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2011 Tsunami
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The Publisher
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Mar 14, 2011, 1:34 PM

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Dear Curmudgeon,

Here's an update about the damage to Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor.

Garrison Keiler likes to start his monologues with the familiar "It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town", but it's been anything but quiet at the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor since Friday, March 11, 2011.

As virtually anyone with a television knows, the tsunami caused by the terrible Japanese earthquake made its way across 5,000 miles of open ocean and arrived on our sunny shores on Friday morning. To be able to stand on the shore surrounding the harbor, in relative safety, and watch 800 boats crash and smash together for about 12 hours was something like watching a train crash in very, very slow motion.

There were two modes of water movement and damage. The first was a series of surges which started at precisely 8:07 (right on time) on Friday and which continued until nightfall. Santa Cruz Harbor is long and skinny, having been dredged out of some wetlands in 1963 (try to get that past the Coastal Commission now...) so the water was flowing north and south with each cycle. I'd estimate that from flood to ebb to flood was about 25 minutes.

http://maps.google.com/...93,0.033174&z=15

The current ran up and down the harbor at speeds approaching 10 knots, around hulls that had hull speeds of 5 knots, and docks which aren't normally subject to current. The harbor docks steadily weakened with each cycle, but relatively few boats broke free, and it appeared that surges would taper off and the harbor would be spared.

That brings up the second mode of water movement. About two hours after the first signs of the tsunami, a series of waves entered the harbor. As you can see in the various videos, they looked like big ripples about 3' high and traveling extremely quickly. It was as if a large ship had powered past the mouth of the harbor and its wake had traveled up the harbor. This wave(s) wrenched the docks, boats, cleats, docklines, fenders, pilings and everything else with a violent snap. Apparently this happened two times, although it's hard to figure out the timing since various observers were at the harbor at various times, and no one seems to have the full story. I believe it was the first wave which fatally damaged U1-Dock in the upper harbor, which caused most of the boat damage and sinking.

Saturday was surreal; tourists and boat owners were walking up and down the harbor, gawking at the enormous about of damage. As the surges continued (more quietly, but still related to the tsunami) you could see eddies in the water which indicated the location of sunken boats. The water, which is normally a somewhat turbid and blue, is a thick gray-black sludge.

The greatest surprise was that the dock which gets violently shaken during the wave on Friday actually looks pretty normal on Saturday. It's made from recycled plastic and it's relatively new, so perhaps there's a lesson here.

One more video that has inane commentary, but it shows the power of the current: http://www.youtube.com/...&feature=related

Check out my hastily constructed blog at http://chuckhawley.blogspot.com/...tsunami-of-2011.html

Regards,

Chuck Hawley
West Marine




The Publisher
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Mar 14, 2011, 1:36 PM

Post #2 of 7 (19871 views)
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More videos:

Santa Cruz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgt8qBSZEn0
Catalina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilcfGVvQztM

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt




The Publisher
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Mar 14, 2011, 1:45 PM

Post #3 of 7 (19867 views)
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Latitude 38 reports on the chaos from Mexico to California: http://www.latitude38.com/...amp;dayid=556#Story2

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


The Publisher
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Mar 15, 2011, 11:14 AM

Post #4 of 7 (18748 views)
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This is a video of the last commercial boat to leave the harbor in Crescent City CA.... he was late, because he was far away from his boat when the warning was posted.... This video also shows what happened inside the basin, and to the boats that were not evacuated. Not near the destruction as in Japan, but shows the power of a small tidal wave.

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. - The Coast Guard conducts an over flight of Crescent City, Calif., Friday, Mar. 11, 2011, after the Mar. 10, 2011 earthquake near Japan causes a Tsunami to strike the West Coast. All five Group Air Station North Bend HH-65C dolphin helicopters and 12 Group North Bend's 47-foot motor lifeboats were in the air and at sea, prepositioned along the coast, ready for search and rescue and damage assessment. U.S. Coast Guard video by Group Air Station North Bend, Ore.

VIDEO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9GFhO9nizY




The Publisher
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Mar 16, 2011, 8:36 AM

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From Doran Cushing, Sarasota, FL:

Watching the video of the destruction of marinas and boats in California caused by the tsunami reminded me of what we see in Florida every hurricane season -careless owners who truly couldn't care less if their boat is destroyed. In the case of the tsunami, the West Coast owners had about 12 hours to take action. That action would simply have been to go to sea for a few hours, then come back. Yes, the marina might be gone but the boats would still be floating and could be anchored or moved to another location. Can someone please explain why a boat owner would NOT try to save the boat?


The Publisher
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Mar 16, 2011, 8:37 AM

Post #6 of 7 (18485 views)
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From Skip Ely, Santa Cruz, CA:

Our Santa Cruz 52 Elyxir survived the tsunami, in Santa Cruz Harbor (as did most of the boats) and would have been fine, probably better, offshore. The same cannot be said for most of the boats in Santa Cruz, especially the smaller day sailors and powerboats that suffered the brunt of the damage in the much protected (from the weather) upper harbor.

I have heard that Sarasota, FL has the occasional hurricane, and I doubt any boats there try to ride them out at sea. Santa Cruz has hurricane force winds on the ocean regularly in March.

On Friday morning the area weather forecast was for rain beginning on Saturday evening or Sunday with seas building to 10 to 15 feet (the buoys right now are showing over 10 foot seas). Although we are not experiencing high winds, the forecast could have meant winds greater than 30 knots (happens all the time in March). The Central California coast can be a very ugly lee shore in March.

Finally the Coast Guard and harbor police were warning people not to leave the harbor, even those in very seaworthy boats with provisions for days at sea. The decision to leave harbor in Santa Cruz when a Tsunami could close the three harbors of refuge (Santa Cruz, Monterey and Moss Landing) within reach should not be taken lightly. Running south for Santa Barbara (200 miles away) or beating north to San Francisco (70 miles) might be the only options.

With all that said, if this happens again Elyxir will head for the horizon, I hope we don't have to make that decision again.


The Publisher
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Mar 16, 2011, 12:33 PM

Post #7 of 7 (18461 views)
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In Reply To
From Skip Ely, Santa Cruz, CA:

Our Santa Cruz 52 Elyxir survived the tsunami, in Santa Cruz Harbor (as did most of the boats) and would have been fine, probably better, offshore. The same cannot be said for most of the boats in Santa Cruz, especially the smaller day sailors and powerboats that suffered the brunt of the damage in the much protected (from the weather) upper harbor.

I have heard that Sarasota, FL has the occasional hurricane, and I doubt any boats there try to ride them out at sea. Santa Cruz has hurricane force winds on the ocean regularly in March.

On Friday morning the area weather forecast was for rain beginning on Saturday evening or Sunday with seas building to 10 to 15 feet (the buoys right now are showing over 10 foot seas). Although we are not experiencing high winds, the forecast could have meant winds greater than 30 knots (happens all the time in March). The Central California coast can be a very ugly lee shore in March.

Finally the Coast Guard and harbor police were warning people not to leave the harbor, even those in very seaworthy boats with provisions for days at sea. The decision to leave harbor in Santa Cruz when a Tsunami could close the three harbors of refuge (Santa Cruz, Monterey and Moss Landing) within reach should not be taken lightly. Running south for Santa Barbara (200 miles away) or beating north to San Francisco (70 miles) might be the only options.

With all that said, if this happens again Elyxir will head for the horizon, I hope we don't have to make that decision again.


Tsunami clarification for Mr. Ely

Prudent sailors know you do not go to sea to deal with a hurricane...you seek proper refuge. Given the speed at which hurricanes travel, which is relatively slow, it is plausible to find a safe harbor, safe bayou, safe inland waterway when the danger is still a day away. Yes, the storms can change direction unannounced as Hurricane Charley did in 2004. Tampa Bay was in the bullseye and would have been devastated had the storm come close. But it turned and nailed the barrier islands north of Ft. Myers, then went inland over Punta Gorda/Charlotte Harbor. Many of the boats in the area were kept behind homes in protected canals and most would have survived unscathed were it not for tornados spun off from the storm, and damage from the lovely red roof tiles which became airborne grenades. The sad part was that many boats were damaged only because the owners did not take down the furled jibs, did not take down the bimini/dodgers, and they did not secure the boats properly to pilings and seawalls. And boats that could have easily been put on trailers were left in the water. Now every boater gets to fund the lost boats in their increased insurance premiums...in California, in Florida, and everywhere else regardless of the owner's prudent actions.

Doran Cushing
Sarasota FL




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