Friday, March 13, 2015


There was I congratulating myself on the fortuitous coincidence of booking a day out on the Brigantine Schooner 'Breeze' this Sunday 15th March and finding out later that not only were we going for a long days sail, we would be out on the harbour seeing off the Volvo Ocean Race. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and really looking forward to it all. Then this big monster starts forming up by the equator. I have had an email from the 'Breeze'. The trips cancelled. Bugger.

Some weather experts are calling this "Bigger than Bola" - Cyclone Bola, that is - and that's saying something, AND, a bit scary. I remember Bola well. I had gone down to check my yacht 'Mariner' in her marina berth. I had to wade out through a metre of water that was covering the jetty to get on board. By the time I had secured everything with extra ropes the storm surge had raised the level of water so high I couldn't get ashore. So I spent the night on 'Mariner' in the Whangarei Town Basin yacht harbour 30 kilometres from the sea as storm surges and a high tide washed driftwood up on Riverside Drive to the roar of a demonic wind. I remember there were unprecedented waves generated in the inner harbour and the combined tide and surge was so high I had to rope the yachts either side of  me away from being impaled on their mooring piles. What a night!

Since Bola we have had a few of these close encounters with Tropical Cyclones. All of them have created havoc. Looking at some of the weather map projections, New Zealands East coast from North Cape at the top of the North Island to Canterbury in the South Island are in for a rough old time.

The photograph shows Cyclone Pam heading south between Vanuata on the left and Fiji on the right. She is a Catergory 5 super storm and she is coming our way - fast.

Batten down the hatches Shipmates.

As Tropical Cyclone Pam bears down on Vanuatu, New Zealand is sitting tight to see where the super storm will head next.
All eyes are on the potentially devastating weather system, which was upgraded to a category 5 super-cyclone early Friday morning, causing Vanuatu to activate its emergency plans.
Category 5 is the strongest in a five-point scale for storms - with winds of 250kmh or more.
MetService has issued a severe weather watch for northern and eastern parts of the country as the storm nears New Zealand.
The watch was for the possibility of severe gales in Northland and the Coromandel Peninsula, the Eastern Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, and heavy rain in Eastern Northland and the Coromandel Peninsula, Gisborne and Northern Hawke's Bay.
Gale force winds were expected to develop in the north on Sunday evening, moving down the east of the North Island before easing Tuesday morning.
In Northland and the Coromandel, rainfall could exceed 80mm in 18 hours starting from Sunday evening, while in Gisborne and the Hawke's Bay rain would become heavy from early Monday, possibly exceeding 100mm in 24 hours.
"There is some uncertainty as to how close to the North Island the eventual cyclone track will be," MetService said.
"However, it has the potential to be a significant event, with strong south to southeast winds and rain expected over much of the North Island during Monday."
Local authorities and Civil Defence groups in the North Island have been put on alert for the storm, which is expected to track towards the East Cape on Sunday.
It will transform into an ex-tropical cyclone as it nears New Zealand, but the storm's power could still be even greater than that of Cyclone Bola, which caused more than $82 million in damage in 1988.
"At the moment it's bigger than Bola, and it looks like when it reaches here the barometric pressures will be even lower than what Bola was," Gisborne Civil Defence manager Richard Steele said.
"The lower that goes, the bigger the potential for more storm surges."
The exact path of the storm was still unknown, Steele said.
"The uncertainty's a pain in the bum. We're preparing as if it's going to have a significant impact on us, we can't do anything less."
Gisborne and Bay of Plenty Civil Defence on Thursday issued warnings urging residents to be prepared for high winds, large sea swells, rain, coastal erosion, road closures and power loss from late Sunday.
Meanwhile the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Auckland to Itajai in Brazil was due to start on Sunday, but organisers decided to delay the departure race until Tuesday because of the storm. A final decision on on whether the yachts will depart on Tuesday afternoon or evening is yet to be made by organisers. "

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