Barry Heath and Marie-Jeanne (Danielle) Peters
Tue 29 Sep 2009 16:39

We are having breakfast around 8 am local time. The iridium phone is on as we are checking emails before breakfast. We get a call from my dad around 8.15 am. He is telling us about the Tsunami Alarm in the South Pacific. We are a little surprised as no one here gave us information till now. We have a Tsunami record station just behind the boat but possibly it doesn`t work. By the time finishing the call and getting outside to get some information from the harbourmaster Veronique from AQUARIUS is shouting there was an earthquake south of Samoa and a Tsunami is on its way with 800 km per hour. She goes on the internet and gets the information of the wave height. The prediction for us is 60 cm and for Pago-Pago (AM. Samoa) 3 meters. We inform all the other boats and are getting prepared. The Tsunami should hit in less then 15 minutes. No more time to go to see the harbour master. We try to get the boat ready to leave in the case it is necessary. We loosen the lines and pull in on the anchor chain and are waiting. We are staring out in the ocean and we are a little bit nervous. We are waiting desperately for some information from the officials here in Rarotonga but nothing. We are hoping the wave is only 60 cm and not 3 meters. We see the arrival of the Tsunami when the water level in the harbour pool starts to fall quickly. The tension is getting very high. From the neighbouring harbour pool where the local small fishing boats and yachts are moored up people are trying to save their boats as the pool lies dry now. The water starts to run out of the harbour at a very high speed and the little side harbour runs dry in less then a minute. ACQUARIUS is panicking and tries to leave full speed with the lines still on. Their whole laundry is still flying on deck when Aaron leaves the harbour at full speed. The quay is filling with locals wanting to see what`s going on. The water comes and goes in waves and we see a range of 2.2 meters in 30 seconds. We are praying that the level doesn`t fall much more we only have 30 cm left under the keel. We start to get really concerned when the big fishing boats and the commercial ship are leaving the harbour. The currents inside become very strong the little pool being completely empty now. The local catamaran HOTEL CALIFORNIA manages to get out but hits the harbour wall due to the very strong current. The blue water of the harbour has turned into a brown mud due to the turbulences and the currents of the out going water. Fishes are struggling to breath and come up to the surface for finding some oxygen. The tension is very high we all are concerned. Still no news from the harbourmaster or the police. Eventually a navy officer passes. The navy boat is just moored next to ours. He gives us the information that the worst is over and the sea should calm soon.

The water in the harbour pool is shaken for one more hour before it calms down. The boats are coming back in. The first rumours are going around that in Pago-Pago people died. We are happy it is over and are only realising now what we have been through. We were very lucky the boat didn`t hit the ground. We are grateful it is over without any damage to us and the boat. I phone home to tell them everything is alright. We learned a lot. We will keep the VHF on more often and next time there is an alert we will definitely leave for the open sea.

Plenty of discussions are going on afterwards. We heard what was going on in town. The tourists were driven up to the hill and plenty of shops closed.

The afternoon we went up to the stadium again and we watched the gold medal win of the Fidji team. Samoa sportsmen are very concerned and are waiting for news from home.

Later we got picked up by Bradley. His house is right on the beach and very nice. We are joined by Tatjana and Colin who run several businesses on the island and spent a very nice evening in Bradley`s beautiful home. We get the latest news from the Tsunami and hear that hundreds of people died in Samoa. We are concerned because we know yachts who are in Pago-Pago for the moment.

We are relaxing in Bradley`s beautiful house and we thank him very much for his hospitality.