Tsunami at Anchor

Here’s a report from Gavin and Sukey of Scott-Free, circumnavigators who were in Thailand during the tsunamis. Interesting feedback on the three waves and how they behaved in 12m (40 feet) of water.

Hello “out there”. First and foremost, thanks to those of you who have rung or e-mailed over the last few days concerned about our welfare. The situation along the coast here in Thailand, particularly Phuket, is fairly disastrous, as most of you will know, since I understand the coverage has been understandably extensive with some dramatic and horrible images of the mayhem caused by the Tsunamis.

I will write about it more fully at a later date but just wanted to get out a “quickie” to say that Scott-Free and her crew are fine as indeed are almost all of our circumnavigating friends. We are not aware of any fatalities amongst the cruising fraternity although there has been some damage to boats (and some have been lost), all of whom were in marinas. The Langkawi Marinas of Rebak and the new one at Telaga were completely destroyed. We are concerned about Ian and Anne on Fidelio who may have been in Galle in Sri Lanka when the waves struck (much bigger waves as well). If you get this, Fidelio, please drop us a quick e-mail.

If you have to be anywhere when a Tsunamis approaches the shore, then it is “at sea”!!? (Or on high ground.) We were probably a little bit too close for comfort, anchored as we were in about 12 m. of water about 150 to 200 yards off the beach restaurant at which more than 200 “yachties” had spent Christmas Eve 36 hours previously. In our anchorage (Nai Harn Bay in SW of Phuket Island) we experienced 3 main surges (waves, if you like). The 3rd did the most damage. It was 5 to 6 metres in height and came in, without any warning, at about 1030 am local. It was not a breaking wave, just the water level rising about 20ft in far less than a minute. The Restaurant disappeared under the water and, when the water level started falling again a minute or two later, it retreated sucking everything with it with a huge roaring and crashing. The restaurant had completely gone. Nothing left but a pathetic mess of broken wood and bent metal. Bent and twisted cars had been sucked out of the little car park beside the restaurant and dumped around the beach and on the rocks. The scene on the main beach at the head of the bay was even more devastating. Within minutes, the sea around us was full of debris; the usual beach equipment – sun loungers and mats, tables and chairs from the restaurants, fridges, boats and floats of all shapes and sizes. “Awesome” is a much used word these days. This event was indeed awesome!

The yachts meanwhile lifted to the waves. Most would have had 40 to 50 metres of chain out so that took up the surge. The resultant “current” (for want of a better word) ran first into the bay then, a few minute later, out again at 6+ knots which kicked the boats around a bit and a few dragged their anchors, but we never really felt seriously threatened. It was just the most incredible demonstration of the true power of the sea. Anyway, on the law of averages, I don’t think Sukey and I will experience another Tsunamis in our lifetimes!! But…you never know? We were lucky this time!

We are fine, but of course the loss of life and livelihoods ashore is truly devastating, not only here of course, but particularly in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, supposedly our next port of call. What to do, eh ?? Having said all that, it is amazing to see the resilience and positive attitude of the Thai people. It is now only two and a half days since it happened and already they (and many visitors and tourists as well) are clearing and re-building. Our little restaurant has already got the framework of a fairly permanent structure in place and the roof goes on tomorrow! He is now hoping to put on a New Years Eve “Party”. We’ll be there! It’s fantastic to see their spirit and attitude. I know this is only one affected area, but I hope a little of this amazingly positive attitude is also reaching the world outside.

Thank you for being concerned and I will write again… sometime soon!!! Happy New Year. Let’s hope next year will leave out this sort of disaster, which will, I suspect, when the final death toll is known, go down as one of the worst overall loss of life from a natural disaster in centuries.

Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (January 10, 2005)

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