May 16, Fukuoka
IN ANTICIPATION of our passage through the narrow, tricky Kanmon Strait into the Seto Inland Sea, which is cradled by Japan’s larger southern islands and dotted with hundreds of smaller ones, I’m given a newbie’s orientation in the basics of canoe life.
I’ve been assigned to a watch crew under Dennis Chun, a veteran voyager and Hawaiian Studies professor from Kaua‘i with an always-ready roguish laugh. Since each of the foam-pad bunks beneath canvas tenting in the canoe’s manu, or hulls, is shared between two crew members on alternating watches, I’m assigned a bunk partner, a gregarious, curly-locked bruddah named Keala Kai, who recently left his job as a county lifeguard on Kaua‘i to be a full-time artist. (“Sometimes, you just gotta pull up the anchor,” he explains.)
I’m shown the essentials of onboard cooking (on a gas stove in an enclosed fiberglass box on deck) and answering the call of nature (over the side at the stern, while wearing a safety harness and squatting on a catwalk outside the hull). And, most of all, I’m taught the Cardinal Rule: Don’t go overboard!
Finally, Dennis offers a few words of guidance. “Remember that we are not just sailing for ourselves,” he says. “We are sailing for all those who have come before us, and for those who will come after. So when you’re out there, and you’re cold, wet and tired, remember: We’re sailing for them.”