A Maui fisherman said Friday that a large dock he found drifting off Maui and Molokai resembled a dock from a Japanese fishing port that washed ashore in Oregon over the summer.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the dock, which he described as roughly 20 by 40 feet, had four small rollers on its sides, a pipe bent to the side and a post with an electrical box. Those were all characteristics of a 165-ton concrete dock torn loose by the 2011 tsunami from a Japanese fishing port that washed ashore in Newport, Ore., in June, he said, based on images he's seen.
One of his crew members went aboard the dock Wednesday and noticed a plaque with characters in Japanese, which he could not decipher. That crew member told the fisherman Friday that he saw those same Japanese characters on a plaque on images taken of the dock that washed up in Oregon.
This dock, which may be tsunami debris from Japan, was found floating about 15 miles off of Molokai by a Maui fisherman. This photo was taken by the fisherman, who wished to remain anonymous, Wednesday afternoon.
The man, who said he fishes on the side, said that he and another man were looking for the KC2 buoy on Monday, about 30 miles north of Maui on his "less than 30-foot boat."
They were looking for the buoy, a good fishing spot, "when this thing caught our eye" about a quarter mile away, he said.
"We were just moving along, and we saw something in the water," the fisherman said. "It looked massive and out of place.
"It's not unusual to see a boater buoy or a log . . . from streams, but not something you can park four cars on."
They went to investigate. The water was rough so they didn't get too close, but because flotsam in the water attracts fish, they cast out their lines. In three hours of fishing from 4 to 7 p.m. that day, they hooked some mahi-mahi and returned to land.
The fisherman went out looking for the object Tuesday but was unsuccessful. Based on information from another fisherman, who reported the object moving at 1 knot per hour to the west, he plotted a location and went out seeking the dock again Wednesday.
This time he found it, north of Molokai, about 15 miles off Halawa Valley.
The seas were calmer than Monday, but he said he still took care maneuvering his boat close to the object so that his fellow crew member could jump on the dock.
While on the flat dock, the crew member noted the Japanese writing, which the man later matched with writings in an image of the Oregon barge.
There were old growth barnacles "as big as your thumb" indicating that the dock had been at sea a long time, the fisherman said.
The next morning, the fisherman decided he needed to contact authorities.
A Hawaii News Now TV report about a blue bin believed - and later confirmed - to be tsunami debris from Fukushima, Japan, aired with a phone number to contact the television station if anyone sees debris, which he did.
"In an abundance of caution," the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a broadcast notice to let mariners know that the dock is in the area, said Anthony Soto, Coast Guard spokesman, on Friday.
Ben Sherman, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman in Washington, D.C., said Friday that the dock was last seen Thursday evening 15 miles northwest of Molokai heading into the Kaiwi Channel toward Oahu. It is not in a major shipping lane.
The Maui fisherman indicated that the dock is headed toward Oahu.
"I would think in relatively calm water you couldn't miss it," he said. "In rougher water, you could miss it.
"It is a navigation hazard."
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.