An 83-year-old man is due to leave San Francisco on Saturday and cross the Pacific Ocean alone to his home country of Japan.
Kenichi Horie, also known as “Japan’s most famous yachtsman”, became the first person to make a solo, non-stop crossing of the Pacific in 1962. During this trip, he was still a 23-year-old amateur sailor. Horie set out from Osaka and sailed across the ocean for 94 days, surviving on canned food and rice before arriving in San Francisco.
The trip was widely seen as a “lonely olive branch of post-war diplomacy” between the Pacific powers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“Even in the United States, boaters are inspired by its history,” said Morgan Smith, interpretive, education and volunteer manager at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
Upon arriving in San Francisco, Horie was briefly stopped for he had traveled without a passport or money and knowing little English. However, Mayor George Christopher quickly released him and gave him a visa in honor of his bravery.
Over the next 60 years, Horie made several crossings of the Pacific. The boat Horie used in 1962 was exhibited at the San Francisco Maritime Museum. Named “Mermaid,” the boat lives in the museum’s lobby and is the “superstar” attraction, John Muir, the museum’s curator of small boats, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Horie traveled across the Pacific on a variety of vessels, including some made from aluminum cans and powered by solar panels and another propelled by pedals. In 1999, he sailed from the west coast to Japan on a catamaran made from beer kegs. Three years later, he sailed the other way via whiskey casks.
For her next voyage on Saturday, Horie’s vessel is a 2,182-pound, 19-foot-long pale aluminum sailboat, customized to match her build.
At 5ft tall, Horie doesn’t physically train for her travels, telling the publication, “I’m still fine, still in good shape…No overeating, no overeating.”
When asked if he had any concerns for his trip, Horie replied: “Nothing at all. Maybe just be old.