Japanese adventurer Jin Ishikawa has a wild plan to sail from Sausalito, California to Hawaii in a 60-foot boat made of tule reeds, inspired by ancient Californian navigation systems. He's already built a smaller prototype, Amana, which hit the water in Sausalito this Saturday. Ishikawa's gonna let the tides and stars guide him once he's got the bigger boat ready.
With three decades of adventures under his belt, he's out to show that ancient folks had the skills to make such journeys. This summer, he'll be busy testing Amana in San Francisco Bay, with plans to build the real deal in Sausalito in 2025 and then set sail for Hawaii for a 75-day voyage with six crewmates.
This guy's no stranger to epic adventures. He's crossed the Sahara alone, built a seal-skin boat in Alaska, and explored the Colombian jungle by dugout canoe. Plus, he's already crafted 290 reed boats and navigated over 9,400 miles with them.
Thor Heyerdahl, a notable Norwegian explorer, built a number of similar vessels to prove that ancient societies could cross oceans and hence potentially have links.
Called Kon-Tiki, Heyerdahl's vessel sailed from South America to Polynesia in 1947. He later sailed a balsa wood raft across the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean. Many of his adventures were documented in films and books, although his theories have come under criticism from anthropologists who say there is ample evidence Polynesia was populated from east to west.
Ishikawa…has a connection to the Norwegian explorer that is more than theoretical. Kitin Munoz—his mentor and the man who taught him to build reed boats—made a number of voyages similar to Heyerdahl's. Ishikawa joined one such voyage across the Pacific in 1999, he said. He also participated in a similar journey across the Atlantic.
Launch party for Amana at Sausalito's Galilee Harbor. Photo: Sasha Cole, used with permission.