Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sailing alone across the Pacific: The person

(First 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 Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian.)

Kenichi Horie, standing on the deck of the MERMAID, arriving in San Francisco in 1962 from http://www.nps.gov/safr/historyculture/kenichihorie.htm

In Kenchi Horie’s book Koduko: sailing alone across the Pacific, he says, "The crew matters the most," (p. 30) so when he set out to cross the Pacific Ocean he chose the best crew he could ... himself. Just himself.  At 23 years old, when most of us were just figuring out how to get to work on time, Kenchie Horie sailed from Japan to San Francisco in a 19 foot sail boat alone. When asked why he did such a thing--and he was asked. Repeatedly. To the point of annoyance, he replied, "Well, I crossed it because I wanted to" (p. 15).  It’s an answer reminiscent of Sir Thomas Mallory’s famous  reason why he climbed Mt. Everest  ("Because it was there") but it is a more confident active response. It’s the sort of response one would expect of a young auto parts salesman who, despite concern from his parents, against the wishes of his government, set out on a ridiculously dangerous 5,300 miles journey to a country where he had no connections, barely spoke the language and no plans on how to get back.  
To me, one of the most interesting things about Horie is that he did not have a life time love affair with the sea.  In fact, he wasn't the least bit interested in sailing until high school when he joined the school's sailing club because "it sounded like fun" (p. 20). There was no deep passion drawing him--he could have just as easily joined the chess team. Things turned for Horie though during his sophomore year, still sailing with the club.  As he described it, "A burning passion for the sea gripped me.  Maybe it was then that the Pacific began to beckon to me, inviting me to dream of a boundless open sea to sail" (p. 21). Once in its grip, Horie was not able to let go. Despite pushback from family and ridicule from friends and worried barks from his dog (p. 79), he went to sail in the boundless open sea.  He said of his goal:

If you make up your mind to do something--if you are determined to do it--there is only one way to go about it.  Work out your own ideas  on the general course you are going to follow and stick to them; stand on those basic ideas and assume responsibility for your actions.  You yourself have to work out what you think is the best plan and carry it out to the end.  You may make mistakes, there may be details in your plan that could have been improved upon by relying on someone else’s advice but basically it has to be your personal responsibility to conceive and carry out the project (p. 51).

Read more about Horie’s boat the Mermaid, the actual voyage, what he packed and the upcoming anniversary in future Full Fathom Five posts.  Until then, if you decide to sail alone across an ocean, maybe you’d like to bring a copy of Koduko along with you--stop by the library and check out a copy (just don't bring it back wet).

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