KLEMTU, B.C. – A Japanese fisherman is to be reunited with his boat more than four years after a powerful tsunami hit his country and carried the craft to the shores of British Columbia.
Kou Sasaki arrived in Vancouver on Monday and later this week will be heading to the coastal village of Klemtu, where his vessel washed up in the spring of 2013.
Spirit Bear Lodge manager Tim McGrady said a hereditary chief’s son found the boat, which was in remarkable condition after its journey across the Pacific Ocean.
McGrady said he claimed the vessel but dreamed of one day learning who owned it. That mystery was solved with the help of a Japanese-speaking Canadian who stayed at the lodge last year with her husband, philanthropist and art collector Michael Audain.
McGrady said Yoshi Karasawa translated the boat’s name as “Two Pines” and eventually found Sasaki, whose wife and son died in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed 19,000 people.
“He was very excited to come and be reunited with his boat and meet the people here in Klemtu,” McGrady said. “I think it’s going to be quite a big deal for him.
“For thousands of years they’ve lived from the sea’s resources and been out on the sea on small boats, so I think there’s that connection that will be instantaneous.”
Sasaki is to be welcomed to Klemtu on Friday with a traditional First Nations blessing ceremony and songs by the Xai’Xais First Nation, McGrady said.
He said Karasawa and Audain sponsored Sasaki’s visit to Canada and will accompany him to Klemtu, a lush community in the heart of the so-called Great Bear rainforest, about 700 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.
The white, seven-metre fibreglass boat with a blue trim has a unique design, McGrady said.
“It’s self bailing so it can flood with water and the water just drains out of it,” he said, adding the vessel’s hull, bow and stern include compartments for fish and allow water to circulate through them.
“Everybody here loves it,” McGrady said. “It’s reminiscent of a boat called a panga that fishermen down in Mexico use.”
McGrady said the boat would be too expensive for Sasaki to transport to Japan.
“He’s bought a new boat and he’s quite happy to just come and see that his boat is being used and being looked after,” he said.
“We’re going to take him out and try and see some grizzly bears.”
— By Camille Bains in Vancouver