Missing North Carolina man’s boat found off Portugal coast

The boat of a retired US Army Special Forces soldier who vanished seven months ago has washed ashore on the Azores Islands – nearly 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, police said.

The vessel belonging to Joseph Matthew Johnson, who was reported missing in November, was located last week on the island of São Jorge, about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal, police in North Carolina said Monday.

Johnson, 44, was not found, but Portuguese authorities contacted Carolina Beach police after his 2006 Clearwater fishing boat was recovered some 2,700 miles away from where it was last spotted.

“The investigation is ongoing and no additional information is available at this time,” police said in a statement.

Johnson’s 19-foot vessel showed evidence of capsizing and was covered with barnacles and algae, indicating it had been under water for “quite some time,” Carolina Beach police told the Wilmington Star-News.

Johnson, who was reported missing after not returning from a fishing trip with a friend, was last seen leaving Federal Point Yacht Club in Carolina Beach on Nov. 22, the newspaper reported.

Joseph Matthew Johnson
Relatives believe Joseph Matthew Johnson will be found alive thanks to survival skills he learned while enlisted with US Army Special Forces.
Carolina Beach Police Department

Cellphone records showed activity on Johnson’s device later that day off the coast of North Carolina’s Bald Head Island. The US Coast Guard suspended its search for Johnson in November after covering nearly 7,500 square miles over 53 hours, according to the report.

Johnson’s mother said she believes her son – who served in the Army for 24 years, including tours in Afghanistan and South America – will be found alive thanks to survival skills he learned while enlisted.

“It’s not just hope,” Mary Kay Anderson told the newspaper. “We know he’s alive and are praying for his miraculous rescue … We’re getting close. He’s almost here, I can feel it.”

Joseph Johnson's boat seen in an undated photo.
Joseph Johnson’s boat seen in an undated photo.

Johnson is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds, with strawberry blonde hair, police said. He was alone when he left the North Carolina marina and may have taken a handgun with him, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts should call Carolina Beach police at (910) 458-2540.

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