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Recycled cat crosses Pacific

Jan 1, 2003

Another voyager engaging in one of the more unusual ocean cross- ings took the notion of recycled building materials to the extreme. Legendary Japanese sailor Ken-ichi Horie built a 33-foot catamaran entirely of stainless steel beer barrels (528 in all), which he then sailed across the Pacific in 1999. The craft resembles a cross between Kon-Tiki and Steve Fossett's extreme PlayStation.

Malt's Mermaid II, pictured above, looks surprisingly seaworthy with its jaunty sheer and strong junk rig. It apparently served its master well in the four-month and nearly 10,000-mile voyage. He departed San Francisco in March, called briefly on Hawaii, and finished under the Akashi Strait Bridge near Kobe, Japan, in July. The vessel's sail, cabin, and trampoline were all built of recycled plastic pet (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. Built by Suzuki Shipyard Co., Ltd., and designed by one of Japan's leading yacht designers, Ken-osuke Hayashi, Malt's Mermaid II was first modeled out of wood before being lofted and laid up. The bare hull and plywood deck was then sprayed inside and out with a urethane foam (recycled, of course) for rust and corrosion protection. The cat was equipped with a Sailomat windvane and solar- and wind-generation equipment for charging house batteries. The designer reportedly chose a cat hull over a mono because of the significant weight of the barrels; a cat would provide greater stability for a given weight, he reasoned.

The 61-year-old Horie has made a name for himself in Japan and the world's larger voyaging community as a whole: he was the first person to sail alone across the Pacific (in 1962 aboard a 19-foot plywood sloop called Mermaid). He has since made several solo circumnavigations and two Pacific crossings (1989 and 1996) aboard sloops built of recycled aluminum cans, one of which was only 9.5 feet long.


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