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March 11, 2011

Tsunami Engulfs Japan, Threatens California

Moving at the speed of a jetliner, a tsunami in the western Pacific can reach the west coast of North America in less than 10 hours.


Aftershocks continue today across Japan, as the death toll continues to climb in the aftermath of yesterday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake. It was the strongest trembler ever to strike the island nation during the 140 years that such records have been kept, and the 5th strongest quake ever recorded anywhere on earth.

As devastating as the quake was to both human life and property, however, the series of tsunami waves that it triggered may well have inflicted the most damage and loss of life. In some areas, the initial wave was reported to be 30 feet high. It traveled up to six miles inland, destroying everything in its path, as shown in the incredible aerial footage below. Fleets of large commercial fishing vessels were set adrift as if they were toys in a bathtub, as was a ship with 100 passengers aboard. Sendai Airport, north of Tokyo, was completely engulfed in water, creating a chaotic tangle of planes, vehicles and debris. 

The magnitude of the quake led to tsunami warnings throughout nearly the entire Pacific Rim, with damage being reported more than 4,000 miles away from the quake’s epicenter in northeast Japan. A Red Cross spokesperson was reported to have noted that the wave was literally taller than some South Pacific islands. No doubt it will be days, if not weeks, before the full extent of the carnage is fully known.

As the Japanese were starting to grasp the magnitude of destruction, Hawaiians were rushing to high ground in anticipation of the tsunami. Maui caught the brunt of the event with a seven-foot surge reported, but little damage and no deaths occurred.

California was also in the path of the giant tsunami, sending Bay Area residents to higher ground — or, for many boaters, out into the Bay. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center very accurately estimated the phenomenon’s arrival to the Bay, so quite a few people joined this reporter at Schoonmaker Point Marina’s beach to see what would happen. The initial surge made barely a ripple — even the feeding seagulls didn’t pay it any mind — but the following surges grew in speed and intensity. We all watched as several boats made their way out of Richardson Bay, presumably to keep their boats safe from the surge, but they hardly needed to. Docklines and snubbers performed flawlessly in the three-foot surge, and we’ve yet to hear of any damages, other than one small wayward dock in Richmond. (If you know of other tsunami damage in the Bay, please email LaDonna with details.) We’ve posted three videos on our Facebook page, including this one:

Other ports on the coast didn’t fare so well. Some of the worst tsunami damage occurred in Santa Cruz Harbor, where a number of boats were ripped from their berths and sent adrift. Connan Bradley, who has a small sailboat in the back harbor reports, "My girlfriend observed all the water being sucked out of the back bay, right down to the mud — a drop of at least 15 feet. As the docks and boats dropped to the mud, several boats got pinned temporarily under sections of the docks, and a number broke free as the incoming surge lifted them." Although surges continue in the narrow-mouthed harbor as we write this, the worst of the damage appears to have been at U dock, where insfrastructure was damaged substantially.

Many boats in Santa Cruz were damaged or destroyed by this morning’s tsunami.

© 2011 Connan Bradley

Crescent City was also hit hard, with at least 35 boats crushed and docks severely damaged. Though the damages will likely run into the millions, the surge did not breach the 20-ft breakwater that protects the rest of the city. One man has been reported missing after he and two buddies were washed off their feet while taking photos near the mouth of the Klamath River. The friends made it back to shore but a search is underway for the missing man.

Sausalito Boater Drowns

As we waited for the tsunami at Schoonmaker beach this morning, we heard several reports from locals that the body of a Sausalito boater was found yesterday afternoon floating near Clipper Yacht Harbor 1. The Marin County Sheriff’s Office could not confirm the identity of the victim as they were still waiting for confirmation from the Coroner’s Office and had yet to notify the family, but the man was well-known on the waterfront. Sadly, many believe that alcohol probably played a part in his death. We will have more on this story when officials release the details.

Dean Replaces Craig; Race Notes

The St. Francis YC announced today that Robbie Dean will be taking over as the club’s Director of Racing Operations in place of John Craig who has moved on to the PRO role for America’s Cup 34.

We went through the archives and found this photo of new St. Francis YC Racing Director Robbie Dean. We’ll get a better one when he starts on March 22. Sorry Robbie!

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"I have always enjoyed racing at the St. Francis Yacht Club," Dean said. "The StFYC Race Committee and Event Chairs consistently produce amazing events. I’m just going to focus on continuing the tradition of racing excellence at St. Francis YC."

The club hired Dean away from the San Diego YC, but the Southern California native has a strong Bay Area connection. He previously served as the Executive Director for the Treasure Island Sailing Center, where he and his staff garnered multiple awards and recognitions for the program. His sailing background includes extensive coaching, winning the U.S. Youth Champs in ’96, a Laser 2 World Championships, and a stint on the U.S. Olympic Development Team in the Europe Dinghy working on the mast and sail development project for the Athens Games.

Dean will have some big challenges ahead of him, not least of which is the need to hire people to replace Melanie Roberts and Mike Kalin, both of whom are going with Craig to ACRM. (correction: Kalin is joining the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics as a coach) His first day on the job will be March 22, and one of his first projects will be to start the interview process for the positions, which are listed here, if you’re interested.

ACRM PRO John Craig gives local race officers the scoop on what the next Cup will look like.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Speaking of Craig and jobs, the former met with a 40-strong group of YRA board members and club race officers at the Golden Gate YC last night. We’ll have a full report in the March issue of Latitude 38, but in the meantime, the most immediate takeaway was that America’s Cup Race Management is looking for help from the clubs in bringing together a fleet of marshall boats for the AC World series in August-September ’12, and for the main event in July-September ’13. But it was the second request that got our attention: ACRM is looking for 60 to 80 Bay Area sailors interested in paid Race Committee spots starting with the America’s Cup World Series this July, and extending on through AC 34. Craig said the jobs will likely require a minimum of 14-16 days for each World Series event and will be a fly-in, haul-ass-for-two-weeks-straight, fly-out, affair. For everyone who has been wondering about what kind of job opportunities will be available for locals, well, here it starts! If you’re interested, go to the "join our team" page on the America’s Cup website and, when you fill out the form, indicate that you want to be a race official in the drop-down menu, and prominently note "attn: John Craig" at the top of the resume you attach.

Coming up this weekend is the Richmond YC’s Big Daddy Regatta with its tried-and-true formula of three buoy races on Saturday and a pursuit race on Sunday. On the Cityfront, the St. Francis YC’s Spring Dinghy regatta will be running concurrently. Both should have some great turnouts.

In other news, Emmy-winning Bay Area producer, Snipe devotee and Fleet 12 class president Vince Casalaina is almost finished with a encyclopedic documentary about the class. Casalaina took a grass-roots approach to financing Serious Sailing, Serious Fun, Traditions Build Winners, self-financing to this point and starting a fundraising drive on In addition to raising $1,600 through the Snipe Class, Casalaina has raised $2,600 with the Kickstarter campaign. However, in order to get those pledges, he will need to raise another $3,300 — an averge of $200 for just 17 people, or $50 for 68. So tell all your friends there are only two weeks left to go! Long Beach sailor Jerry Thompson has put up his race-ready Snipe as a raffle prize to help fund the documentary, and you can find the details on that here.

The CNB 77 Four Devils as seen off St. Martin. Shortly after sailing across the Atlantic, she quickly and inexplicably went to the bottom.
Even if you own your own boat or sail regularly with friends, there are special occasions when you might want to use the services of one of the Greater Bay Area’s many professionally run charter boats.
This bright-eyed little rascal of a petite juene fille is a perfect symbol of the whimsical nature of Carnival in St.