When disaster hits on water
When disaster strikes, panic!
At 2.10am, just a couple of hours after the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake on November 14, we got a phone call from Peter, the marina manager, telling us to be prepared in case there was a tsunami warning.
‘‘Prepared for what?’’, I screamed at Dean, my partner. In a disaster, I panic - he goes quiet.
We had felt the earthquake, although nothing like those on land.
Our 46-foot yacht had jerked sideways and woken us up. ‘‘Bloody wind,’’ said Dean. There was no wind. We got out of bed. I shoved my puffer jacket over my pyjamas and put my sunglasses on my head (what?), then put our dog’s lifejacket on her.
She stared at me – I’m not sure if she was scared or really wanted to pee.
Then we heard the water rush. It sounded like river rapids. Something serious was going on, tsunami warning or not.
Our boat is tied to a pier by six ropes. The pier (and us) slides up and down on poles, with the tide.
The worst that could happen is that a tsunami could lift us and the pier three or four metres over the poles.
We’d have ourselves a little bumper boat party.
I remembered the words of a salty old yachtie who used to live at the marina.
He said the safest place to be in a tsunami is out at sea.
But that November night, Dean decided it would be fun to run down the end of the pier and watch all the pretty water go by.
The captain had abandoned the ship and its crew!
As I was getting our marine grab-bag out of its cubby hole (it’s complete with seasick tables and a fishing line – not so handy for land) Dean came back.
He convinced me that everything was going to be okay and that we should leave to find other boat people.
We gathered on the grass by the laundry, texting loved ones on land and feeling quite chuffed.
Someone mentioned how many people living at marinas had been killed during the tsunami in Japan.
And then someone said that if there had been an official tsunami warning, the safest thing to do would be to leave the boat and head to higher ground.
After the Solomon Islands earthquake on December 9, we did receive an official tsunami warning.
Dean was in a plane, flying to Nelson to sail a boat back.
I quickly got the strangest land
It sounded like river rapids. Something serious was going on, tsunami warning or not.
grab-bag together (toffee pops, writing journal, dog lifejacket – I was just not thinking straight), turned off the gas at the bottle, and shut all the hatches.
I ran down to the end of the pier and asked Peter what he was going to do.
He was staying put because someone had gone fishing out on the breakwater wall and Peter wanted to make sure they’d heard the news.
I decided to drive to a hilltop nearby in Camborne.
I put my useless grab-bag and the dog in the car, but something didn’t feel right.
I walked back into Peter’s office and made a cup of tea.
‘‘I’m staying with you,’’ I said to him.
The tsunami warning was cancelled and as I picked out a dead ant out from my cup of tea in the grotty marina office, I realised what I was going to do in the next disaster: stay with my people, stay with my community and we’d all get through it together.