this was the hardest and probably most terrifying part. I did the opposite and clung to it gradually using my knees and stomach to edge me over. My team of three made it safely up onto the platform and waved with relief as someone one of our instructors down below took photos of our relieved faces. Of course, it was time to climb back down after that. The descent was more painful than frightening, especially the soles of our feet, the insteps that never normally get used. It was such a relief and feeling of achievement once we got back down to the deck. Thanks to the instructors who were there to support us around the tricky bits we made it back in one piece.

It was time for lunch, and there was a certain sense of quiet among us while we ate.

After lunch, it was time for us to learn about the engine room. We first had a lecture on the workings of the propellers and the massive 6 cylinder Diesel engines that power them. Then, we put in ear plugs and got shown around the engine rooms. The first was the control room, which was full of dials and display. The instructor was telling us how they get the instructions from the bridge (via a signal) and then carry out the request. It occurred to me how involved the whole process is.

Then we were taken to the rooms where the actual engines were working. To my surprise, they even have a workshop of engineers who actually make replacement parts from scratch using lathes and clamps etc. I assumed that all of the repair work was done at dock. I was amazed that they had an onboard workshop.

To pretty much finish the day, we took turns going up the bridge where we actually got a chance to drive the ship and study the radars. It was wonderful to see everything in action.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

Geoff, aboard Kaiwo Maru

海王丸での航海体験日記 (Geoff)

Kaiwo Maru:Day one July 25, 2017

I arrived early before 8 am and was probably the first of the trainees to arrive. Then a kind man gave me a uniform to wear. As I was trying it on, my fellow trainee roommates arrived. Once we were all together, the first thing our instructors taught us was how to make our beds. The beds had to be made in a particular way and kept that way, in true military fashion. They even said that someone would come and check later as part of their inspection. Following this, we headed up to the deck to be briefed on how to use our life jackets and the evacuation procedure. We enthusiastically helped each other out during all of this, which was a good sign as we would be stuck with each other for the next three days.

After lunch, which was eel on rice, it was time for us to join the rest of the crew, who were cadets from a nearby university, and line up outside on the deck for a dress rehearsal of the sending off ceremony that was to be held at 12:30. When it was time, we left the ship to stand on the dock before an enthusiastic audience waiting to see us off. There was even a brass band from the local elementary school playing.

The mayor of the city wished us all well and we saluted him back. Then it was time to board the ship again and prepare for the voyage.

The cadets from the university then started climbing up the masts, some right up to the very top! Then they spread out across the yard arms precariously holding on to one rope and balanced on another rope in their bare feet! I asked one of the boys before he climbed up, “Does it hurt your feet?” He replied, “Yes, it does!” The crowd looked in awe as they then took off their yellow hats with one hand and shouted: “Gokigen yo!” (bon voyage!) The onlookers yelled the same back.


A while later, we learned how to chart a safe course using a map and compass. We had been covering this kind of material translating for a client, so it was good to see what we had translated put into practice.

We finished up the day with a round of self-introductions, starting with our teachers. We told each other about our motives for choosing to sail on Kaiwo Maru. It was interesting listening to why people wanted to participate. For most, it was for their love of the sea and the prospect of sailing on a ship as grand as Kaiwo Maru. For me, it was also a great chance to experience first hand the world which previously only existed in nautical terms in a dictionary.

Looking forward to tomorrow : )

Geoff, aboard Kaiwo Maru