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With its wide-open entrance, elevated sides and tapering outline, Keauhou Bay is especially vulnerable to the power of a tsunami. Friday’s surges swept into the picturesque little South Kona port and trashed it.
Capt. Billy Murtagh, skipper of the charterboat Nainoa, heeded the warnings and took his 31-footer offshore to wait it out through the dark and was aghast at the scene he saw at dawn.
“I couldn’t believe that I was looking at the same place I go in and out of
every day and it was now too dangerous to go back home,” he said.
With his son Nainoa aboard, Billy had stood by during overnight watches offshore until awakened by a pre-dawn call from a Keauhou neighbor telling them not to return yet.
The tsunami had filled the bay with everything imaginable and the debris
field extended out to sea. Billy and Nainoa picked their way through
floating picnic tables, pieces of buildings, and the usual shoreline clutter
of coconut and palm fronds to rescue a sailboat that was in danger of going
up on the rocks. Then they stayed offshore in safer waters.
Well into the day on Friday, surges continued to sweep over the road, invade
nearby structures and throw fish far back up onto land.
Billy says the morass of floating opala even included the dumpsters from the
“It was an insane mess of stuff in the water,” Billy said. “Giant wooden
picnic tables from the Fairwinds. Every piece of plastic furniture from
shoreside homes and businesses. Paper everywhere from bags and newspapers to
business receipts and invoices. The Yacht Club roof came down and so there
were floating awnings still attached to their frames. Pots and pans. Food.
It’s ballyhoo season and the bay had been full of the long, silvery baitfish.
Big schools had been washed ashore and left flopping on the beach, rocks and
as far back as the caves behind the canoe club and the lawns of the
surrounding shoreline houses. Fish of all kinds littered the area along
with the ballyhoo making their silver exclamation marks.
“One lady even pulled a live eel out of one of the caves,” Billy said.
By late Friday, the energy of the tsunami had dissipated enough to allow
Nainoa to return to port with little danger of being pushed ashore or
battered by a floating dumpsters.
“Perhaps we should have stayed out another night, but we were just too tired
from fishing hard all day and night on Thursday, and trying to outwit the
waves and debris on Friday,” Billy said.
Besides, they had to get back to fishing this weekend.
(Jim Rizzuto has been writing about fishing off the Kona Coast since the 1970s. He has written numerous books and articles, and writes a weekly column in West Hawaii Today. See all Jim’s books online at www.FishingHawaiiOffShore.com…including his latest, Lure Making 101/102.
Contact Jim at email@example.com with questions or information on how to buy his books)