SALINAS, Ecuador (AP) _ A beer-loving Japanese explorer plans to set off today to cross the Pacific alone on a sun-powered boat made of recycled aluminum cans.

If all goes according to plan, Kenichi Horie, 56, will reach the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles west of the Ecuadorean coast, on March 29.

He expects his cigar-shaped craft, the Malt's Mermaid, to complete the 9,900 miles to Tokyo on July 20.

This is the first time a solar-powered vessel has tried to cross the Pacific.

Horie will be carrying a two-burner propane gas stove for cooking rice, making coffee and warming canned food. He has a two months' supply of bananas, apples, oranges, and grapefruits and four months' worth of vitamin pills. He also has a distillation unit for drinking water.

Most important, he says, his tiny refrigerator will chill two cans of beer at a time. He has a supply of 120 cans _ one for each day of the trip.

Horie says one of his goals is to draw the world's attention to the need to use clean energy such as solar power.

``Although this voyage is also a challenge for personal satisfaction,'' he said, ``I would be very happy if just one more person could show interest in the problems concerning the effective use of natural resources and the preservation of the natural environment.''

Horie says he chose Ecuador as the launch point since it has a diversified eco-system, from jungles to mountain highlands.

His boat is 31 feet long and 5.2 feet wide to provide the largest possible area for the solar panels. The 129 square feet of solar cells produce about 1.5 kilowatts of power.

The craft's cross-section is almost circular. To make it lighter, the aluminum is only about one-tenth of an inch thick. The boat itself weighs 816 pounds.

It is equipped with two large nickel hydrogen batteries _ one for powering the vessel and the other for running the refrigerator, lights, radio, video player and other equipment.

Horie likes testing himself against the world's oceans.

This is his eighth solo ocean voyage. Twice he has sailed around the world. In 1989 he took a 9.2-foot sailboat, the world smallest ocean-going vessel, from San Francisco to Okinawa, Japan. In 1992 he took a pedal boat on 111-day voyage from Hawaii to Okinawa.

His wife, who also loves sailing, supports his adventures, he says.

``This is another challenge, a higher goal,'' he said as he checked his boat's radio equipment Tuesday afternoon at the Salinas Yacht Club.

``When one challenge has finished, a new challenge begins, as the morning comes after night,'' he said. ``Limitless challenges are my life.''