Adventurer Kenichi Horie said Thursday he will embark on a two-month voyage in March 2008 from Hawaii to the Kii Channel in southwestern Japan in what would be the first attempt in the world to sail a boat propelled by waves.

“So far I have attempted voyages using wind power, solar energy and human power, and this time I will try to use the energy of waves,” said the 67-year-old Horie, who has two solo circumnavigations among his accomplishments.

The 3-ton boat, 9.5 meters long with a 3.5-meter beam, will be fitted with two horizontal hydrofoils side-by-side in front of the bow. The waves will cause the hydrofoils to oscillate and create thrust, mimicking the movement of the fins and tails of aquatic mammals.

“It’s like the dolphin kick,” said Yutaka Terao, a professor at Tokai University who designed the “wave devouring propulsion” device. “The boat can travel at up to 6 knots, but it depends on the size and direction of the waves. The average will be about 2 to 3 knots.”

The design allows for efficient propulsion even when waves come in from the side because the two hydrofoils oscillate separately, like in a freestyle kick.

The idea of using waves for propulsion was researched in Britain in 1895, but Horie will be the first to make a full-fledged attempt to sail such a boat.

“Since the mechanism makes use of the energy of the waves, it will actually reduce the rolling of the boat and require less steering, so I look forward to enjoying some books on the trip,” said Horie, who will be 69 when he sets off on his 6,000-km voyage.

Construction of the boat, named the Suntory Mermaid II after sponsor Suntory Ltd., will begin in December. Like his past boats, the latest one features an environmentally friendly design.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.