An 83-year-old Japanese man has become the oldest person to complete a solo, non-stop transpacific voyage after over two months at sea.
Kenichi Horie was greeted by residents, supporters, banners and a bouquet of roses on Sunday in his home port of Shin Nishinomiya in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. He reportedly spent the night on his 19-foot-long sailboat Suntory Mermaid III after crossing the Kii Strait off Japan’s western coast early Saturday.
Horie left a yacht harbor in San Francisco on March 27 and began his 69-day voyage across the Pacific Ocean alone. The man, who made no port calls during his journey, was spotted off of Hawaii’s Oahu Island on April 16.
“Welcome back, Mr. Kenichi Horie!” read some of the banners held by supporters as they welcomed the 83-year-old sailor home. Horie thanked the residents who came to greet his safe return home.
Speaking to CNN over a satellite phone during the last leg of his voyage, Horie said, “Don’t let your dreams just stay as dreams. Have a goal and work towards achieving this and a beautiful life awaits.”
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“It was my great joy to have been able to make a challenge as a real goal and safely achieve it, instead of just holding onto it as a dream,” Horie said at a news conference on Sunday. “I want to be a challenger as long as I live.”
Although he packed a stock of medical supplies before leaving the port in San Francisco, Horie said he only used eye drops and Band-Aids during his voyage.
“That shows how healthy I am,” Horie said. “I’m still in the middle of my youth.”
Since the world is currently battling a pandemic, Horie said his latest journey was like “walking on ice” with all the uncertainties, such as vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and other logistics.
He also encountered a storm in his voyage but said the weather gradually improved as he made his way to Hawaii.
Interestingly enough, Horie’s latest feat was not his first. He was the first person to pull a solo, nonstop transpacific voyage in 1962 aboard his 19-foot plywood boat that he named the Mermaid. Horie was 23 when he sailed from Japan to San Francisco unannounced without money or a passport.
Horie managed to make it to the Golden Gate Bridge after a dangerous 94-day voyage without GPS or modern-day technology. Though he was briefly arrested, then-Mayor George Christopher eventually had him released and gave him a visa and a key to the city for his achievement.
After his first transpacific voyage, Horie went on to sail around the world in 1974. He once again performed a transpacific voyage in 1999, but this time he sailed on an aluminum vessel made out of recycled beer kegs.
Before his most recent trip, Horie’s last voyage was in 2008, when he sailed on a wave-powered boat from Hawaii to the Kii Strait.