"Way back in 1990 when Steven Munatones crossed the Tsugaru Channel, he used 2 escort boats," explained Yuko Matsuzaki of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and daughter of the former director of the Japanese Coast Guard. "While each major channel in the world has its own traditions, the Japanese always have good reasons for their marine laws and requirements."
Team Ocean-navi #2 was a typical example of why two escort boats are required in the Tsugaru Channel. The 4-person relay under the guidance of Captain Mizushima started at 4:00 am and finished nearly at 6:00 pm for a 13 hour 56 minute crossing.
The crossing was successful as the relay cut across the Tsugaru Current and sliced across the usual Tsugaru winds. All in all, the swim went according to plan and fortunately as the team neared their finish on Hokkaido, the winds stopped. Things in the Tsugaru Channel became calm, but they faced other problems.
As they were swimming towards the Hokkaido coastline, they had a very difficult time to land in Hokkaido due to longline fishing net.
The Tsugaru Channel season coincides with the tuna fishing season. The Tsugaru fishermen's union set its net for longline fishing and these nets always change their location. To protect their very expensive nets, the fishermen's union orders swimmers to use two escort boats. One guides the swimmer staying close and one to scout ahead to make sure no longline nets are damaged or crossed. It's not a wish to abide by their decree. It is a flat-out order that all swimmers must follow at the risk of having all future swims cancelled due to the power of the local union.
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