Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Voyages of Zen

After Shirahae's return to Japan in 1992 she was sold in 1994 to Mr "Zen" Nishikubo.  Zen renamed the boat to Zen and had her topsides repainted, changing from white to a gorgeous dark blue.  The information below is a summary (and translation) of some of the information on Zen's web site at

In June 1995 Zen sailed from Yokohama to Victoria, Canada.  Zen sailed this passage single-handed, taking 53-days and having an encounter with a hurricane and suffering severe fresh-water shortage.

Zen's arrival at Victoria, Canada, 1995
From Canada, Zen sailed south along the Canadian and US west coasts.  Zen departed San Diego in February to commence her 1997 South Pacific cruise.  Zen visited Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tonga and New Zealand, arriving in New Zealand in December.

Zen in the South Pacific, 1997

After spending the cyclone season in New Zealand Zen continued in June 1998 to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and on to Mooloolaba, Australia, arriving in November.

Zen stayed in Mooloolaba until June 2000 when he departed single-handed towards Darwin.  Zen visited Rosslyn, the Whitsundays, Townsville, Cairns, Lizard Island and Night Island.  Sadly, Zen ran aground while approaching Turtle Head Island to anchor at 0830 on 9th August.  The boat was very badly damaged, with the aft end of the keel fracturing the hull and frames above it.

With help from other sailors Zen managed to sail to Thursday Island, where the boat was loaded onto a freighter and shipped to Cairns.  The damage was repaired there and Zen sailed south back to Mooloolaba where he decided to sell the boat.

It was a very sad end to a great voyage.  Zen's five year adventure covered 20,000nm port-to-port and probably substantially more on the log, with large parts of the voyage sailed single-handed.

After Zen sold the boat and returned to Japan the next owners used the boat to import a large quantity of drugs into Australia in 2001.  They were arrested shortly after returning to Mooloolaba from collecting the drugs offshore since topsides damage was noticed and reported.  Zen became the property of "the Crown" until she was sold at auction.

The next owner John refitted the boat, repairing the topsides damage and improving the grounding damage repairs.  Zen again had white topsides and her Aries vane gear was removed.  John sailed in Moreton Bay, Brisbane and owned Zen from November 2001 to November 2003.

The final owner prior to us was Rex.  Rex raced Zen on Moreton Bay, winning an inshore series and completing the 2007 Brisbane to Gladstone offshore race.  Rex replaced standing rigging, most sails and upgraded various equipment.

Zen on Moreton Bay, 2009
All in all, our boat has had an interesting life.  She has sailed well over 50,000nm, survived encounters with hurricane and Cape Horn storm, survived a major grounding, and at all times looked after her crew.  We'll try hard to look after her.

The Voyages of Shirahae

As stated previously, Zen was launched in 1986 as Shirahae ("Great South Wind").  Her first owners were Mr & Mrs Amanuma, who have kindly given permission for this information to be posted.

In May 1988 Shirahae sailed from Yokohama to San Francisco.  From there she sailed south visiting ports along the west coast of the Americas, including Los Angeles, San Diego, La Paz, Acapulco, Golfito, Salinas, Callao, Antofagasta, Valparaiso, Valdivia, Puerto Montt, Golfo de Ancud and various locations in Patagonia.

In Patagonia Shirahae visited Caleta Austral, Caleta Connor, Puerto Eden, Caleta Sandy, Puerto Charrua, Bahia Wide, Puerto Mayne, Bahia Isthmus, Isla Tamar, Caleta Notch, Puerto San Miguel, Cabo San Isidro, Puerto San Juan and Punta Arenas.  From Punta Arenas Shirahae continued to Puerto Sofia, Bahia Morris, Seno Ocasion, Puerto Fortuna, Bahia Romanche, Puerto Williams, Caleta Banner, Puerto Toro and Isla Maxwell.  From Isla Maxwell Shirahae sailed around Cape Horn (on 9th March 1990) and on to Caleta Banner, Puerto Espanol and Bueno Suceso.  Most of these locations are described in the downloadable US Sailing Directions for the area (Pub 124 and Pub 125).  For pictures of the area see Beth and Evans's (contemporary high latitude cruisers) Chile Web Page.

From Beuno Suceso Shirahae departed Patagonia and sailed north up the east coast of South America, stopping at Mar del Plata, Montivideo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Natal.  Her voyage continued west to the Panama Canal via Cayenne, Georgetown, Port of Spain, Pampatar, Mochima, Cayo de Aqua, Kralendijk, Curacau and Cartagena.  Shirahae transited the Panama Canal in November 1991.

From Panama returned to Golfito, completing her circumnavigation of South America.  From there she sailed to Hawaii and home to Japan, arriving in May 1992.

Shirahae's four year voyage amounts to at least 30,000nm port to port, with the log mileage probably significantly higher.  What an adventure!

Here is an illustration of Shirahae's voyage (black track), plus Mr & Mrs Amanuma's later voyage in a second Shirahae.

Shirahae Voyage 1988-1992 (black track)
The Amanumas wrote a Cruising Guide (in Japanese) following their second voyage.  Their web site is  A Japan Times Article describes part of their voyage (after first describing another Japanese family's adventures.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Refit 2010

In the nine months since we bought Zen we've done a lot of work.  We started off with a very sound and well cared-for vessel.  Her standing rigging was replaced in 2007, except for the forestay which was replaced in 2005 as part of a furler replacement.  However a lot of the electrical gear was tired and maintenance had focussed on day-sailing and weekend cruising, while we are looking to live aboard while cruising.

  • Replaced most electrical wiring, excluding engine and in-mast cables
  • Replaced most switches and all breakers
  • Replaced cabin light globes with LED versions and added additional LED cabin lights
  • Replaced VHF and installed goalpost-mounted emergency antenna
  • Replaced HF radio and ATU, and tested use of WinMor for HF email (amateur band)
  • Replaced FUSOhelm tiller pilot with Raymarine tiller pilot
  • Installed Xantrex LinkLite Battery Monitor
  • Replaced instrument panel
  • Replaced chart table top
  • Stripped and revarnished companionway steps
  • Improved access to various inaccessible "voids" (every bit of stowage space counts!)
  • Built and installed new tiller
  • Stripped and oiled coachroof teak handholds
  • Fitted UK Halsey boom bag
  • Fitted Selden RodKicker
  • Replaced all halyards and most sheets
  • Replaced main anchor (Manson Supreme), anchor chain and warp
  • Installed new kedge anchor and chain/warp
  • Serviced original Aries Vane Gear
  • Serviced or replaced safety gear (EPIRB, danbuoy, lifering, lifesling, harness tethers, flares etc)

New instrument panel and chart table top
The Aries vane gear wasn't bought with the boat but was rediscovered by a previous owner (JohnH) after I contacted him.  Considering the gear has travelled well over 50,000nm on the boat it was in very good condition.  The only parts needing replacement were the universal joint balls which form part of the transom mounting brackets - they were badly corroded.  Amazingly parts can still be provided from the UK.

Aries Vane Gear after service
Right now Zen is on the hard at Noakes Boatyard in Sydney for a cleanup of the hull.  The many years of soft antifoul are being removed; significant osmosis blisters made good; thru-hulls and rudder bearings checked; a very old depth transducer removed; and the hull epoxied and Coppershield antifoul applied.

Hauling out at Noakes Shipyard, Sydney
So far, so good!

Step One - Bought the Boat!

After six years in Canberra we have decided its time to move on.  We moved to Canberra from Fremantle with the objective of preparing to go cruising.  We arrived on the east coast with a beautiful boat but soon realised we'd have to sell her to meet our objective.  That was tough, but five years later we have another great boat and are nearly ready to go!

We bought Zen in March 2010.  Zen is a 34' (10.4m) cutter rigged yacht.  She is a Yamazaki Yachts ST10.4.  The ST10.4 was designed by Japanese naval architect Ken Hayashi and about 6 were built.  Zen was launched in 1986 as Shirahae ("Great South Wind").

From 1988 to 1992 Shirahae's first owners sailed her from Japan to the US west coast, south around South America (including Cape Horn), west through the Panama Canal, and back to Japan via Hawaii.

From 1995 to 2001 her second owner renamed her Zen and sailed single-handed from Japan to Canada, south to the US, and across the South Pacific to New Zealand and Australia.  On 9th August 2000 Zen ran aground south of Torres Strait and was badly damaged.  She was repaired but then put up for sale.

In 2001 Zen was sold and subsequently used to (unsuccessfully) import A$127M of drugs into Australia.  Between 2002 and 2010 Zen was based in Brisbane.  She was raced successfully at RQYS and completed the 2007 Brisbane to Gladstone offshore race.

In 2010 we sailed Zen south from Brisbane to her new home at Batemans Bay, NSW via the Gold Coast, Port Stephens, Sydney and Jervis Bay.  Since then we have been refitting her for cruising.

Our blog is named for our yacht's likely name "Zen Again" after we register her as an Australian ship since a Zen is already on the register.