When we last wrote about Kenichi Horie, he was 30 days into his voyage and had passed the Hawaiian Islands. Now, the 83-year-old solo sailor, who set sail from San Francisco on March 26, is 80% of the way across the Pacific and nearing his destination, Nishinomiya City, Japan.
Since our last update on April 26, Kenichi has been sailing well and in varying conditions. Late April saw his purpose-built, 19-ft aluminum cutter Suntory Mermaid III sailing along with the trade winds from the stern. But within 24 hours this had changed to “The weather is a little unstable. It changed to a weak southeasterly wind from eight hours ago. It’s slowing down a bit in front of the International Date Line,” which, Kenichi wrote, “you want to cross as soon as possible.” Kenichi crossed the International Date Line at 8:00 p.m. on April 28.
By April 30 the winds were blowing and making the boat “run too much.” After he’d reefed the sails, the boat was shaking, but Kenichi was still able to drink his coffee — just. “Sometimes it spills. It’s a problem.” It’s difficult to be sure of the nuances of his words in translation, but we get the impression Kenichi is relaxed and in good humor, despite his spilled coffee.
Suntory Mermaid III‘s navigation lamps, amateur radio, personal computers, and electric lamps are powered by solar. The system has been working well. Sometimes too well. “Before noon, the GPS suddenly turned off. The sunny weather continues and the solar power generation is in full operation. It seems that the battery is full and the overcharge prevention device has worked. I put a shirt on half of the solar panel and had them take a break for a while. After a while, GPS was restored.” Simple solutions are often the best.
Kenichi reported on May 8 that he had been able to communicate with 49 radio stations, including one in Brisbane, Australia. He also reached a new maximum speed. “At 1900 last night, the speed was 6.109 knots per hour. The fastest ever. Mermaid III has 19 feet, and the maximum speed is said to be 19 feet square root x 1.5. It’s 6.53 knots. The wind was a little too strong, so I made the sail smaller, but I think it’s still over 6 knots. 4-5 knots is the optimum speed. (1 knot = 1.852km).”
At the start of this week, Kenichi was approximately 470 km away from Minamitorishima, Ogasawara-mura, Tokyo, the easternmost point of Japan, and he expected to pass it in around three days. “I feel like I’m closer to Japan,” he wrote. His decision then was whether to pass the island to the north or the south. On May 12 he was passing the island on the north, slowly — “no wind or waves” — and was looking forward to a star-laden night sky. By now the time difference with Japan had been reduced to one hour.
Kenichi’s latest report is of squalls, “coming one after another.” Each new squall, coming almost hourly, sees the intrepid sailor escaping to the cabin. “I’m sick,” he writes.
We feel for you, Kenichi, and wish you fair winds and following seas as you navigate the final miles of your voyage.
One point we find interesting is that Kenichi reports no sightings of dolphins or whales, though he has had numerous birds land on the deck and deliver little parcels, which he writes are difficult to clean off the boat. He has also had flying fish land on the deck, a discovery he made after accidentally stepping on a 15cm-long specimen (approx. 6 inches). “Disappointing,” he wrote.
Kenichi Horie is expected to reach his destination in early June. Stay tuned as we bring you further updates in the coming weeks.