Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sailing alone across the Pacific: The Anniversary

Signed half-title page from the Library's rare copy of Kodoku

(Second in a series of posts celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first person to make a non-stop solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean, leaving Osaka, Japan on May 12, 1962 and arriving in San Francisco on Sunday, August 12, 1962.  By Heather Hernandez, Technical Services Librarian.)

On Sunday, August 12, 1962, Kenichi Horie arrived in San Francisco on his 19 foot plywood boat, the Mermaid, having spent the previous 94 days sailing alone across the Pacific Ocean--the first person known to have done so.

This is one of many amazing accomplishments in maritime history, a field full of dates, distances, and seemingly impossible achievements.  Why do we note them?  Why do we celebrate them?  What do they mean?

For me, it is about a connection.

Of course, I had long heard about Kenichi Horie's amazing voyages, even read about the more recent ones in the newspaper.  When I visited the Maritime Museum, I could visit the Mermaid on the veranda.  When I came to work here, his book, Kodoku, is one of those titles that is requested and travels from the Stacks to the Reading Room and back, through the Library staff's hands.

But a significant anniversary creates excitement and awareness.  The Mermaid has been moved out to the Hyde Street Pier and is not only on exhibit, but is being cared for by the Small Craft shop.  I went to visit her--to speak to her, as Mr. Horie requested.  They are doing a wonderful job--her stern is looking so spiffy!  (You can see some of their blue painters' tape in this photo.)

 I looked for and found her tag, one of the symbols of how she connects us:

When I have the privilege of visiting her, I am reminded of how lucky I am to work in Collections, and how I can occasionally count myself among those who can touch her--who can lay my hand on this wonderful little yacht that took such care of the young Mr. Horie, and who traveled all that long way from our sister city, Osaka.  Sure, the same water touches our shores, San Francisco's and Osaka's, and many vessels have plied the waters in between, but this one made her journey under sail with only her one sailor to accompany her.

Want to make a connection to Mr. Horie yourself?  Come in to the Library.  Hold in your hands the copy of Kodoku from which the image at the top of this post was taken.  Mr. Horie held and signed this copy of Kodoku, and it resides in our rare vault, but it is accessible to all.  You can hold in your hands something that Mr. Horie held in his.

And on this Sunday, August 12, 2012, join me in honoring Mr. Horie's request to "...recall for a short moment, if you will, the deed of a young Japanese, who loved the yacht and the United States of America."


  1. That's great, Buck! All of us who are remembering will also be connected!