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Kenichi Completes His Transpacific Voyage

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  • Kenichi Completes His Transpacific Voyage

    An 83-year-old sailor became the oldest person to cross the Pacific Ocean solo, arriving in Japan 69 days after leaving a San Francisco yacht harbor.

    ? Kyodo News ViaAssociated Press
    He’s 83. He just sailed alone from San Francisco to Japan

    83-year-old Kenichi Horie waves from his boat after his trans-Pacific voyage at Osaka Bay on Saturday.

    Kenichi Horie sailed into Kii Strait Saturday on his 19-foot aluminum sailboat, the Suntory Mermaid III, according to media reports,

    It wasn’t Horie’s first solo crossing — not even close.

    He’s traversed the Pacific by himself several times, the first in 1962 at age 23. He was an amateur seaman then, piloting a small plywood sloop from Osaka to San Francisco, subsisting on canned food and rice for 94 days. At the time, is was considered a one-man olive branch of postwar diplomacy between Pacific rivals and made Horie a national hero in Japan and launching his status as one of the most famous sailors in the world.

    “Even in the States, yachtsmen are inspired by his story,” said Morgan Smith, manager of interpretation, education and volunteers at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, prior to his departure in March. “He took a huge chance, being a young man alone on the ocean.”

    As the story goes, Horie traveled without a passport or currency and was promptly arrested upon arrival in San Francisco, then released by Mayor George Christopher who later awarded him a key to the city for his bravery.

    Before he left the Bay Area in March, Horie met fans, autographed books and posed for photos beneath the vessel he sailed in 1962 — the Mermaid, which lives in the museum’s foyer.

    “When I first came here 60 years ago, I never imagined I’d be back here 60 years later,” Horie told a crowd of about 100 people, through a translator.

    As to why he has pegged San Francisco for so many of his journeys, he said, “Of course, there are other ports — Seattle, Los Angeles — however, you guys have the most beautiful bridge in the entire world, so I’d like to make it my start.”

    In the past six decades, Horie has completed several Pacific voyages in an assortment of unusual, eco-minded vessels, including one powered by foot pedals and another made from recycled aluminum cans and propelled by dozens of solar panels. In 1999, Horie sailed from San Francisco to Japan in a catamaran built from welded-together beer kegs; for a 2002 trip back across the ocean, he swapped out the beer kegs for a hull made of whiskey barrels.

    He made the trip in a 2,182-pound sailboat of pale aluminum and tailored to Horie’s 5-foot frame. The slight man with silver-white hair said he doesn’t physically train for the long solo trips.

    “I’m always fine, always in shape,” he said through a translator in March. “No overeating, no overdrinking.”

    In recent days, Horie said he battled uncooperative currents to get into port, according to media reports. He arrived exhausted, he said.

    Prior to his departure he said he didn’t have any specific concerns about the attempt.

    “Nothing at all,” he said. “Maybe just being old.”

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