Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 October 5:  

      Thanks to those who sent emails of concern about the tsunami that struck the Samoa Islands last week.  Thankfully, we were back in the USA already by then, and Uliad was hundreds of miles away.  We heard from friends back in Polynesia that by the time the tidal wave hit Raiatea, it was only about a meter high--not enough to reach the boat yard where Uliad was stored.  In fact, probably not enough to even notice behind the reefs that encircle the island.

      Not everyone was so fortunate, of course.  Over a hundred people were killed in American Samoa when a wall of water over 20 feet high washed away entire villages.  We had meet great friends aboard a boat named Gallivanter while in Tahiti and about the time we left for Raiatea, they were leaving for American Samoa.  Here is the email forwarded to us telling their story:

This morning (six hrs ago) we were shaken awake by an earthquake which seemed to have no end! We were aboard Gallivanter and tied side-to a big concrete dock in the heart of Pago Pago, American Samoa. And after living up & down the California coast, I knew this was no minor tremor.

After the rude awakening, Cath & I walked across the dock and chatted with a few of our fellow sailors, one of whom said that he's just done a Google search on "recent earthquakes" and said that it measured-in at 8.1 and the epicenter was only 120 miles distant.

We returned to Gallivanter and I turned on our laptop and searched the same website. Sure enough there it was... "8.1 earthquake - American Samoa - 20 minutes ago". I clicked on the "Show Map" option and noticed the epicenter was located south west of Pago Pago... which is located on the southern side of the island.

Just as I was considering the ramifications of that little fact... all hell started breaking loose! Our boat was on the move! My first reaction was to start the engine and dash up on deck to see what was going on. I witnessed the water around us was rapidly dropping! Rapidly! In a blink of an eye, we were on the bottom and the boat was falling away from the dock! Three of our big dock lines popped and we fell right over into the mud - the entire basin we had been floating in only moments ago had completely drained! People were screaming!

Next - the water came flooding back in at an even more alarming rate and the next thing I knew we were floating directly above the dock! Over the concrete slab and drifting toward a young lady we knew (from another boat) who was desperately hugging a power pole and up to her chin in swirling water! I told Cath to cut the two remaining dock lines with our serrated bread knife and to be quick about it!

Right as I put the boat into gear, we were somehow washed back off the dock and into the basin as I advance to full throttle and we accelerated through a floating debris field of floating docks, fuel drums, sinking boats, a shipping container and a barnicle encrusted wreck all of which were spinning in the torrent of rapidly dropping sea level. It was absolute mayhem! As we steered out toward the deep water in the center of the harbor I looked over my shouder and saw what appeared to be a waterfall pouring off the dock and shore beyond. Not one of the dozen vessels remained at the dock. All were underway in a matter of seconds... with or without crews aboard.

We motored around in the middle of the harbor watching the waves of floods & ebbs while wondering about after-shocks and our fellow cruising sailors. As we passed one of our neighbors she shouted to us that her husband had been washed off the dock as they were trying to get away. She was alone and seriously concerned. Other boats broke free from their moorings and anchors in the initial seismic waves and many were driven ashore, or driven under by loose tuna boats.

After about three hours, we felt it was finally safe enough to return to the dock. All we had were lengths of old line and we were short a couple fenders. We were the first to go in and we started un-tangling lines and helping others get back along side the concrete dock. All of the store-fronts along the water are destroyed, roving mobs of kids can be seen looting, the fence around the dock is gone, every boat on stands in a nearby boatyard were washed away. Big fishing boats are now in parking lots across the street. Absolute destruction is seen everywhere along the shore.

Phones and power are down but we got back online right away and I immediately went back to the recent earthquakes website to see if things have been calming down in the center of the earth. A number of aftershocks as strong as 6.0 have been recorded over the past few hours - but thankfully no more wave action has been noticed. We've been making Skype calls to our families and letting others use the computer as well to phone home.

Online news reports say that the earthquake lasted three minutes and the highest flood rose 25 ft above normal! There are 20 confirmed deaths... including our neighbor who was swept off the dock. Most fatalities occured in and around the harbor where we live. Boats are battered and nerves are fried. One friend wound-up on his boat nearly 1000 feet away from the water after breaking from his anchor and sailing right down Main St. taking power & telephone wires down with his mast! Some people lost everything... including their lives. We came through remarkably well with only minor dammage sustained to our toe rail when the dock lines parted and to our fender basket which was the only point of contact with that drifting wreck. I never felt any jarring loads while we were hurtling around above & below the concrete dock, so I believe our hull, keel & rudder suffered no dammage from the wildest boat ride I've ever been on.

We're all okay... and very lucky. I met a new friend yesterday and he died today.

We've adopted a tiny kitten we've named Lucky.

And that's the way it is.

All the Best - All the Time,

Kirk, Cath & Stuart ~~~_/) ~~~ s/v Gallivanter

 

     Having also read stories from yachtsmen struck by the giant tsunami in 2004, I've always told myself that if there was ever an earthquake--or any question of a possible tsunami--I'd head straight out to sea and hang out for a few hours or however long until we were sure the danger had passed.  Kirk's story only seems to strengthen that belief.  In deep water a tsunami is a non-event, but near shore or at a dock it can be a disaster.  Only by their quick actions (cutting the dock lines rather than risking stepping off the boat to untie them) did they save their boat and possibly their lives.

 

 

October 11:

    Well, we've been home now for three weeks, so it's about time to get around to the real purpose of our return which is to get a job and make some money.  Up until now we've been busy visiting friends & relatives and moving what possessions we still own into a rental condo in Colorado.  My job there won't be starting until the state of Colorado gets around to granting me a license to practice medicine there.  Soooo, its back to the New Mexico desert for me for a few weeks to try to be productive while I wait.

    At least the weather is warmer here.  We had definitely noticed that our blood has thinned out during our time in the tropics.  Even a nice balmy fall day in the 50s seems uncomfortably chilly.  After setting the thermostat to 70, I still need to find a sweater.  And that was before the snow started to fall.  This weekend brought a good 3 inches to our lawn and Emmett was ecstatic.  He already has great plans to become a champion snowboarder.  (I think that is now replacing his previous plan to ride his bike to school every day.)

Our new reality

    Emmett started public school a few days ago.  We've all been a bit nervous about the transition from homeschooling the past two years to a more traditional classroom setting.  Academically, I think he'll be fine--maybe even ahead of his peers.  But he's not used to playing in large groups, not used to noise and chaos, and not used to having to share the teacher's attention!  Then of course there are all the other things he hasn't been exposed to: bad behavior, bad language, bad TV shows... As parents we hold our breaths as we wait to see what will happen. 

 

 

October 31:

     Last year Emmett was in Grenada for Halloween.  He only had about 4 other boats on the marina dock to go trick-or-treating at.  And, unfortunately, one was a foreign yacht that really had no idea what trick or treating was all about anyway.  You might think it was a disappointing year for Halloween. 

     We did, however, take him to a nearby resort where a kid's Halloween party was being held and Em had a great time.  And it was there that Emmett saw another kid in a "decapitated guy" costume that he thought was just the coolest, scariest thing ever.  For a year now, Em has vowed that next year, he would be the decapitated guy.

     Soon after arriving back in the US, Emmett began planning it out.  He drew diagrams.  He wrote lists.  And while I was away in New Mexico, he pestered his Uncle Mike to help him shop for the things he'd need.  At last, his dream of being headless would come true!

     Then, disaster struck.  The school sent home a note about the upcoming class costume party with a stern warning about kids showing up with inappropriately violent, grotesque, or scary costumes that might frighten the kindergardeners.  Emmett was in a foul mood all day after being told that indeed his decapitated body complete with blood running down the shirt and yucky parts dangling from the stump of a neck did indeed qualify under all three of the forbidden costume categories.

Emmett's forbidden costumeEmmett's "school appropriate" costumeUncle Mike's snow skull

     Eventually he bounced back and got excited about making a second costume:  He dressed as a very un-scary highway for the school party, and then pulled out the headless masterpiece for neighborhood trick or treating.  We carved our pumpkins and roasted the seeds.  We went to Uncle Mike's neighborhood for the festivities to find that he had been busy creating a giant snow-skull in his front lawn.  (Yes, we have snow for Halloween!)  After about two square blocks, Emmett had an enormous sack of candy and an equally large collection of costume compliments.  So whatever last year's Halloween lacked (snow!), I think we made up for it this year.

 

 

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