The ferry was three hours offshore when Makiko Yamaguchi and her three young children emerged from their cabin to pay final respects to their husband and father, Shoichi.
Silently, Makiko threw into the waters of the Sea of Japan the yellow pajamas that Shoichi had asked her to buy for his return from a business trip to the United States.
Then she instructed her 3-year-old daughter, Mami, to bid her father farewell. Three times, in a loud voice, Mami said, "Otosan father , sayonara," and the services for one more passenger on Korean Air Lines Flight 007 were complete.
It was a scene that has grown familiar here during the past two weeks since the Boeing 747 was knocked from the skies by a Soviet missile and fell into the sea off the coast of Sakhalin Island.
Seven times the chartered ferry has put out from the fishing port of Wakkanai, Japan's northernmost city, and headed into the Sea of Japan toward the island of Moneron, near the point where the plane went down.
Relatives and friends of the victims make the seven-hour round trip to perform a final Buddhist rite of burying some modest, well-loved treasure with the departed to console his soul. Clothes, favored books, flowers and other items are dropped into the gray seas and then the ferry turns toward home.
Masao and Kazue Yamaguchi, Shoichi's parents, threw grapes and oranges overboard, and Kazue, his mother, suddenly cried at the thought of how Flight 007's unexplained turn off course could have led to such a tragedy.
As was the case with other passengers aboard the airliner, there was a sad irony in Shoichi's fate. He had been on a two-week business trip in the United States for his company, Matsushita Housing Products, and had booked his return on a Japan Air Lines flight. But his briefcase was stolen in Chicago and he had to change to Flight 007.
The airliner's destruction on Sept. 1 has transformed this unlikely corner of the world into a scene of international drama. Normally, these waters are plied only by fishing boats, freighters and Coast Guard vessels.
Now they are the scene of funeral services from the chartered ferry and a vast, international search for the remains of the Korean Air Lines jet. To the north of Moneron Island, which lies in Soviet waters 60 miles from Wakkanai, at least 24 Soviet ships are taking part in the hunt for the wreckage. It is assumed they are searching most avidly for the black-box device that may contain taped records of the flight's last minutes which might throw some light on the disaster.
An official of the Japan Maritime Safety Agency said last week that for the first several days after the crash the Soviet vessels concentrated their search on the surface. But since then a cruiser, an oil-drilling ship and at least one small submersible have come to the scene, and the search seems to have gone underwater.
No one on the Japanese side knows exactly what the Soviets have dredged up, although late last week the Soviets were seen retrieving a 30-ft. piece of wreckage. The United States has sent an ocean-going tugboat and salvage vessels, a destroyer and a frigate to join 14 Japanese Coast Guard ships searching international waters for whatever remnants the strong currents might have brought from the crash scene.
The Soviets seem wary of intruders who come to the vicinity of their searches. Their "mother boat," which operates the small submersible, begins work early in the morning and closes its hatches to prevent observation, according to Maritime Safety Agency officials.
The ferry bearing funeral parties also has had minor Cold War encounters. One day last week a Soviet cargo ship that had been running a parallel course suddenly veered and headed toward what seemed a certain collision with the ferry until the Japanese captain slowed down to avoid trouble. On other trips, a Soviet Coast Guard cutter and a patrol plane had appeared to warn the ferry away from Soviet waters.
Of the 28 Japanese passengers who died in the crash, Yamaguchi was the only businessman.
Most of the others were tourists or students or relatives and friends of Japanese living abroad. One was an actress who had been in the United States learning English.
A mother and two children were returning from a visit with her husband who is employed by a Japanese trading company in Toronto.
In Tokyo, the families of the dead have formed an organization to negotiate compensation with Korean Air Lines.
So far, they have agreed to accept about $6,000 per victim in the form of condolences and memorial service expenses. Complete compensation is still to be negotiated.
The Japanese government is representing the families in an attempt to gain compensation from the Soviet Union, which has denied responsibility and refused to consider compensating the families.