Tsunami Warning

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 4 Mar 2021 23:52
Noon Position: 43 51.6 S 176 44.5 W
Course: SW Speed 3 knot
Wind: NW, F4 Sea: slight Swell: NW 1 m
Weather: cloudy, mild
Day’s run: 5 nm

Last night I awoke at 0200 (I think) to the feeling of a strange vibration. It felt a bit like a large ship manoeuvring nearby. But I knew there were no large ships nearby and to feel this shuddering vibration would have meant a ship manoeuvring very close indeed. And I would have heard engine noises and propellor cavitation, which I could not hear. I lie in my bunk wondering what it could be. The vibration persisted for a minute or so. An earthquake perhaps? No, I thought, I could not feel an earthquake while floating in eight meters of water. Still, I had not felt such a vibration before so I got up to have a look around. All was quiet. The wind was blowing fresh and steady from the north and Sylph lay quietly to her anchor. I looked at the GPS plotter and noticed that the wind had in fact shifted more into the northwest. Aha! I must have felt the anchor chain dragging across the bottom with the wind shift. Satisfied, I returned to my bunk and back into the gentle arms of Morpheus.

This morning at about 1000, I awoke to the sound of the satellite phone ringing, It had to be Kate. I bundled out of the bunk bleary eyed and answered the phone. What, a tsunami warning? Surely, I thought, something would have come across on the local VHF channel which I was monitoring.

I thanked Kate, got dressed and tried to call someone on the radio. “Hello any station, hello any station. This is sailing vessel Sylph VI, sailing vessel Syph VI. Please respond.” … Silence. I tried several times on channel 60 and 16 and also on the handheld VHF but no response. Surely there had to be someone out there listening. I heard the sound of an outboard motor and went on deck for a look around. Two aluminium cray boats were manoeuvring in the vicinity of the wharf. Surely they would come out and advise me of a tsunami warning if there was one out. I watched them but after touching the wharf for a short period they both powered up and headed back outside into Petre Bay.

I texted Kate asking her to call me back. She responded almost immediately. Yes, the tsunami warning included Chatham Island with a possible surge of 0.5 to 1 meter. Not much but I thought it best to once again exercise nautical prudence and put to sea. By 1050 the anchor was aweigh and we were motoring out of Port Hutt.

And now we are jogging along under a small amount of headsail in the deep water of Petre Bay some five miles southeast of Point Somes waiting for the warning to be cancelled. I have also managed to speak with Chatham Island Maritime Radio (which I think is based somewhere on the mainland and operated through a repeater station). The reception was not very good but they were able to confirm the tsunami warning and were now aware of my presence in Chatham Island waters. Since leaving Port Hutt I have received the standard warning broadcast on VHF so suspect that the reception in the Port Hutt region is particularly poor. And I have also heard one of the local fishing boats chatting away quite clearly with their shore base so am a little puzzled why no one answered my ‘any station’ call, perhaps islander timidity. Well, I prefer to assume the best in people until proven otherwise so will speculate no further on the various mysteries of the morning.

Hopefully the warning will be cancelled in plenty of time to allow us to proceed back to anchor before sunset.

Did I feel the earthquake or was it just the anchor chain? I have no idea, but regardless

Thankyou Kate.

All is well.