Tales of the North Pacific

What a 62-year-old man can teach shellshocked dot-commers as he sails from Osaka to San Francisco. Alone. Again.

During all these years, William Fisher has kept in touch with the crazy kid he met while sailing 39 years ago. One time, he took Horie on a sailboat race. During the race, Horie employed the survival skills that have made him such a formidable long-distance sailor.

"The minute the race started, he fell asleep," Fisher says. "That guy's crazy. He's quite a character."

He's a hero, is what he is.

By next May, heroes are exactly what we'll be needing. Because as Horie battles spring typhoons, San Franciscans will be battling joblessness, bankruptcies, evictions. As Horie waits out the windless mid-Pacific, job hunters here will be sending résumés into a dead- air abyss.

But rather than snarling at our neighbors or standing up our friends, perhaps we should cast a thought to Kenichi Horie. If next year's voyage is like the one 40 years ago, we might imagine him crying uncontrollably through the loneliness of the voyage's first weeks. We might picture him wracked with diarrhea, or wincing at the nauseating smell a tiny berth full of wet supplies develops after 50 days. But if next year is in any way similar to 1962, Kenichi Horie might also eventually suffer his voyage's mountain-high waves and anvil-lifting winds as sources of distraction, rather than anguish. He might find solace in simple things -- a light breeze, a Moscow station coming through clear on the shortwave radio, the pleasure of inventing a new sail-mounting technique for running against the wind. He might discover, once again, the thrill of besting adversity, and he might, for our sake, bring it here, where it will be needed most.

1 Really. This is really it.

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