Adventurer to Cross Pacific in Wave-Powered Boat

Kenichi Horie recently sailed away from Hawaii on his way to Japan.

Image by Mila Zinkova

This everyday event was made special by the boat Horie used, called the Suntory Mermaid II. The vessel, which resembles a catamaran, will cross the Pacific using only the power of the waves.

Horie is a seasoned adventurer. He’s been tackling the world’s oceans since 1962, when he became the first Japanese man to sail solo across the Pacific. One of his most recent stunts, in 2002, saw him sail around the world in a boat made of recycled beer cans.

The new boat will be propelled by wave power. The energy from the ocean’s waves will be converted into energy by two wings. The wings will create a movement that resembles dolphins’ kicks, propelling the boat forward with the vertical movement of the waves.

Horie says he got the idea after a disastrous incident on a previous sailing voyage. “Twenty years ago while sailing, an accident broke my main mast which actually fell in the sea. The boat kept rocking and I thought how great it would be to actually harness the power of those waves to push the boat forward,” said Horie.

The trip will be very eco friendly, but it won’t be fast. Horie said: “The speed of the boat is just faster than a human walking pace, perhaps not quite a jogging pace. At this rate, I plan to take two and a half months to get to Japan.”

The boat was created by scientists at Tokai University in Japan. Horie intends to use the trip to promote the commercial viability of wave powered travel, which he believes could help solve some environmental problems. “Wind and solar power have been well developed, but with our human intelligence, we should be able to harness wave energy for greater and wider applications and eventually sustainable energy should be able to solve all the world’s energy needs,” said Horie.

Now all Horie has to worry about is hitting a whale, at least according to one scientist who worked on the project. Yutaka Terao of Tokai University said: “There is still the unexpected to worry about — I mean, he could bump into a whale or something — so we still worry for him.”

Info from Reuters