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Kenichi Horie to Solo-Sail San Francisco to Japan — Again — at Age 83

Kenichi Horie is going to do it again. The Japan News reports that the 83-year-old sailor is going to “head back the other way.” It’s been a while since Horie, the famed Japanese sailor, has been in the sailing news, but for those unfamiliar with the source of his renown, we’ll give you a quick rundown. In 1962 he was just 23 years old when he took off from Japan on a 19-ft sailboat named Mermaid, without a passport or money, to sail solo from Japan to San Francisco in 94 days. It was not long after World War II so he was first arrested upon his arrival before Mayor George Christopher welcomed him and gave him a 30-day visa and a key to the city.

Kenichi Horie
Kenichi Horie aboard Malts Mermaid III after soloing a second time from Japan in 2002.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / JR

Since then he’s made many additional impressive voyages with small craft, and always an environmental message. He has circumnavigated east to west, gone from Hawaii to Okinawa in a pedal-powered boat, and once spent 148 days sailing from Ecuador to Tokyo in a solar-powered boat built of recycled aluminum. In 1999 he sailed from San Francisco to Japan in a catamaran built from 528 beer kegs, and in 2002 he sailed back from Japan to San Francisco in Malts Mermaid III, a replica of the original Mermaid, though built from recycled whiskey barrels. He also solo-piloted a boat from Hawaii to Japan powered only by the waves.

Kenichi Horie Mermaid
The 2002 voyage was dedicated to San Francisco Mayor George Christopher, who had welcomed him in 1962 and passed away in 2000.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / JR

Now, 60 years after earning fame with a nonstop transpacific solo voyage from Japan to San Francisco, adventurer Kenichi Horie plans to head back the other way, from San Francisco to Japan, at the age of 83. This will be his first voyage since his wave-powered trip in 2008. He’s planning to leave San Francisco in March and arrive in Japan two and a half months later in June.

Kenichi Horie Mermaid
When he first arrived in 1962 Horie was arrested. He received a hero’s welcome when he arrived again in 2002.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / JR

According to the Japan News Horie will build a new, approximately 18-ft boat, the Suntory Mermaid III, designed by Ichiro Yokoyama, the son of the yacht designer of the original Mermaid. At 83 he’ll become the oldest person to solo-sail across the Pacific and will also add one more amazing voyage to a long list of already stunning accomplishments.

10 Comments

  1. Linda Newland 12 months ago

    Good for him! Met him once. I see Suntory is sponsoring this effort as they did mine in 1981. I’d rather be on my 33’ Yamaha rather then an 18 footer but all of the power to him. You have to admire his tenacity.

    • Charley 12 months ago

      Maybe it’s time for another try for you, Linda 😁

    • Tony Stubbs 12 months ago

      We too, Linda, circumnavigating since I retired in 1989, aged 45, in our 1977 Sweden Yachts Comfort 34.
      We got sponsored by Fosters when “The Amber Nectar” sailed around Britain.
      Now we old farts are fast becoming “Lotus Eaters” here in gorgeous sunny mountainous Crete island, Greece.
      🇳🇱 👫 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 ⛵🌎🌏🌍 ⚓💛💛🇬🇷💙💙

  2. John Thorne 12 months ago

    Wishing Kenichi fair winds and good sailing on his upcoming crossing from SF to Japan. We met in 1962 when he visited Balboa YC and we sailed in my Thistle. Kodoku, his account of the 1962 crossing has a permanent place in my bookcase.

  3. Memo Gidley 12 months ago

    Wow…impressive what he has done! I can only imagine how hard this has been…way to go after your dreams Mr. Kenichi Horie!

  4. Franz Miller 12 months ago

    Isn’t the first boat he used in the San Francisco Maritime Museum? I saw it there many years ago. may still be on display! It’s right at the height where you can see it close up really well, and was out on the balcony part upstairs, if I recall correctly.

    • Tom Ivicevich 12 months ago

      I saw it there too, many years ago. As I recall, it was built like a beautiful piece of furniture.

  5. Jon Bernheimer 12 months ago

    Wish him the best. On his other trips, global warming was not creating many of the extreme conditions that it is today. Hopefully he will make it safely, but this trip is more risky than those before–regardless his age.

  6. Mike Fleming 12 months ago

    Wow I’m in awe! Best wishes on your incredible journey! You are very inspirational!

  7. John Sweeney 8 months ago

    Such an inspiration! Safe journey

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