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
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.