Friends and family members of five men lost at sea three decades ago gathered in Hana on Saturday to recognize the anniversary of the tragedy earlier this month.
For 30 years, John Naughton has wondered about the real story of the Sarah Joe, the lost boat from Hana that he found years later on a remote atoll.
"It's a remarkable story, a mystery of the sea," Naughton said Thursday as he prepared to leave Oahu for Saturday's memorial services for the crew of the Sarah Joe at Hana Bay.
The 30th anniversary of the fishing trip was Feb. 11, and Saturday's memorial included a flower and lei ceremony with the Hana Canoe Club in the bay, followed by a meal, memories and talk-story.
Naughton said that the most remarkable part of the Sarah Joe's story is that chance had him at both ends of the saga, nine years apart.
Naughton, who grew up in Kailua and worked as a researcher for the National Marine Fisheries Service until he retired last year, happened to be in Kona 30 years ago when a storm blew the Sarah Joe and five Hana men out to sea.
The father of one of the men, John Hanchett, got in a small boat and searched for his son, also asking other watermen to pitch in. Naughton went out but like everyone else, he couldn't find a trace.
Nine years later, Naughton was at Taongi atoll in the Marshall Islands, where a small white boat was spotted wrecked on the shore. "Not to blow my own horn, but if it hadn't been me, I don't think it would have been reported," he said.
The Marshallese captain of the boat that he was on was "not too impressed"; there are plenty of wrecked boats in the Pacific.
But when Naughton saw the registration number from Hawaii on the bow, he "had a feeling."
When they were finally able to go ashore, Naughton confirmed it was indeed the Sarah Joe, two thousand miles from Hana, and even more surprisingly, there was a grave.
Twenty years later, nobody has come forward to say who made that grave.
Naughton has a story he belives fits what little is known, but he is reluctant to say it is the true story without more evidence.
Beside the grave, there was a cross and a thick pad of note paper, interleaved with aluminum foil.
After the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" publicized the story, Naughton learned there were calls, apparently from Chinese people, suggesting that the foil represented money for the afterlife.
Naughton speculates that poaching fishermen landed at the uninhabited atoll, looking for turtles and giant clams, and found the remains of Scott Moorman. Recognizing that he was not an Asian, they buried the remains and put up a cross, but they also followed their own practice of burning foil representing money.
That would explain why no one ever came forward.
"When you think of it, it was respectful for them to do it."
But Naughton adds, "It's a theory."
Nobody knows, and there is even less evidence about what happened to the rest of the crew - Ralph Malaiakini, Peter Hanchett, Benjamin Kalama and Patrick Woessner.
Naughton said that he has reflected often about the Sarah Joe. "Some of the families don't want it opened up again, others do want it remembered."
Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.