map of voyage courtesy of Kenichi Horie
Does the future of ship propulsion lie in the waves themselves?
Ship powered by two fins, has other green tech
Completing what he calls the longest voyage in a wave-powered ship, Kenichi Horie has finished a 4,800 mile, 110-day voyage from Honolulu, Hawaii to Wakayama, Japan. Though equipped with engine and sails for emergencies, Horie's 31-foot catamaran relied on power generated from two fins at the bow of the ship to propel it through the water. The hull of his ship was recycled aluminum and all electric power, used for navigation equipment, radio and a personal computer, was generated from solar energy. The average speed on the voyage was 1.5 knots, a speed which MSNBC points out is slower than people walk.
Not Horie's only impressive personal adventure
The article also points out that this isn't the first time Horie has completed long solo sea voyages: In 1992 he pedaled a boat from Hawaii to Okinawa; in 1996 he sailed 10,000 miles from Ecuador to Tokyo on a solar-powered boat built from beer cans. More impressive than all of these was when he completed the first solo Pacific crossing in 1962, in a 19-foot boat.
While all these are certainly interesting personal physical achievements for Horie, I'm not sure they really advance the idea of "green sailing" or "green machines" very far. And at the risk of stating the obvious, propelling ships with sails has been done for thousands of years. Updating or adapting this established technology seems like a much more sound solution to reducing environmental impact of shipping than anything that might come directly from Horie's efforts.