DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kenichi Horie flashed the shaka sign yesterday as he stood at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in front of the Suntory Mermaid II, a wave-powered vessel that he plans to pilot from Hawaii to Japan. The boat was lifted out of the water to expose two fins, which transform the vertical motion of waves into forward propulsion. Horie's departure is set for March 16.
A 69-year-old sailor's determination to be the first to complete a solo voyage from Hawaii to Japan on a wave-powered boat is as vast as the ocean.
At a news briefing yesterday at the Hawaii Yacht Club, Ken-ichi Horie of Ashiya, Japan, said he is confident that it will run as smoothly as the 10 voyages he has made since 1962, including a nonstop solo circumnavigation of the world.
"This is a very lucky boat for me to set sail," he said through an interpreter, Chifumi Nagai.
Though Horie described the boat as sturdy enough to withstand heavy seas, he said he decided to take the voyage in the spring to play it safe and avoid the summer typhoon season in Japan.
He admitted that at times he gets lonesome at sea. But built-in solar panels atop the boat's cabin produce enough power for a satellite phone and computer with e-mail, enabling Horie to stay in contact with people.
Reading books and listening to international radio broadcasts also will help pass the time, he said.
A supply of rice and frozen and canned foods will be stored aboard his boat, which also is equipped with a microwave.
Horie is scheduled to depart from the Hawaii Yacht Club at 10 a.m. March 16 for the voyage of 3,780 nautical miles (4,347 statute miles) to the Kii Channel in Japan, arriving about the end of May.
If all goes well, Horie will set a new world record for sailing the greatest distance in a wave-powered boat. He already has set two Guinness records: for the greatest distance traveled by pedal-boat -- 4,660 miles from Hawaii to Okinawa -- in 1992; and for sailing the 9,943 miles from Ecuador to Japan in a boat made of recycled beer cans in 1996.
The Suntory Mermaid II will use propulsion power supplied by waves. Two fins at the bow of the boat move up and down, similar to a "dolphin kick," which propels the boat forward, according to Tokai University professor Yutaka Terao. Twelve springs attached to the fins keep them stabilized while in motion.
Terao, an expert in wave-powered propulsion with the School of Marine Science and Technology, developed the boat, which has a top speed of about 5 knots (5.75 mph). It is equipped with a Yamaha outboard motor and a sail that will be used only in an emergency.