A boat sent adrift by the 2011 tsunami and found earlier this year on the California coast has begun its journey back to Japan, thanks to the efforts of high school students in Crescent City.

The 6-meter-long fishing boat belongs to Takata High School in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, and was dubbed the "miracle boat" by the school's principal, Akihito Yokota.

It left on Friday for San Francisco, where it will be kept until it is sent on its way later this month back to Japan, the students said.

After the boat was found April 7, a group of students at Del Norte High School, with six core members, helped coordinate its return with the Japanese freight company Yusen Logistics Co.

"We thought it was a good thing to do," said John Steven, 16. "It would be a symbol of hope for them and it would let them know that we haven't forgotten them."

Earlier in the summer, Steven and some classmates scrubbed the boat and scraped off the barnacles. The boat was later put in an empty storefront display in the city as a reminder of the tragic event in Japan.

Del Norte High School officials also hope to create an exchange program with Takata High.

The students hope to raise enough money to go to Japan by the time the boat arrives in Rikuzentakata in mid-October to present it to the students of Takata High School themselves.

"Hopefully we can stay at least a week," Steven said. "I want to wrap my head around Japan and check out the culture."

Donations are being made by mail and the fundraising website, www.gofundme.com/3vvsgc.