Posted: March 11, 2013
PUNALUU BEACH, Oahu — Two days before Christmas 2012, Leilehualani Kane-Tapado found a 24-foot fishing boat on the beach across the street from her home on the windward side of this island. The craft was upside-down and had Japanese characters on it.
She'd always wanted a boat but could never afford one, so it seemed like a gift from the sea.
But there's a problem: The boat is, for all intents and purposes, a piece of debris that floated ashore from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. (Japan is marking the second anniversary of the tsunami on Monday.) And as such, it is at the center of a firestorm of controversy over tsunami debris and Kane-Tapado's right to keep what she found.
Kane-Tapado, a health-care worker and mom, has claimed the boat as her own. Local neighbors helped turn the boat upright, and she brought it to her home and celebrated by dancing a hula on it. Her family had a feast with the barnacles that were attached to the hull.
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