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Old 12-03-2011, 07:15   #1
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Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Nothing like a Tsunami to change your plans for the day.

I went to the harbor this morning at about 9am to check on my Beneteau Oceanis 331 “ITZAYANA” and it was “a rockin' and a rollin'”.
.
Luckily the dock ITZAYANA is on is one of the most recent to be re-built so it is holding up quite well. Also, it is in the widest part of the harbor so the surge is less pronounced than on other docks. There is one entire dock in the back harbor that broke loose and then disintegrated scattering the boats that were tied to it in to the swirling muck.
There are, my guess, at least a couple dozen boats that were holed when they broke loose from docks and crashed into other boats, pilings, and the rocks on the shoreline. Consequently most of them have sunk so there is a lot of debris and fuel in the churning water. There were two sailboats jammed under the Murray St Bridge tethered to the pilings by their broken masts. All of U dock in the upper harbor is completely destroyed as are the docks at Aquarius Boat Works.

Several large boats that had broken free from their docks were just drifting about with no one aboard. There was one 35-40' power boat that partially sunk and was drifting in and out of the harbor in the 8-10 knot surge crashing into and damaging everything in its path. It took more than an hour for the Harbor Patrol to get it under control and lashed to a dock.
At one point it smashed into the dock behind my dock and got wedged underneath two 30' sailboats lifting them mostly out of the water.
When the surge changed directions the partially submerged powerboat slid back out from the two sailboats and started heading for my dock. The harbor patrol boat finally got a line on it just in the nick of time and started pulling hard but the 1/2 inch nylon line snapped like a rubber band as a 35-40' power boat full of water being pushed and pulled by an 8 knot surge is a force to be reckoned with. The little bit of pull that was exerted on the hulking mass before the line snapped was enough to get the thing going in the right direction and back out into the main channel and safely away from our dock.
As the powerboat slid out into the channel it caught the rudder of an Erickson 35 that was on the end tie of our dock. The powerboat didn't even slow down as it ripped the rudder from the below the stern of the Erickson.

A few minutes later we noticed that one of the two sailboats that the powerboat had lodged under was starting to settle low on her waterline. We called to the Harbor Patrol on a hand-held VHF radio. They had just gotten a rope tied to a hunk of broken dock and were towing it to somewhere it could do no more harm. In response to the call of the sinking sailboat they cut loose the broken dock that they were towing and came to rescue the sailboat from sinking. They arrived in short order proudly sporting two large portable gas powered emergency bilge pumps. They got the pumps situated on the dock and began pulling on the starter rope of one of them. They pulled and pulled on the starter rope then gave up on pump number one when they were unable to start it. The other pump started on the second pull but the hose coupler promptly blew off of the machine. By the time they got the hose coupler re-secured to the pump and the pump running it was too late. The sailboat sunk in the slip. As the boat was sinking the Harbor Patrolmen were so busy saving the defective pumps that they neglected to loosen the dock lines on the sinking sailboat. When she sunk she took the dock down under with her as everyone scrambled to keep their feet dry while rushing off to the next crisis.

While all this was going on the surges of water were rushing in and out of the harbor in 5-10 minute cycles. The water would go out until boats were sitting in mud and then come rushing back in like a raging river of mud. The docks were tilting sideways from the force of the water which made walking a challenge. A challenge made even more difficult by the fact that the docks rose and fell 8-10 feet every 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile my dock mates and I were busy pulling huge hunks of debris from the water and hauling them onto the dock so that they would not continue to damage our boats as they smashed back and forth in the froth. This same scene was playing out on most of the docks as boat owners worked to minimize the damage done to their boats while hundreds of people watched from the parking lots above.

It was a strange kind of circus event feeling. Many of the spectators were drinking beers and generally having a “pretty good old time” while 5 or 6 news and Coast Guard helicopters hovered a couple hundred feet overhead creating a din of sound, and frantic boat owners scrambled about as harbor patrol boats did their best to harness the runaway boats and debris that were generally wrecking indiscriminate havoc.

The officials (Harbor Police, City Police, Coast Guard, Firefighters, Highway Patrol) started calling for everyone off the docks. The water which had been flooding in and out in 5-10 minute cycles had been going out for a good 10 minutes but just kept going out. More and more boats were starting to touch bottom as we scrambled up the gangway that was now at about a 45 degree angle. Just when we thought that the water was going to completely drain out of the harbor someone yelled, "Here it comes!" The sound was like a low flying passenger liner as a 4-5 foot wall of water surged into the harbor. This was the mother of all surges. This wave of water raised the boats dock by dock as it rushed through. It looked like the classic spectator wave at a big time sporting event.

By this time (about 2pm) the number of spectators and grown from hundreds to thousands. The fine job that the news helicopters were doing had no doubt fueled the desire of many to attend this irresistible spectacle. It was apparent that the crowd was becoming more festive by the hour and was dangerously outnumbering the ability of the force of public servants to assert control. The police started driving through the parking lots using the vehicles PA to announce that the area had been designated as official evacuation area. "This is not a recommendation, this is an order!" they shouted.

It didn't look to me like anyone was in too big a hurry to go anywhere, but I could see no reason to stick around. I saw confusion on the faces of a few live-aboard boaters who clearly had no place else to go. I started walking toward the truck. When I had arrived at 9am I had parked about a mile from my boat. It was a lucky thing I did. By the time I left at 2pm, where I had parked my truck earlier that morning was now only 50’ outside of the "no drive zone" barricades that the police had set up and were diligently manning.
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Old 12-03-2011, 08:12   #2
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Thank you for shareing. My heart goes out to all who are surffering from this tragic event.
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Old 12-03-2011, 08:12   #3
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I saw the videos of your marina and I am thankful you are ok and appreciate your sharing information. We are liveaboards in a marina near LA and appreciate hearing what to expect when a tsunami hits here. We went through the one from Chile and now Japan but it was mild compared to you. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:27   #4
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Since this Tsunami was not unexpected I fail to understand why owners didn't take their boats out a couple of miles to deep water and ride it out there.
In deep water the wave is a couple of meters high and would pass harmlessly. It is in the shallow waters were the harm is done.
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:39   #5
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pirate Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Quote:
Originally Posted by sigmasailor View Post
Since this Tsunami was not unexpected I fail to understand why owners didn't take their boats out a couple of miles to deep water and ride it out there.
In deep water the wave is a couple of meters high and would pass harmlessly. It is in the shallow waters were the harm is done.
Maybe they needed work done...
or wanted new boats...
or just rid of the expense...
Thats what Insurance Companies are for...
Or would it come under....
'An Act Of God'...
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:45   #6
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Quote:
Originally Posted by sigmasailor View Post
Since this Tsunami was not unexpected I fail to understand why owners didn't take their boats out a couple of miles to deep water and ride it out there.
In deep water the wave is a couple of meters high and would pass harmlessly. It is in the shallow waters were the harm is done.
Yes, of course... that is what is in my Tsunami plan, and what I DO all the time when we get them....

It is always much easier to decide what we would have done in someone else s shoes after we see the result in hindsight.

I am very sorry for all those who lost boats, but moreso for all those who have died or lost loved ones in Japan...
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:46   #7
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Probably the same reason the sailors here often don't remove sails and biminis when a hurricane is coming. They have other things to do and besides a lot of them figure thats what insurance is for. Some don't seem to care that their boat might damage MY boat. Much more than that most people just don't realize that a fairly small change in depth moves a huge amount of water and it can do an amazing amount of damage in seconds.

I made the mistake of running aground about 75 yards of the Houston Ship Channel and just the passing ship played hell with my boat. As the ship passes the water drops FAST and then comes back in as a 3' to 5 foot standing wave of stinking black muck just like the OP describes.

We had three large waves and a few smaller ones hit us before TowboatUS got us pulled off. Luckily we had no damage beyond bottom paint, the wifes cell phone and some underwear.

I guess my point is you don't think it can happen to you but it does sometimes........m
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:47   #8
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Some time you can't just at no notice move out. I was curious if any one other then the harbirmaster was trying to save boats. The image I saw was bystanders with beer watching. Why didn't they down the beer and help
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:57   #9
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

There's a youtube video of it up now. Nothing you can really do against that...... Holy crap....

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Old 12-03-2011, 09:58   #10
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Do insurance companies cover Tsunami's? I live in the Netherlands where we have the occasional flooding in the lower parts. These natural disasters (act of God) are not covered by any insurance.

Even if it was insured and I had my boat there and I knew it was going to hit (how could anyone not know this?) within 12 hours I wouldn't sit there but move my boat and ride it out in deep water.
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Old 12-03-2011, 10:10   #11
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

re: Sabray query: r u kidding ! we are not a family anymore like in the 50's. Germany and China r paying off other countries debts ?? we aint !! all we can do is lend out human fodder ..and not caring for them when they come home.
those guys drinking the beer just standing by and is our norm.. no more community spirit....
we, you and i just think of getting out to sea away from it all or being someplace else...
well maybe that's a little too harsh but its close !!
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Old 12-03-2011, 10:11   #12
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

I agree, with the notice given I'd move too. Or at least lock it down better - from the video most boats looked to be tied down as usual and not for a storm.

I would think insurance companies would cover it in an area where Tsunamis are not a normal occurance.
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Old 12-03-2011, 10:38   #13
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

We had just come into L.A. harbor after a week out to take care of some business for a couple of days then go. When notice arrived we hadn't too much an idea what to expect in spite of the Chilean Tsunami and most people here chose to stay and spent time securing docks moving boats doing what we could to secure the marina. We have a number of retired liveaboards on low fixed incomes who have no other place to go. There was no question about staying... this had been our home for four years and we have many freinds here, many of whom btw are not insured for various reasons.
We aren't so it was a not a matter of letting the insurance company pick up the pieces.

I feel terrible for those who lost their homes especially in these times. I'd probably be on the street without Molly B.

BTW: 24 hours later now and we are still getting surges strong enough to keep us near the boat deferring other business.
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Old 12-03-2011, 11:36   #14
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Good morning Liam, my heart goes out to all the people of Japan. I've been watching the news and feel terrible about all the people who have either had their boats damaged or lost. I used to keep my boat in Santa Cruz and know the harbor well. I hope your boat is OK! I was planning a cruse to Monterey via Santa cruz in April but I might have to wait. I hope all gets back to normal as soon as possible. My best to all in Santa Cruz.

Gary
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Old 12-03-2011, 11:40   #15
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Re: Tsunami in Santa Cruz

Quote:
Originally Posted by sabray View Post
Some time you can't just at no notice move out. I was curious if any one other then the harbirmaster was trying to save boats. The image I saw was bystanders with beer watching. Why didn't they down the beer and help
They're probably the same philistines who watch auto racing for the crashes.
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