Tsunami boat washes ashore in B.C., connects two women across the globe

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News
In this photo released by NOAA, a boat lost in the Japanese tsunami of 2011 sits onshore on a remote Canadian island. The boat was discovered Aug. 9, 2012.

A fishing boat lost in Japan's 2011 tsunami washed ashore on the British Columbia coast last summer.

"We were just going out in the dinghy, touring around a bit, and I just glanced over at the beach, and I saw what I thought was an odd-shaped, an odd-coloured log," Jeanne Beaver, who found the boat near her 12-metre floating cabin where she lives with her husband, Rick, told CBC News.

"I didn't really say anything to Rick, just kept going. And the next day, he went out by himself to take the dogs for a walk, and he came flying around the corner and, 'We've got a boat! We've got a boat!'"

A federal fisheries officer visited a few days later to inspect the vessel and take pictures. Using the boat's registration number, the Department of Fisheries was able to trace the boat back to its owner.

It wasn't long before the Beavers were informed of the good news: the fishing boat's owner survived the tsunami.

"Thank goodness he was not harmed in Japan," Jeanne told the Vancouver Sun. "We were so delighted to hear the owner of the boat was alive and well."

Jeanne told the Vancouver Sun that she and her husband enjoy beachcombing, but since the tsunami, the activity has become bittersweet:

"It's exciting to find these things, but the reason they're here is because of a disaster and tragedy. It takes away from the fun, if you know what I mean," she said.

CBC's the fifth estate recently followed Jeanne to Japan to track down the original owners of the boat as part of a documentary that marked the tsunami's second anniversary.

"When we found the boat, [for] some reason I … had this feeling that I am meant to come here and see this for some reason. I don’t know what it is yet," she told the fifth estate's Mark Kelley. "There is a reason the boat came to our place."

The boat, dubbed "The Glory Light," belonged to Noriko Gotoh, 70, and her husband Takao, 73, of Minamisanriku, Japan, a small fishing port on the northeast coast of Japan. Prior to the tsunami, the Gotohs fished and harvested seaweed for a living.

When the waves came, the boat — and the Gotoh's two-story house — was carried away.

Takao Gotoh, still depressed by the devastation the waves caused, didn't want to meet the Canadian who found his boat, nor did he want it back. But Noriko was willing to meet Jeanne in a nearby hotel.

"We see it every day, and we think of you and your husband," Beaver told Gotoh when they met, showing her photos of the found vessel. "And we are happy to have the boat, but it’s such an unhappy reason that we have it that it’s heartbreaking for us."

She added, "I really am so glad that I could come here. And your boat, well, please think of it as having found a new home. And we’ll cherish it and take care of it."

"Thank you very much indeed," Noriko Gotoh responded. "I'm so relieved to hear that."

Jeanne told the fifth estate the the discovery helped put her own problems in perspective:

"It has given me a lesson in life. You can get over anything. If she can get over what she has gone through and still smile, what have I got to complain about in my life? Nothing."