Japanese dock draws crowds to Newport

Well, I saw it, I saw the Japanese dock that washed away in last year’s tsunami and landed on Agate Beach in Newport. I was bored and in the neighborhood. First I looked from the road, muttering, “Where is it? Where is it?” until I finally saw it in the water up near Yaquina Head. It just looked like a big brown rectangle, but since I was there, I turned into the parking lot. Whoa, has Newport ever seen such crowds in this century? The massive lot was nearly full, with hundreds of tourists walking around in shorts and flip-flops. I followed the crowd through the concrete tunnel under the road. A bearded man stood near the exit, playing the flute. The music echoed wonderfully off the walls. I looked for a tip jar, but he had only a beer can from which he soon paused to take a swig.

I joined the hundreds of people slogging across the sand toward the dock. They brought dogs of all shapes and sizes. Old people, young people, a woman with a walker, couples, college guys, tanned, tattooed bodybuilders and skinny guys with pale skin, and solos like me all had one goal: to see the dock and take its picture. It was much like when the New Carissa washed ashore near Waldport in the 1990s. It was just a boat, but everybody wanted to see it.

I never knew Agate beach was so long, but it was fun being part of the party. Finally, I joined the mobs staring at the dock. It’s just a concrete rectangle with what looks like little tires on one end. It has already been scrubbed clean of aquatic animals and plants that local scientists fear might invade our ecosystem. The dock is not terribly photogenic, which is good because I hadn’t planned this trip and didn’t bring a camera. It’s just the idea that it came all the way from Japan after the tsunami that hit 15 months ago.

Having seen it, people turned to enjoying the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day. Kids and dogs played in the water or threw frisbees on the sand. Families gathered for picnics.

On the way back, I passed what appeared to be a family from Japan, all dressed in dark clothes and wearing big straw hats. They stared at the ocean, their expressions somber. What must they be thinking and feeling, I wondered. For us it’s a party, but for the Japanese, it’s a nightmare.

When I looked back, they were taking each other’s pictures.

Near the entrance, two young rangers had just dragged a seaweed-covered garbage can off the beach. “Is it from Japan?” people kept asking them. “No, it’s American,” they replied.

People are curious. They are finding things from Japan on our local beaches a year earlier than expected. While I worry about our beaches becoming inundated with debris, for now it’s just adding to the allure of the gorgeous Oregon coast–and the possibility of finding a treasure from afar.

I didn’t take pictures of the dock, but it has been heavily covered in the local press, including News Lincoln County, where yet another photo was posted today. So take a look, and if you have time, take a walk on the beach. A contractor has been hired to demolish the Japanese dock. Although a date has not been announced, it will probably be soon.

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Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, and Childless by Marriage. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I teach writing workshops and offer individual editing and mentoring. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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