2008/03/21

Riding The Waves From Hawaii To Japan

Kenichi Horie "waved" a fond Aloha to Hawaii at 11:00 AM Sunday (local time) and is now riding the waves to Japan on a new aluminum catamaran that is powered by wave action.



The 3 ton boat, Suntory Mermaid II, is crafted of recycled aluminum and is 9.5 meters long (31 feet). Propulsion is provided by two fins mounted at the bow of the boat which flap as wave action acts upon them through a set of levers and springs. It doesn't matter what direction the wave comes from. The max speed is 5 knots and average cruise speed just 3 knots (about 3.5 mph), so it will take until late May for Mr. Horie to reach Japan. Electricity to run cabin and navigation lights, a shortwave radio, and laptop computer, comes from deck mounted solar panels.

Horie, who is 69 years old, is no stranger to ocean crossings. Since 1962 he has made solo ocean crossings every few years and two solo round the world trips. In 1962 he sailed his 19 foot boat Mermaid from Nishinomiya, Japan to San Francisco in 94 days, becoming the first Japanese to solo across the Pacific. He arrived in San Francisco with no passport or money and was arrested. However, after learning of his voyage the mayor, George Christopher, arranged to have him released and given a 30 day visa. Kenichi was even awarded the key to the city. His book "Kodoku" ("Alone on the Pacific") about this experience, was made into a movie, "My Enemy, The Sea". The Mermaid is on display at the San Francisco Maritime Museum.

His boats have all been unique in that they were made from recycled materials - aluminum, beer kegs, recycled plywood whiskey barrels, and so on. Even his sails have been made of recycled plastics. He has always relied on renewable energy for propulsion - his own muscle, wind, solar, and now waves. He sailed the "Malt's Mermaid" - made of recycled cans and powered solely by solar voltaic panels - non-stop from Ecuador to Tokyo in 1996. Ecuador honored the voyage by naming two islets in the Gulapagos - one after him, the the other after the boat.

(picture from Pop Sci)

The propulsion system was designed by Hiroshi Terao of Tokai University’s oceanography department, as an experiment in alternative propulsion in response to fossil fuel depletion (peak oil). He hopes that this invention will make it possible to significantly cut the fuel required by ships, perhaps as much as half. The boat itself was designed by famed racing yacht designer Ichiro Yokoyama and built by Tsuneishi Shipbuilding Company.

Horie does have a sail and an outboard motor on the Suntory Mermaid II, but those are only for use to provide power when entering port at the end of the voyage.

You can keep track of Kenichi Horie's progress with his diary and map here: SUNTORY-MERMAID.COM

12 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

That is exciting stuff. There is a lot of innovation floating in one place there. I wish him well.

Lrong said...

Have been amazed by Horie-san for many a time... and to think that he is 69 approaching 70... oh my...

The Moody Minstrel said...

I was just looking at a news article about Horie and this new voyage today. He displayed his total Japaneseness with the provisions he chose to bring along:

rice, canned food, microwaveable meals, and beer.

Story here.

khengsiong said...

I hope the wave-powered boats would eventually be economically viable. But for now, they are too slow...

Pandabonium said...

Snabby - I was sure impressed. He is quite an adventurer and promoter of great ideas.

Lrong - as he has said, he no sooner completes one challenge than he finds another waiting for him. That's what keeps us going.

Moody - that's great thanks. What more could you want? On his diary today (on the linked page) he mentioned using the microwave to heat rice and was really happy to have it.

Khengsiong - that's true, but this is the world's first such boat. Give it a chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The Wright Flyer wasn't too impressive either, but look what flies now. Also shipping companies are paying such high prices for fuel (and causing a lot of pollution) that they are hungry for things to at least augment the ship's power - even enormous kites are being tried.

ladybug said...

I'm also excited about this, especially as he's made an obvious effort to use sustainable/renewable resources as much as possible. I like the fact he is documenting this trip, so the ship architects & builders will have a change to improve their designs.

I also like that the Mayor of San Francisco wasn't a stuffed shirt about paperwork,-don't think the 60's attitude is too popular given the "illegal immigrant" fear mongering currently in the US Media/Gov.

Swinebread said...

amazing story

We desperately need pioneers like Horie now more than ever. Best of luck to him.

bonnie said...

Fantastic!

jam said...

I believe it is not cheap and too slow to travel. Nevertheless, it is the first of its kind. We have already no-fuel car. Hope that more will come.

Happysurfer said...

He is a very brave man.

Olivia said...

That is a green mermaid, then.

Pandabonium said...

Ladybug - glad you like the story. He's been working for green solutions all his adult life while fulfilling his own passion for the sea.

That was a pretty savvy move by the mayor. That's why we need people with brains in administrative posts to keep the petty bureaucrats from screwing things up.

Swinebread - I'd like to read his books, most are not translated into English however.

Bonnie- maybe they can make a kayak version...

Jam - thanks for your comment. it will be interesting to see if this can be of practical use.

Happysurfer - yes he is. but he is living his dreams.

Olivia - heh heh. yes, very GREEN.