March 12, 2011
(From Randall) We are safe and sound back anchored at Isla Isabella, and just beginning to hear radio reports of the terrible destruction in Japan. Our comparatively trivial experience included heading out to sea about 9 am (predicted tsunami arrival was 5 pm), a nice day at sea about 5 miles offshore, then uncertainty about when we were allowed to re-enter the anchorage. The small ferry boats (holding maybe 8-10 people) came roaring out of the harbor about 3 pm, then tentatively headed back to harbor about 5:30 pm only to be told by the Port Captain to stay out longer. We (three sailboats) sort of edged in toward the harbor, and were not told to stay out when we finally dropped anchors around 7 pm…then a bit of trouble began.
Kailani’s anchor chain stopper broke somehow, and dropped all but the secured end of the chain to the bottom, along with a few bits from the bow (we haven’t heard yet what the bits were). They were then stuck anchoring where they lay, which left us too close to them for comfort under the weird conditions. And the weird conditions included a sudden surge about every 15 minutes or so that would lift, then lower, the boats 4 or 5 feet, accompanied by a 3 or 4 knot current. All of this would cause standing waves next to the boat, and all of this would be gone in another 5 minutes.
When we lifted our anchor to adjust position relative to Kailani, we got caught by one of these surges and had to fight against heading directly for Ocean’s Dream, or the rocky bits just beyond Ocean’s Dream, and all of this in the dark. After a little frantic motoring and helm spinning, we got back where we wanted, estimated the point sort of equidistant from the reef, the moored fishing boat, and the other sailboats…and it was dark. So we spent a bit of a sleepless night a little too close to the reef and the moored fishing boat, and sleeping in the cockpit is never as comfortable as down below, but nothing untoward happened in the night.
Even this morning (8 am) the surges continue, but at a reduced level. There is one local boat on the reef this morning, and unfortunately not sitting lightly on top of the rocks, but half submerged and nearly upside down. The small harbor town was evacuated and the only lights on during the night were the street lights. At one point in the discussion (via radio) with the Port Captain’s office yesterday morning, a man from the Police Captain’s office came on the radio to tell us we were making a big mistake leaving the harbor. We should bring our boat back, then take the transportation being provided by the police to go up the mountain (volcano). Sort of understandable, since the police would be primarily concerned with protecting human life, but not an option since it was a Presidential Edict that all marine vessels were to leave Galapagos harbors by 10 am. And then you have to wonder about the wisdom of sitting on the edge of a volcano (last eruption in the Galapagos…2005) to watch a tsunami… We’ll see later today what the impact on the town has been, and our hearts go out to those affected so much in Japan where the real damage occurred.