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First Japanese single-hander

Dec 14, 2009

It couldn’t have been easy for a free-thinking youngster coming of age in postwar Japan; especially if that person had dreams of sailing, by himself, across the Pacific Ocean to California. But Kenichi Horie harbored that dream throughout his teens.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Japan was still a very restrictive country. Passports were difficult to obtain, and citizens were encouraged to rein in their individuality for the sake of the larger good. There were no long distance sailors, and only a handful of small boat designers. To venture offshore without all the necessary permissions was to risk arrest.

Horie learned to sail as a member of his high school sailing team. He was good at it and sometimes spent 13 hours a day sailing. When he wasn’t going to school, he worked at his father’s auto parts business in Osaka. He saved his money and was determined to sail across the Pacific.

He bought a design drawn by Akira Yokoyama of a light–displacement 19-foot sloop with a small cabin constructed of plywood. He had the design built at a small boatyard, but because he was short of cash, he used an inferior grade of plywood and wood glue instead of the more costly epoxies. He managed to get a sail donated. He named the boat Mermaid.

He planned to make San Francisco and provisioned for 120 days. A believer in the theories of Alain Bombard he only took 18 gallons of water, thinking that beer, wine and juice from his canned food would suffice. He didn’t have a passport, but decided he would sail without one.

He departed Japan on May 12, 1962, leaving on a day when there were sailboat races in the harbor, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed. The weather was so bad that the patrol boats were not around. He sailed in storms for three weeks and admits he was so sick that he cried. Then he decided to get drunk and just pass out. He was lucky and got away with it. During one storm a wave broke through his plate glass porthole and almost sank his boat. As if that wasn’t enough, he also had radio reports of an old World War II mine nearby.

By the time the weather cleared, a month into his trip, Horie found that his boat handled well under twin headsails. After three months at sea he passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. His friends had leaked the story and the press was waiting and he was allowed entry into the U.S. He was presented with a key to the city and hailed as a good will ambassador from a former foe. In Japan some officials wanted him jailed.But ultimately he was shown great appreciation by his countrymen.

Let’s join Horie for a sun sight on June 18 (we’ll use the 2009 Nautical Almanac). His height of eye is 4 feet. There is no index error and no sextant error. The watch time is questionable since he wasn’t always able to get time checks, but for the sake of the problem we will say his time was correct. He wants a morning sight so that he can get an LOP that will give him some idea of his longitude. His DR is 45° 10’ N by 175° 35’ W.



A: To make the problem more interesting, calculate the time of sunrise in GMT.

B: At 19:22:45 GMT, Horie takes a lower limb shot of the sun. The Hs is 33° 15.3’. Find the Ho.

C: Reduce sight and then plot for the EP based on the DR position.

Extended Solution

Like most celestial navigators, Keichi Horie relied on taking sun sights in order to find his position. We all know that a sun sight will only yield a single line of position (LOP) which is not nearly as good as the reduction of two or more celestial objects. Taking sights on the moon and the sun, or multiple stars, simultaneously will give the navigator a fix — which is what we are all after.

Still, if single LOPs are advanced based on distance run and course, a single LOP can be made into a running fix, which is good enough for most navigators out at sea. Usually the procedure is to take a morning sight and then to advance that LOP onto a noon or latitude sight. Where the lines cross is the running fix. The noon sight then can be advanced to a later afternoon sight so that by the end of daylight hours the navigator has a pretty good idea of where he or she is.

In terms of the sight reduction process, taking star sights is not really that much more complicated than observations of the sun. Yet the sextant technique is a little trickier and the deck procedure is a bit more a hassle. Also, many navigators are not always certain as to which stars they are shooting. All of these problems are solved with some practice, but most navigators do perfectly fine just using the sun.

As to Horie, we have him at a DR of 45°10’ N by175° 35’ W on June 18. We will be using the 2009 Nautical Almanac for our solutions. His height of eye is four feet (he is kneeling in the cockpit). As far as he knows there is neither a time correction nor any sextant error. He wants to take a morning sun sight so that he can get an idea of his longitude. He does this because he knows that the LOP is perpendicular to the azimuth of the celestial object and that if he takes a sight of the sun when it is due east, his resulting LOP will be close to a meridian of longitude.



At 19:22:45 Horie takes a lower limb shot of the sun. Hs is 33° 15.3’ Find the Ho.

This is a standard sight reduction of the sun:

Hs 33° 15.3’
dip - 1.9’
Ha 33° 13.4’
3rd corr +14.5’
Ho 33° 27.9’

The next thing we need to do is reduce the sight and plot the LOP and find the EP.

We first have to find the GHA of the sun at the time of the sight, the declination and create an assumed position (AP) so we can enter Vol.III of HO 249.

We go to the sun page for June 18 and find the following:

GHA @19 hrs 104° 41.7’
Min and sec 22:45 + 5° 41.3’
GHA 110° 23’
+360°
GHA sun 470° 23.0’

Remember we can add a full circle (360°) in order to make the math work with the subtraction of the LHA!

GHA 470° 23.0’
Ass Long -175° 23.0’
LHA sun 295°

While we are on the daily pages we note the declination of the sun at 1900 hrs. It is:

N 23° 25.1’. There is no (d) correction at this time of year.

We are now ready into Vol.III of the Sight Reduction Tables HO 249. We are using an AP of 45° N by 175° 23’ W

From the Tables Hc 33° 28’ d +38 Z 90°

To Table 5 to correct for 25’ of declination: +16

Thus: Hc 33° 28’

+ 16’
Hc 33° 44’
Ho -33° 27.9’
Intercept 16.1nm away

We know that it is away by using the old saying “Ho MO TO.” In other words, if Ho is greater you are toward the GP of the celestial object. In this instance it is less, thus we are away!

When we plot-and we should we see that our LOPs are virtual meridians of longitude. We plot our AP, our DR and find that the EP is 45° 10’ N by 175° 44’ W.
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