Preparing for a Tsunami

In the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, California sailors had roughly 12 hours before they would experience any resulting effects of the wave. In Japan, securing a boat was anyone’s last concern, but for sailors on the West Coast, there was a window of time in which they could make some basic precautions. The question was, how do you even begin?

SAIL asked BoatUS technical director Bob Adriance how he would advise sailors in this situation. Here are his thoughts.

SAIL: From videos of the tsunami hitting California shores, the water seems unpredictable. Do you recommend keeping your boat on a mooring, or at the dock?

Bob Adriance: “Several BoatUS members took their boats out of Santa Cruz harbor prior to the tsunami’s arrival and put them on Coast Guard moorings. All survived without a scratch.”

SAIL: That can’t be said for the boats in the harbor. News reports stated that Santa Cruz harbor alone had $15 million in damages. Is there any way to protect your boat if you do have to leave it at your slip?

BA: “Putting the boat in the center of the slip and adding extra lines might help to mitigate damage. I also noticed that boats positioned to meet the wave bow-on fared better than boats that took the waves on their beams. Boats that had their sterns to the waves got yanked off their mooring lines.”

SAIL: What about just heading out to sea?

BA: “I read that several Japanese fishing boats headed out to sea prior to the tsunami and rode up and over the wave with no damage. This was also true of small boats that were offshore in the Indonesian tsunami. The deeper the water, the less daunting (and destructive) the wave. Even in a small boat, that might be preferable to remaining in a house or automobile anywhere near the coast.”

Tales of the Japanese tsunami and the damage that followed have devastated the newswire since the disaster struck on March 11. While we cannot reverse the damage inflicted upon Japanese towns and harbors, learning how to prepare our own boats for residual effects of this and other natural disasters can help make us more prudent sailors.

Video of the tsunami rolling into Catalina Harbor:

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