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Pacific yachts flee but damage substantial as Japanese Tsunami arrives

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 13 Mar 2011
Tsunami - damage in Crescent City California .. .
As the ever deepening tragedy hit Japan and the word flashed around the world, yachts across the Pacific were alerted, running to sea or strengthening their mooring lines.

A tsunami warning along the Californian coast did not prevent damage as the deadly wave arrived, damage has been substantial in Hawaii, and a yacht trying to get to sea in New Zealand has been lost on rocks in the manoeuvre.


At King Harbor in Redondo Beach California, officials had made substantial efforts before the wave arrived. They moved larger boats out of the marina to keep them from causing damage should they be rocked about. They had also secured smaller boats in case wave action sends them smashing against docks, said Leslie Page, general manager of the Redondo Beach marina.

'The Coast Guard urges boaters to not get underway and check with their local harbor masters to ensure a marina evacuation has not been ordered,' officials said in a statement. 'Significant widespread inundation is not expected for areas under advisory.'

In Hawaii, closer to Japan, boat owners at Keehi Lagoon were arriving prior to the arrival of the wave to check on their boats and were then launching repair and recover efforts after it arrived.

The harbor area in front of the La Mariana Sailing Club sustained at least $500,000 in damage when the tsunami ripped away three docks mooring 100 sailboats. A total of 90 boats had been taken to sea to avoid the tsunami.

Jim Campbell, of Waikiki, arrived at 9:30 this morning and found his sailboat, Waimanalo, submerged up to its gunwales.

Campbell made an effort with small plastic waste baskets to bail water out of his boat and received help from a small electric water pump, but the attempt was futile.

Water overcome the bow and began pouring in and within 10 minutes his boat sank. 'Bye bye Waimanalo,' he said. He said he had just added $5,000 worth of new rigging to the boat he acquired in September and had planned its first sea trial the next day.

It was all quiet until close to 4 a.m. and 'suddenly noises all over. The tide was going up and down. All the ropes snapping and the cleats breaking. It was really something.' He said two of the three piers at the club were ripped from their mooring. The two piers ripped away were old. The third pier, which didn’t suffer major damage, was recently rebuilt and provided safety to about 30 boats.

In Santa Cruz in California Paul Shanley of Gold River just happened to be there on Friday morning when the waves caused by a tsunami that struck Japan reached the California coast. He said he witnessed boats tossed into other boats and debris from the docks splashing into the water as waves barreled into the Santa Cruz harbor.

At 10:16 a.m., another swell of water inundated the harbor, according to Shanley. 'It's like a river of water that comes in and then pulls back out. I've seen three or four boats that broke loose. The boat next to me was hit by debris. But clearly, the upper harbor was hit hardest,' said Shanley.
Shanley estimates roughly 1,000 boats are in the harbor. 'And there are people everywhere. They are on the bluffs. They are on the bridges. It's quite a spectator event,' said Shanley, who considers himself lucky.

'My sailboat escaped damage,' he said.

Down in New Zealand where the tsunami warning spurred many to take action to save their boats, a Wellington sailor wrecked his boat when he ran aground on rocks early Saturday trying to save the vessel from the tsunami. The sailor made a navigational error when he took his yacht out to sea from the congested harbour on Great Barrier Island, 90 kilometres off Auckland, rescue helicopter pilot Rob Arrowsmith told the New Zealand Press Association.
He was winched to safety from the yacht by rescue helicopter pilot Rob Arrowsmith. The yacht had contained his life- long possessions, but he was forced to issue a mayday call when he hit the rocks.

Arrowsmith said the man had been right to try to get to open water 'but trying to avoid damage to his boat, he unfortunately has just about sunk it.'

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