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Kenichi Horie became the first person to sail across the Pacific solo, then arrested for having no passport or money

In 1962, at the age of 23, Kenichi Horie became the first person to make a solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

Leaving Nishinomiya, Japan on May 12, in 94 days (on August 11) he arrived in San Francisco, California, U.S. aboard a 19-foot (5.8 m) sailboat called the Mermaid. Horie landed with no passport or money and was promptly arrested.

Despite Horie’s best effort to legally depart from Japan, because of lack of precedent for international travel on a small sailboat, he was not able to obtain a passport or an adequate amount of foreign currency. After learning of his voyage the mayor freed him and gave him a 30-day visa, and he was awarded the keys to the city.

Malt's Mermaid logo. By Nihonnotabi - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Malt’s Mermaid logo. By Nihonnotabi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, 

Horie wrote a book about his voyage, titled Alone on the Pacific (Kodoku), which was made into a movie Alone Across the Pacific (also titled My Enemy, The Sea) in 1963 by Kon Ichikawa. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe award. The Mermaid has been on display at the San Francisco Maritime Museum since her historic voyage although it is in storage and not on display pending building renovations (as explained by park officials on July 16, 2016).

In 1974, he circumnavigated from east to west, and in 1978 he circumnavigated from north to south. In 1985, he sailed a solar boat from Hawaii to Chichijima. From 1992 to 1993, he sailed from Hawaii to Okinawa in a pedal powered boat. In 1996, Horie sailed from Salinas, Ecuador to Tokyo in a solar boat made of recycled aluminum.

This crossing covered 10,000 miles (16,000 km) in 148 days which earned the Guinness World Record for the fastest crossing of the Pacific in a solar-powered boat. The Malt’s Mermaid is on display at Kotohira-gū Shrine in Shikoku, close to the main hall.

 Malt's Mermaid next to the main hall of Kotohira-gu. By Nihonnotabi - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Malt’s Mermaid next to the main hall of Kotohira-gu. By Nihonnotabi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, 


In 1999, he sailed from San Francisco to Japan aboard a boat made primarily from recycled materials. The boat, Malt’s Mermaid II, designed by Kennosuke Hayashi, was a 32.8-foot (10.0 m) long, 17.4-foot (5.3 m) wide, catamaran constructed from 528 beer kegs welded end-to-end in five rows. Horie joked that 500 of them were empty. The rigging consisted of two side-by-side masts with junk rig sails made from recycled plastic bottles. This boat is on display in Okura Beach, Akashi.

In 2002, Horie sailed from Nishinomiya to San Francisco aboard the Mermaid III, a replica of the original Mermaid constructed from a variety of recycled materials, including whiskey barrels for the hull, aluminum cans for the mast and plastic soda bottles for the sails.

Ian Smith

Ian Smith is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News