A pioneering sailor’s journey




By William Emery, illustrated by Hanae Rivera (Berkeley, Calif.: Heyday Books, 2012, 32 pp., $16.95, hard cover)

Looking for a biography? This is the true story of a young Japanese man, the first person to sail solo across the Pacific Ocean. The book title, “Kodoku,” which means lonely in Japanese, sets the tone for the journey of Kenichi Horie in 1962.

Beginning with his fascination with the ocean as a young boy, the author shows Kenichi studying astronomy, meteorology, construction and marine knot-tying before giving specifications to a shipwright to build his own sailboat.

Setting off from Osaka in the Mermaid, Horie endured a typhoon, sharks, and loneliness during his voyage, comforted once by a pod of whales. Three months later, he sailed proudly into San Francisco Bay, sailing into the record books at the age of 23.

The vivid paintings that illustrate the biography complement the recurring lines in the text, “The wind blows forever across an ocean that never ends.”

Kodoku was published on the 50th anniversary of Horie’s historic solo journey. I learned from the Internet that Horie has continued to make sea voyages, sometimes in unusual vessels. After completing two solo voyages around the world in the 1970, he sailed an aluminum-can solar boat, a pedal-powered boat, and a boat made of recycled beer barrels.

In 2002 at the age of 63, Horie recreated his original voyage from Osaka to San Francisco. In 2008 at the age of 70, he made a voyage in a wave-powered boat, which propelled itself in a manner similar to the breaststroke.

For those interested in his first sailboat, the 19-foot Mermaid, you can see it in the Maritime National Historic Park in San Francisco. Horie resides in Japan.

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