01 March 2010 | Panama City
Every morning at around 8, all cruising boats turn on their radio to channel 74 for the daily ‘Cruisers Net’. Nearly every boat has on a VHF radio onboard that allows communication with other radios within like 25 miles (most marinas and gas stations have radios as well). It starts out with a roll call when each boat that is listening gives their boat name and location. After check in, there are times for questions and answers and announcements…for example, somebody might need a large pipe wrench, so they’ll ask the net if anyone has the tool or knows of a shop that might. They also announce events like the location of a book swap and BBQ. Each area has a
So being a Saturday morning, we were a little slow waking up. We flipped on the radio around 8:20 to absolute chaos. We quickly found out that someone had been on the internet and heard the news about the earthquake in Chile. NOAA had put out a warning for the entire area and panama city was included. Everyone was pulling up their anchors and racing to deep water where the wave wouldn’t really affect the boat. The rumor was that the wave was supposed to be 10-15 ft. Surprisingly, the panama canal authority nor any of the marinas in the area had issued warnings. Boaters were calling relatives in the states to check the weather reports and different messages were being exaggerated on the net. Some people thought the wave was hitting at 850 others said at 950. We heard over the radio that a boat in our marina was out of diesel and needed some to get out to sea, so we quickly ran a 5 gallon tank over. We pulled up anchor and sailed out about 3 miles…other people had sailed out like 8 miles, but some people didn’t even leave the marina. 850 came and went, and nothing happened at 950 either. We sailed back into the harbor and re-anchored only to hear another Armageddon warning from someone who claimed their brother worked for GreenPeace and saw a satellite image of a 15 ft wave 30 miles from panama city moving at 110 mph. We freaked out and quickly pulled the anchor back up and sailed for 5 minutes before we realized how ridiculous the claim was and started to question why someones brother who worked for GreenPeace would be an expert on tsunami waves. We decided to go back to the anchorage and wait until we saw the wave with our own eyes before moving. People were a bit disappointed that we all raced out and burned half a day and a lot of fuel for nothing, but I guess it was better than a 15 ft tidal wave.