Tag Archives: Japanese Ship

Higaki Kaisen in NRG Journal

I got a nice surprise a couple months ago when the editor of the Nautical Research Journal, Paul Fontenoy, asked me to submit a short article on my Higaki Kaisen model. So, a while back, I sent him some photos to use and a very short write-up with some captions to accompany the photos. Then, I got an even nicer surprise when I was told the model would appear on the cover.

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Having been an NRG member/supporter and having long admired the models that have graced the pages of the Journal, this was a really tremendous honor. Now, I’ll have to admit, it really the model subject and the uniqueness of the kit that got the model on the cover and not my artistry or craftsmanship. But, still it’s pretty nice to see it there.

Of course, being that I’ve been advocating Woody Joe kits here, it’s great to get people’s attention this way. I got an extra copy of the issue and sent it Woody Joe and they should be receiving it any time now. I’m sure they’ll be very happy to see their kit receive such attention.

The timing of this article probably couldn’t be any better, as I just submitted the proofs for my Higaki Kaisen kit review article, which will appear in Seaways’ Ships in Scale in the next few weeks. As for my history/build article for Ships in Scale, I’ve been getting pretty distracted with all the projects I’m trying to get done. But, with these articles both out in August/September, I’ll need to get back on it very soon.

But, while I’m mentioning the NRG here, I would like to say that this is a really fine organization, dedicated to ship modeling, and it deserves and needs your support. It’s not all academic and it’s not about being “purists” or anything of the like. The tagline “Advancing Ship Modeling Through Research” is just to say it’s about making better models, it’s about helping the modeler make better models, it’s about getting help to build better models.

Seeing my own model on the cover, I can’t help but wonder when the last time was that a kit build was featured on the cover? Times really do change. So, join the NRG. It’s a great organization, you’ll be supporting a great cause (ship modeling) and you’ll get your quarterly issue of the Journal!

 

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The Kaiwo Maru Comes to San Francisco

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On Friday, May 2nd, passing beneath a fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, the Japanese sail training vessel Kaiwo Maru arrived at San Francisco. The steel hulled giant began her journey at Tokyo on the fourth of April and she spent nearly a month at sea under only sail power as the winds carried her across the Northern Pacific.

On Sunday, May 4th, the ship had scheduled an open house and the public was invited to see the ship and walk her decks and I made sure not to pass up the opportunity. This was the first real sail training ship I’d visited. She’s a four-masted, steel-hulled bark, and it didn’t really dawn on me just how big the ship was until some time after I looked at the many photos I took.

At just over 360 ft length over all (including bowsprit), she’s massive for a sailing ship. She’s about 60 feet longer than the Balclutha at Hyde Street Pier, and 80’ longer than the Star of India in San Diego. She is powered by a pair of diesel engines with a combined output of 3,000 horsepower that can drive her along at just over 16 knots, but their primary purpose is to get her in and out of port. Traveling across the ocean, her main source of propulsion is her 30,000 square feet of sails, which she used for about 90% of this journey.

The Kaiwo Maru is one of the more modern sail training vessels, having been built by Sumitomo Heavy Industries in Japan in 1989. She is the second of two vessel of the same class, the first being the sail training ship Nippon Maru II built in 1984. The two vessels are operated by the National Institute for Sea Training, which is a Japanese governmental institution begun in 1943 to train future maritime officers and engineers.

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The ships are technically the Shin Kaiwo Maru (New Kaiwo Maru) and Shin Nippon Maru (New Nippon Maru) or the Kaiwo Maru II and Nippon Maru II, replacing the training ships of the same name that were built in 1930.

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My own connection with this ship was purely by chance. I had been in email contact with a Japanese professor, Yutaka Masuyama, regarding research for my Edo Period Higaki Kaisen model, and found out he was going to be coming to San Francisco, and I’d have a chance to meet him in person. It turned out he was to be a passenger aboard the Kaiwo Maru and would be recording her sailing performance on the journey.

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Visiting the Kaiwo Maru

After the ship arrived, I went to visit the Kaiwo Maru at the open house and I had a great visit. In addition to her officers, the ship carried 160 cadets, all young Japanese men and a few women too that must have been all in their very early 20s, and they were stationed all over the ship to answer questions and to just be as helpful as possible.

I tried to spend a few minutes talking with several of them, asking mostly about their lives aboard the ship. These cadets are required to take part in several cruises over the course of their training. They are divided into two groups: Engineering and Navigation. The Navigation group handles the sails, while the Engineering cadets operate and maintain the engines, generators and pumps.

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The cadets live 5 to a cabin and they have to get accustomed to having very little freedom or privacy. Fresh water is scarce, so their use of it is rationed. Discipline is stressed, but they all know what they need to do and I was told by my new acquaintance, Professor Masuyama, that the cadets know what they need to do and need little prompting to do it.

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The cadets told me that one thing that is very good aboard the ship is the food. They have a Japanese chef and they eat well. They even catch the occasional Tuna or other fish and have very fresh sashimi.

But, traveling across the Pacific from Japan, the shortest route took them up to the Northern Pacific and the seas were very stormy. According to Professor Masuyama, the winds were up to 50 knot and the ship could heel as much as 30 degree. But as a sailing ship, she was in her element and reached speeds of 18 knots.

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She is, in fact, one of the fastest sail training ships in th world, having won the Boston Teapot Trophy on several occasions. That annual award goes to the sail training ship that records the furthest distance travelled in any 124-hour period. The Kaiwo Maru not only won the award four times, but also maintains the highest average speed recorded for the trophy.

I’m not sure how much of a consolation that was for the cadets who had to climb the ratlines under the conditions they did. I asked if they had safety lines, and one cadet explained that they did, except on the ratlines, which required them to simply hang on tight. He laughed it off, but admitted it was pretty scary.

For some cadets, this was their fifth or later cruise, for some, it was their first. One cadet admitted to feeling a bit homesick. But, they all seemed to enjoy their visit to San Francisco, and everyone got to visit the city. Most all of them went down to Fisherman’s Wharf and some trekked across the Golden Gate, visited Muir Woods or just saw the city sights.

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The cadets I spoke to were from Hokkaido, Kobe, Tokyo, Aomori, Osaka… all parts of Japan. One told me he was from Miyagi Prefecture, which was hit hard the by earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, but he assured me that his town was spared the damage that devastated other parts of the region.

 

Saying Goodbye

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After the visit, I thought that was end of my time with the Kaiwo Maru. But, as it turned out, I hadn’t had a chance to actually meet my contact, Professor Masuyama, so we arranged to meet at the pier to see off the Kaiwo Maru.

At just before 10am on Tuesday, May 5th, the cadets loosed the mooring lines and lined the decks in a very ceremonious departure. At the dockside, a couple dozen people came to see them off. The sounds of the bosun’s whistle called the cadets to action and they quickly climbed the ratlines, hand over hand. Some lined the lower yards, some went out on the topsail yards, some on the t’gallant yards or mast tops.

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To the calls of some Japanese commands sung out over the loudspeaker, they took their stances. White overalls, yellow hats, bare feet. A shout from a cadet riding the end of the bowsprit brought about a call from all the masts above and was repeated several times, hats in hand held over their hearts and then extended out with the cheers. I didn’t understand the words, but I was told by someone that it was a cheer of thanks to their hosts.

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Another call sung out in long tones over the loudspeaker and the cadets sharply turned “eyes right”. Another call and the their heads snapped forward, another salute. A final call and they all quickly took to the ratlines and were back down on the deck in short order.

By now, the ship had slowly been pulled away from the dock and the tugs were pushing her into the harbor as the small crowd on the dock waved goodbye. Soon, the ship was under her own power and heading back out under the Bay Bridge, giving a last blast of her horn.

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I’ve never actually witnessed a ship’s departure like this, and I have to say it was strangely very moving. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend. But, it wasn’t just the crew, it was the whole ship. It was like a living, breathing thing in and of itself – a big white creature swimming slowly out to sea. I couldn’t help but wish it a safe journey home, with the hope that it would come back to see us again soon. Ω

 

Kaiwo Maru in San Francisco – An Update

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I’ve been asking around about the Kaiwo Maru’s arrival at San Francisco and I did a quick Internet search and found out that the ship will be open to the public during specific times on Sunday, May 4th. I’m going to try to get over there in the morning and see if I can get some good pictures.

The details can be found on the Japanese Consultate web page:

http://www.sf.us.emb-japan.go.jp/archives/PR_e/2014/pr_14_0428.htm

Also, there is page on the National Institute for Sea Training in Japan that gives details about the Kaiwo Maru:

http://www.kohkun.go.jp/en/ship/kaiwomaru.html

Kaiwo Maru in San Francisco

I heard it from a colleague who heard it from a colleague that the Kaiwo Maru is coming to town. Sounds like the beginnings of a bad song… or a good song depending on your taste. But, in any case, I checked online and found on the San Francisco Port Department website that the Kaiwo Maru is indeed scheduled to be berthed at Pier 30/32 from May 2 to May 6, 2014.

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Photo from Wikipedia

For those of you who know nothing about the Kaiwo Maru, and I include myself in that group up until about a week ago, she is a Japanese sail training ship. Or, more precisely, a four-masted, iron-hull sail training bark. She and her sister ship, the Nippon Maru II, were built in 1980s to replace a pair of sail training ships built in 1930 and bearing the same names. Both are owned by the Japanese government and operated by the National Institute for Sea Training.

In addition, the Japanese Coast Guard ship Kojima, apparently a training vessel, will be at the same pier from May 22 to May 26. I only found out about that one when I looked at the SF Port Department website.

I don’t know what the San Francisco visits are about, and I don’t know if the ships will be open to visitors. I haven’t heard anything, but I will see what I can find out.

For those of you who are interested, Woody Joe makes kits of the Nippon Maru II (Shin Nippon Maru) in 1:160-scale and also in 1:80-scale. I think Aoshima also makes plastic versions, but I’m primarily a wood ship modeler, so don’t quote me on that!

Also, as an aside, Harold Underhill created plans of the original 1930 Kaiwo Maru and Nippon Maru which should still be available from Brown, Son and Ferguson, Ltd.