By David Finigan.

Almost two years ago I wrote in this blog about a small boat that had washed ashore in Del Norte County. There is nothing unusual about that up here on the North Coast, but there was something special about this small boat called a “panga.” Here’s what I wrote about it back in April of 2013:

“It was covered in barnacles and other debris, and had clearly been lost at sea for a long time – just over two years to be exact. We know that because this Panga has now been positively identified as coming from the Takata High School marine sciences program in Rikuzentakata Japan—it was washed out to sea in the March 2011 tsunami that devastated much of coastal Japan and killed several thousand people in Rikuzentakata. The boat had apparently been foundering around the North Pacific until it washed ashore earlier this month, the first confirmed tsunami debris to reach the California coast.”

It struck me then that this boat and its two-year journey were symbolic of something and meaningful in ways we did not yet understand. I also wrote back then:

“And when I think about it, I am almost in awe of the connection this small boat symbolizes. The same Tsunami that devastated the town of Rikuzentakata, slammed into Crescent City about 10 hours later. One man died here, and our harbor was wrecked. Two years later, the boat drifts peacefully ashore on the ripples from that terrible day—reminding us on the California Coast just how lucky we were.”

I am writing again about this boat now because this week, nearly four years after the earthquake and Tsunami, and two years after the Boat washed ashore, 14 high school kids from Rikuzentakata are visiting Del Norte County. Their visit is the result of the connection and ensuing friendships engendered by that small boat.

After it washed ashore here, students from Del Norte County High cleaned up the boat and restored it. About a year ago, they traveled to Rikuzentakata to return it to the students of Takata High School. That gesture began what I think will be a long–lasting relationship between the people of Rikuzentakata and Del Norte County. The visit this week is part of that relationship. The Japanese students are spending the week getting to know us and our area and allowing us to get to know them.

There is no way that a small boat can make up for the lives lost, for the devastation and despair the tsunami left in its wake. But the Panga and its journey do represent the resilience that can sustain us through dark times. One small boat. One large ocean. Two disparate cultures, brought just a little bit closer by the spirit of human kindness!

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Originally posted at CSAC.

David Finigan is a CSAC Past President and a Del Norte County Supervisor.