Sailing idol Horie passes on his love for the ocean

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (05/01/99)
By Ray Pendleton

One summer, some 50 years ago, when I was about seven, my best friend and I were given a couple of truck tire inner tubes.

Living near the beach, those tubes became our favorite water toys.

We could catch waves with them - usually resulting in head-over-heels beach landings - or explore the bay where the water was flat and calm.

As I remember, the big problem with paddling, while sitting in the tube, was the friction-rash it created on the inside of our arms.

One day, in a moment of youthful inventiveness, we borrowed a couple of pillow cases from my mother, found a few scraps of wood and some rope, and within a few hours, we had fashioned two sailing vessels out of those big rubber donuts.

Of course, the sail-ability of the two tube-yachts was limited at best. With a square sail and a circular hull, going any direction other than leeward required more paddling than sailing.

But, it was that first taste of riding the wind across the water that began my life-long relationship with sailing, and boating in general.

In the years that followed, I have sailed, powered and paddled vessels of most every description, but I can safely say I have never since sailed on such unlikely crafts as those tubes.

I was reminded of those old experimental sailing days by a recent visitor at the Hawaii Yacht Club.

His name is Ken-ichi Horie and he is a 60-year-old Japanese sailor who is still finding inventive ways to propel himself across the water.

In 1962, he became the first person to sail alone across the North Pacific - from Japan to California - and he he did it in 94 days in a 19-foot boat.

After many other adventures, including a solar-powered voyage from Ecuador to Tokyo in 1996, Horie sailed out this year from under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge on March 29, bound for Hawai`i and Japan, aboard a boat constructed from beer kegs.

Malt's Mermaid II With sponsorship from one of Japan's major breweries, Suntory, Horie's boat, Malt's Mermaid II, is a 32.8-foot-long, 17.4-foot-wide catamaran. He has used five rows of small stainless steel beer kegs - 528, in all - welded together end-to-end to form the sides of the two hulls.

To make further use of recycled materials, the vessel's junk-rigged, full-batten sails, trampolines and other canvas gear are manufactured from reprocessed plastic bottles.

As Horie has been making his crossing of the Pacific, he has been joined vicariously by high school students in Japan via the Internet's worldwide web, which has allowed them to follow his progress.

On Tuesday, the web site became a real-time communications link, when 45 students from Honolulu's Moanalua High School met with Horie at the Hawaii Yacht Club for a video conference.

With Malt's Mermaid at the dock in the background, Horie and the students were able to see and talk with several Japanese high school classes shown on television monitors connected by computer to the Internet.

With Horie's interest in recycling, I am sure it was pleasing for him when the majority of the students' conversations were concerned with pollution of our oceans.

For me, it was personally heartening to see a man of my generation still challenging himself, and others, to be innovative and creative while following his dreams and his conscience.

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