Tsunami report – La Cruz entertained by bad judgement from fancy boats

Earthquake surge: Ruahatu aground

We’re fine and all’s well, although according to the last NOAA report, about an hour ago (2028 UTC), there’s still a tsunami warning in affect for Mexico. That’s the highest level of warning which can be issued, although it seems as though we’ve seen the affects come (and go) through La Cruz already.

There have been several hours of surge in the marina, created as the water level rapidly lowered (and then came back in), changing level over a meter in a fairly short period of time. It might not sound like much, but that’s a tremendous amount of water movement.

When we were comfortable that the impact in our area would be minimal, Jamie decided to hold a tsunami “class” on the breakwall for our children and the awesome Maia from s/v Ceilydh. The chance to safely witness the powerful effect was too much to pass up! They could see the force of the water from both the color of the water changing when a new flow surged in, and the angle and stream of water coming from the buoys marking the channel into the marina.

Earthquake surge

There’s a big regatta starting soon, MEXORC’s Mexican Cup, and all the fancy racing boats are here. Jamie is drooling over the high tech boats, but that’s another story! We walked down the dock where they all located and admired the fancy gear. From the end of the dock, we could see the huge current created by the water turnover.

Apparently, the fancy guys in the fancy MEXORC boats felt superhuman and decided to head out into the bay for their practice day, crazy currents be damned. Now a little additional background here is that the marina was recently dredged to ensure accommodating their deeper draft, but now these deep draft (10-14 feet) boats are going out:
– at maximum low tide
– during a full moon cycle (larger tidal swings, lower lows)
– in the middle of the big suck from the tsunami-driven current

So basically, depths which were dredged to BARELY accommodate them in the last two months could pretty much be kissed goodbye for a few hours. Why chance it? Especially with all the current? I guess they pay them the big bucks for something, but it’s not common sense. There was great entertainment for several dozen people on the breakwall as boats were thrown around by the current or stuck on the bottom.

Wasabi was the first to get glued to the bottom, although they seemed to get off easily enough. Ruahatu was next, and they entertained crowd for almost an hour.

Earthquake surge

They’re trying, that’s for sure. Check out the guys on the boom: they had repeated dunkings as they tried to free the boat. And that panga: why is it trying to pull the boat IN to the marina- now against the current? Wouldn’t it be easier to work with mother nature in this case? And how about the guy on the bow of the racing boat- standing right next to that highly tensioned line to the panga? It’s an accident waiting to happen. The line did snap later (or maybe the cleat broke- I don’t know, but it went flying), and thank goodness at least SOME common sense had then been found because he was farther back and not injured. A yellow cabin cruiser attempted to give aid, but only succeeded in getting tangled in lines, wrapping one on their propeller, and thus temporarily losing power and becoming a sitting duck that added to the mess. To cap things off, there was an MOB from Ruahatu as the boat tipped back and forth. Lovely. No injuries, except (and frankly, I hope) to some egos.

Of course, fancy race boats aren’t the only ones with questionable judgement. A number of boats left the marina in advance of the anticipated arrival, the marina being about the worst place for a boat during a significant tsunami (good judgement!). When the anticipated scale of the affect was apparent, most boats stayed put… why chance the strong currents at the entrance? One ‘local cruising boat, a big (50’?) catana cat called Moon and Stars, decided to try and go out of the marina after the surge had started. Bad judgement! From our vantage point, it appeared the current was peaking. We speculate at least 5 knots, but it could be quite a bit more. As soon as they poked their nose out of the jetties, the boat was swept towards the beach like a toy boat. It appeared to come within a couple of meters of the jetty before getting enough power (and pointing their nose straight into the surge) to make headway and get out. Oh boy, do I wish I had a picture of that… but I was too busy getting in a sympathetic fetal position and waiting for the crunch of fiberglass on rocks. It was ugly.

Beyond our little world in Banderas Bay, initial affects have been measured already in Pacific islands. In general, it seems relatively mild so far: mostly 1-2 meter reports, although there was a 4 meter delta measured at Hiva Oa…our anticipated landfall after the Pacific crossing in April. We may not know the full impact yet. Tsunamis are not a single wave, but as series of waves, and the first may not be the biggest. It can take several hours for the series of waves to arrive, and NOAA warns that not until two hours have passed after a major wave do we know that the threat is over. Even then, strong currents can continue for several hours. We’re watching reports and hoping that all will be well.

5 Responses

  1. so glad you’re ok- that said, it must have been awesome to see the tsunami effects. wow. when do you plan to cross to hiva oa? we can’t wait to live vicariously.

  2. Ellen- we’re anticipating departure the first week of April, exact date TBD as we watch the weather. We’ll be able to post text via our radio from the passage, it might take a while for any pictures to follow!

  3. Always good when a world wide disaster alert provides an educational opportunity. We monitored it from here. The cluster* that constitutes the New Zealand population’s reaction was instructive. People were heading -towards- the beaches with all sorts being interviewed about how exciting and interesting. I love the Civil Defense Miniter’s very up front and candid thoughts, “Those people are complete idiots.” Not diplomatic, but our girls decided he was highly accurate.

    NZ recorded a 2 meter swell in the Chaltham Islands and the surge through the marinas around Auckland was notable and significant. 12 knot currents were registered in some places.

    God I miss being on the boat.

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