Boaters should go by the book when dealing with a tsunami

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (4/07/01)
By Ray Pendleton

A sign over the bar at the Waikiki Yacht Club reads, "In case of tidal wave: 1. Remain calm, 2. Pay your bill, 3. Run like hell."

And while it was put there as a joke by the club's irrepressible bartender Clyde Takahashi, at least part of the warning is good advise. Quickly leaving waterfront areas in the event of a tidal wave - more accurately, a tsunami - could save your life.

As April has been designated Tsunami Awareness Month, there have been several public service announcements in the media reminding the general public of the actions they should take when a tsunami warning has been given.

But, those warnings, along with the directions provided in our phone books, don't give specific directions to those who may be impacted by a tsunami the most: Hawaii's boating community.

To fill this void, the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources collaborated with the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant College Program about four years ago to produce the Hawaii Boater's Hurricane Manual, which includes a separate section on tsunami.

This guide for dealing with some of Mother Nature's most destructive forces should be required reading for every boat owner in the state. And although I have written about it before in Water Ways, its message is important enough to bear repeating.

All of Hawaii's marinas are vulnerable to inundation by a tsunami. So the manual recommends all boat owners develop an evacuation plan that includes preparing their boats for such an event as well as possible.

The following actions are recommended:

  • Move trailered boats out of the evacuation zone when a Tsunami Warning is declared.
  • Move moored boats offshore to waters over 200 fathoms deep when a warning has been declared.
  • Find an alternative to driving yourself to the marina if going offshore, as your vehicle will be in jeopardy.
  • Plan to have enough fuel, food, water and other essentials for at least 24 hours.
  • Remain moored if you cannot be at least two miles outside the channel entrance buoy prior to the tsunami's estimated time of arrival.
  • Create an action plan that includes a list of items to be removed and any added security measures needed, if your boat must remain moored.
  • If confronted with high seas from a storm, especially at night, follow the directions for a moored boat. It may be the safest option.
  • Complete all of your emergency actions at least one hour before the tsunami's estimated time of arrival, as police will be establishing roadblocks in the evacuation area after that time.
  • Allow ample travel time due to anticipated heavy traffic.
  • Designate an alternate person to carry out your tsunami action plan in case you are unable to attend to your boat.

As the manual gives considerably more details in preparing for and weathering a tsunami, I would recommend boat owners stop by any harbor master's office, or call the DLNR at 587-3250 for their own copy. It's well written, and it's free.

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