As I write this, we are finally at rest on anchor in La Cruz after a day of avoiding the tsunami surges that affected Banderas Bay.
It has been a long day.
Early this morning we got news over the VHF radio about the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. We learned that the tsunami’s effects would reach Banderas Bay around 1:30pm local time and that all Mexican ports were closed for commercial traffic. We had been staying in Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta for the past two days because we are racing in the Banderas Bay Regatta.
A marina is the worst place for a boat during a tsunami, so we made the decision early to leave the marina and exit for the bay around 11am. We were the 5th boat out there, and by mid-day, there were upwards of 200 boats sailing around the bay trying to avoid the expected waters.
The surges started around 1:20 and although we could not feel them in the bay (we were in about 200 feet of water), people in the marina started reporting water rushing in and out quickly, with a swing of about 4 feet. The surges were coming in and out about every 4 minutes – it was a ton of water. There was so much of it and it travelled so quickly that bars built up around the entrance to Paradise Village Marina.
We expected the surges only to last 3 hours, but it is 7:30pm and they are still happening. Due to narrow entrances to the 4 marinas around the bay, these surges produced dangerous waters in and around the channels – with currents from 12 to 14 knots (15’ ish mph). The average sailboat can only motor about 5 kph, so it would not be possible to power through that large of a current. The port captains of all harbors announced that all marinas were closed. There were, however, a few boats who tried to enter into Nuevo Vallarta. Some of them quickly turned around when they saw how dangerous it was. Others tried to enter and got turned sideways through the current. The navy ended up blocking the entrances. To my knowledge, no one got hurt.
Some sailboats did not have their main anchor on their vessel because they took it off for the races (extra weight and all). We are in that category. We obeyed race rules of carrying at least one anchor, and managed to get it set although it is not our favorite anchor and we are a bit weary and will be watching it tonight. Unfortunately, there were some boats that did not bring any anchor with them when they left their marinas which meant they had to risk going into Marina Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta (where the surge isn’t as bad) or they will have to drive around until the La Cruz Marina and Paradise Village Marina both open back up tomorrow morning.
There is some damage inside the marinas and I am not sure to what extent, although I believe it is minor. All in all, we are grateful that everyone here is ok and our hearts go out to those in other areas who suffered the worst of it.