Tsunami boat finds new life
KLEMTU, B.C.—A Japanese fishing vessel believed to be cast adrift in the 2011 tsunami disaster soon will find a new life as a tour boat exploring B.C.’s shores.
The eight-metre-long craft was discovered in March, 2013 washed ashore near Klemtu, on B.C.’s North Coast, and has since been repaired for launch into the tourism industry this month.
The boat, which has been renamed Japanese Drifter, was found with kanji markings and an intact engine—leading salvagers to believe it was washed away during the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed as many as 19,000 people.
The disaster also triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
McGrady, 49, said it’s probable the boat was swept away during the disaster because it’s rare for vessels with intact engines to be cast adrift unless they are washed away by waves.
“It would be one thing if the boat was just found as an empty shell, but the boat was found with its engine on it,” noted McGrady.
“It clearly was functioning at some point before it left the harbour.
“For the boat to drift away like that with the engine intact—it would be very unusual for that to happen on its own,” he added.
“It would’ve had to have been a catastrophic departure of the boat.”
McGrady said they were unsuccessful at finding the owner and realized it would be too expensive to return the boat even if they did find its rightful keeper.
He’s still hopeful he’ll be able to connect with the original owner and said he thinks the owner would be proud to know his boat has found a new life.
“There’s this really deep, profound connection with a man and his boat,” McGrady noted.
“When a man parts from his boat, it’s a serious event.
“We would like to reach out and say, ‘Hey, we found your boat,’” he said.
“We want you to know that we’re looking after it, and we’re putting it to good use and we would just like you to see that.”
The boat is about the length and width of two Honda Accords placed together from front to back, and has been outfitted with a new engine.
The fibreglass vessel likely was used for shoreline fishing because of its small size, McGrady said.
Aside from routine repairs, the boat will not be changed from its original state.
Kanji that was etched on the craft will remain and no paint will be added, McGrady said.
“We’re going to try and keep it pretty much just as it is,” he remarked.
The vessel also has holes that cast off water entering the boat.
This design was probably the reason it was able to make the trip from Japan to B.C., McGrady said.