Author: Sarah
Date: Dec 8, 2016, 7am - Three Sisters Solomon Islands
Location: 10 16 S - 161 58 E
Conditions: 0-5kts ESE, calm anchorage with overcast skies and a bar of 1006

This morning at 4:45 a.m. the boat began to shake severely. Both of us were awoken and disoriented with the sensation. It was as if we were sailing along a bumpy gravel road, but that couldn't be possible, could it? The rumbling, grinding sound that came from below our hulls even sounded like that's what was happening. Mark leaped out of bed, thinking our anchor had come loose and we were being dragged across the nearby reef. However the reality was perhaps even more frightening - we were experiencing a major earthquake. It felt as if someone had switched on the jacuzzi jets as the released energy vibrated the waters around us.

Sleep still heavy in our eyes and minds, we couldn't quite comprehend it all. I looked across the bay toward SV Rehua, noticing that their cockpit lights had come on. We weren't the only ones who'd been startled and woken up. Small tremors continued for the next few moments as Mark and I tried to wrap our minds around what had just happened.

The VHF chirped to life.

"Hey guys. What the hell was that?" It was Matt on SV Perry. Sure that everyone was awake after such a shaking, he was calling to check in with our little fleet of sailing families. "Should we be worried about a tsunami after that?"

Tsunamis are the real threat to boats in the event of an earthquake, the massive waves that form and build after the movement of the seabed or nearby land. It was a valid concern, but one I had to immediately downplay, just because there was absolutely nothing we could do to protect ourselves now. It felt like we were right on top of the quake's epicenter, which offered no advanced notice of any oncoming wave.

We were all rattled, and didn't really fall back asleep after all the excitement. Mark and I lay in bed, quiet in thought and stunned by what we'd just experienced. Later in the morning, we received two emails - one from our friends on SV Lumbaz and one from Patricia at Gulf Harbor Radio in NZ to check on us and give us the news report of the event. Turns out, the quake originated only 40 miles southwest of us near the small town of Kirakira (where the fishermen from this village go to sell their fish in the market). It measured a whopping 7.8 on the Richter Scale and had made international news, at least in the nearby countries. A tsunami warning was initiated, but cancelled after no tsunami activity was reported.

Wow. It was a sobering reminder of how vulnerable we are to nature's power as we bob around in this big blue sea.


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