SAN FRANCISCO - Saturday morning, an epic journey will begin for a sailor who made a name for himself voyaging across the Pacific from Japan to San Francisco in a tiny 19-foot sailboat.
The Mermaid III doesn't look out of place at the San Francisco Yacht Club in Tiburon, a small 19 footer, with big shoes to fill. Her captain Kenichi Horie is preparing to sail this tiny vessel solo across the Pacific to Osaka, Japan, a trip Horie is quite familiar with. "I do get lonely, but everybody is rooting for me," said Horie, through an interpreter.
In 1962, Horie set sail in a tiny wooden ship the Mermaid, which now resides at the San Francisco Maritime Museum, making a three-month solo journey from Osaka Japan to San Francisco, 5,300 hundred miles in 94 days.
The then 23-year-old sailor arriving in town with no passport or money, was promptly arrested, then celebrated, the then mayor of San Francisco, who gave him the key to the city. He's continued to make history one time after another, circling the globe numerous times, promoting the urgency of protecting the world’s oceans.
Families visiting the museum say his story is an inspiration. "Tenacity, and that age, whether your young or elderly, shouldn't define what your options are," said Nikki Dellinger. "You know, that you can try new things, or keep doing things you love."
Back at the yacht club, accomplished single-handed sailors say what Horie is preparing to do is nothing short of astonishing. "He's an amazing sailor. This is not a big boat," said Alex Rynecki. "He essentially makes his own adventures, he invents these things which I think is very clever. He just decides to do them and I think age is a real factor."
Now 83-years old, Horie, takes being a role model in stride, saying he's happy that people are still interested in what he's doing, and he says, this won't be his last trip. "I intend to continue doing this," said Horie. "From San Francisco to Japan again!"
The Mermaid III is the same length and width as the original mermaid. This time technology is on Horie's side, he says he's bringing a satellite phone to make sure his family knows he's safe on this journey, something that he couldn't do on his historic first journey.
As for the first thing he'll do when he arrives in Japan in two and a half months, he said he will take a long bath.