The boat of a North Carolina man who has been missing for seven months has washed ashore in the Azores islands, thousands of miles from the marina where he was last seen, officials said Monday.
Joseph Matthew Johnson has not been found, but Carolina Beach police say authorities in the Azores say a boat registered to him ran aground last week on the small island of São Jorge, some 2,700 miles across the ocean.
Johnson was last seen leaving the Federal Point Yacht Club marina Nov. 22 on his boat, police said. The 44-year-old Carolina Beach resident was reported missing five days later by a friend who arrived in town on a previously arranged fishing trip, police said.
Video surveillance from Nov. 22 shows the boat leaving the marina where he lived and the last ping from Johnson’s cellphone was from the coast of Bald Head Island at 5:17 p.m. the same day, Sgt. Colby Edens said by phone Monday.
The US Coast Guard’s search for Johnson in November covered 7,498 square miles in 53 hours, but was suspended when no new information was found, WECT reported.
When the boat was found on June 21, there was a heavy buildup of barnacles and algae, indicating that it had capsized at sea for some time, Edens said.
Portuguese authorities are helping the Carolina Beach Police Department gather evidence and continue their search for Johnson. Anyone with information about Johnson is asked to contact the Carolina Beach Police Department at 910-458-2540.
Johnson’s mother, Mary Kay Anderson, said her family was confident he would be found alive, the Wilmington Star-News reported. The retired US Army Special Forces soldier served for 24 years with tours in Afghanistan and South America, so Anderson believes he has the skills to survive in dangerous conditions and elements.
“It’s not just hope,” Anderson said. “We know he is alive and we pray for his miraculous rescue.”
Last week, in a separate incident, the US Coast Guard announced that a Virginia couple reported late in their weather-damaged sailboat while heading to the Azores islands was. Virginia Beach natives Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65, contacted the Coast Guard Friday saying they were safe.