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In Thailand, Exit Only survived the most destructive tsunami of modern times without a scratch, but we didn't escape scot-free.  The arm of the tsunami was very long, and out in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the tsunami made a lasting impression on Exit Only's starboard bow.


The starboard bow is the bow of destruction.  Two times Exit Only has collided with things at sea, and it's always the starboard bow that takes the beating.

When Exit Only left the factory in France, she was sailed to England to be placed on a ship for delivery to America.  Unfortunately, the delivery captain ran into something and knocked a fist sized hole in the bow.  I don't know what he hit, and believe it or not, he didn't report the damage.  He repaired it with body filler and covered it over with gel coat.  The Privilege dealer in Florida didn't mention the damage, and I had the boat for a year before I discovered telltale cracks in the gel coat when I hauled the boat out of the water for a bottom job.  Only then did the dealer tell me about the damage to the bow.

At that point, I was starting a circumnavigation, and it was imperative that I discover the extent of the damage, and whether it was properly repaired.   I removed the gel coat with a grinder and discovered to my chagrin that they had put body filler in the hole rather than do a proper repair using fiberglass.  It was the worst type of shoddy workmanship and substantially weakened the strength of the bow.  A repeated collision at sea could have been disastrous with this substandard repair.

In the boat yard I exposed the entire area of damage and performed a professional repair that restored the bow's integrity.   I beefed up the bow to make it more impact resistant in case I ever hit a partially submerged container or log while at sea.  Then I applied new gel coat to finish the repair.


Exit Only was never at risk of sinking when holed because there is a collision bulkhead twelve inches back from the bow.  This bulkhead prevented any significant amount of water from entering the yacht.  Only a few cups of water were in the space ahead of the collision bulkhead.

It was a disappointment to have a hole in the bow of a totally new yacht, and disappointing that the yacht dealer didn't admit to the damage until I discovered its tell tale signs a year later, but in the long haul I may be fortunate that we had the damage to the starboard bow.  Why do I say that?


If I hadn't beefed up the bow to repair the hidden damage, then when I ran into a log south of Sri Lanka after the tsunami, it might have put a devastatingly large hole in the bow rather than just create the gel coat damage shown in this picture. 


One of the things that concern every captain at sea is the possibility of collision with partially submerged containers and logs.  In the Indian Ocean, some of the floating logs were more than a hundred feet long and a meter thick.  Collision with such a log can sink a ballasted monohull yacht in under five minutes.  In a catamaran a log won't sink you, but it can cause flooding of one hull.

You never know ahead of time whether apparent disaster is actually good or bad.  I wasn't happy about the damage to the starboard bow that I discovered in Fort Lauderdale, but that discovery and repair may have saved me from a humongous problem in the Indian Ocean eleven years later.

That's they way things are in life.  Although you live in the short term, life is a long term proposition.  What looks like disaster in the short term, may be a blessing in the long haul.  There's truth in the saying, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."  It was certainly true for Exit Only's starboard bow.

I'll take gel coat damage any day when I hit a log in the Indian Ocean.  Repairing gel coat at my leisure in a boatyard is a world better than having to deal with a gaping hole in the bow in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

If you want to sail the seven seas, you must become an expert at turning bad things into better things, and when bad things happen, you might discover that dealing with the bad thing actually protected you from something even worse.

When bad things happen, it's not time to put on sackcloth and sit in a pile of ashes.  It's time to keep on keeping on.

It's never over until it's over, and in spite the hole in my starboard bow, life is still good.

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If you are in the wrong location, a tsunami will kill you.  If you are in the right location, a tsunami will pass by without giving you even a scratch.  It's all about location.  When you visit Tsunami Land, it's worth paying attention to your location.  It may save your life.


Where you anchor your yacht will decide to a significant degree what happens to you during a tsunami.  You can make choices that decrease the risk of damage and injury during a major tsunami event.


During a tsunami, millions of gallons of water move in and out of bays in an oscillating manner.  The magnitude and proximity of the inciting earthquake will influence how much water will be displaced during the tsunami.  The shape and size of the bay, and the water depth in your anchorage will influence whether the tsunami is a  major personal disaster or simply another adventure that you experience during your circumnavigation.

It's bad to be anchored in shallow water close to shore in a tsunami.  When the water is drawn out of the bay, your yacht will be sitting on the seabed waiting for a humongous wave to sweep over it, pick it up and toss it on the shore, rocks, pilings, wharfs or on top of whatever happens to get in the way.  Anchoring close to shore in shallow water is an invitation to disaster in a tsunami.


Being anchored in deep water over fifty feet in depth and far from shore, substantially decreases the risk of serious damage during a tsunami.  You probably won't get hit by a tsunami wave in deep water.  Instead, your greatest risk will be from other yachts and debris striking your hull as the tsunami water sloshes in and out of your harbor.  The tsunami wave does not stand up in deep water.  That thrill is reserved for yachts anchored in the shallows.  In deep water, the anchored yachts notice currents flowing by their hull in excess of ten to fifteen knots.  Millions of gallons of water are flowing in and out of the bay, and yachts will swing to their anchors in the swift tsunami current.  As long as your anchor holds, and as long as you swing in synchronization with adjacent yachts, you do fine.  If your anchor drags, or if you swing out of synch with other yachts, you may get slammed into another anchored vessel, get sucked out to sea, or be pushed toward shore.  Swinging at anchor in tsunami currents is a great argument for cruising on a steel yacht.  At least if you get slammed into another yacht, the steel vessel should survive with minimal damage.


The size and shape of the bay, the size of the mouth of the bay, and its orientation toward the inciting earthquake all make a difference in the outcome with a tsunami.  Each bay has a different configuration and orientation with respect to the earthquake.  Adjacent bays that are separated by only a few miles may fare significantly different during a tsunami event.


In the picture above, you can see Captain Dave heading out to Exit Only in Niharn Bay in Phuket, Thailand.  Yachties were really lucky in Niharn Bay because they were prevented from anchoring in shallow water by a line of buoys.  The closest to shore they can anchor is about a hundred meters from the beach, and the shallowest anchorage is about forty feet in depth.  If there ever was  a good place to be anchored in a tsunami, Niharn Bay is one of the best.  When the tsunami happened, the anchored yachts saw ten to fifteen knots of current flowing by their hull, but there was no wave.  The wave didn't stand up until it passed the deep blue line and entered the shallow turquoise water.  If the buoys had not prevented yachties from anchoring in the shallows, there would have been carnage with heavy damage to cruisers anchored in the shallow turquoise water.


Once the wave stood up in the shallows, it hit the beach with devastating results.  Since the tsunami came through mid-morning, not many yachties had gone ashore, and they were largely spared from the shore side destruction.  One dingy got lifted up and thrown up on the roof of a building, but the owners were not on the beach, so they did fine, although their dingy was destroyed.


We had just pulled our anchor and moved out of Niharn Bay about half an hour before the tsunami came through.  We planned to move over to Achelong Bay closer to town for shopping.  Achelong Bay is an extremely shallow bay, wide and long, and it fared completely differently in the tsunami.


We were a couple of miles out of Niharn Bay when we noticed that the water was swirling around Exit Only in a chaotic and extremely rapid manner.  We looked down at the water and were surprised by the huge amount of current flowing past us. We had not noticed similar currents when we sailed down to Niharn Bay earlier that week.  As I looked at the outlying islands, I noticed that there were waves breaking on the islands, and I commented to the crew that it looked rough out there with the seas breaking against those islands.  I was wondering if maybe we picked a bad day to make our move.  We would be in for some rough sailing out there.  But strangely enough, the water around us wasn't consistent with the breaking seas on the off lying islands.



At that point, I looked toward Achelong Bay, and I noticed that the bay had turned the color of milky coffee.  The picture above shows the coffee colored line at the entrance of the bay.  The dark blue line abruptly stops, and the creamy tan line goes for miles into the anchorage.  Achelong Bay is eight to twelve feet deep and encompasses many square miles of shallow water.  When the tsuanmi hit the bay, it stirred up the muddy bottom and instantly turned it the color of milky coffee.  By this time we figured out that something was wrong.  Weird currents going by Exit Only, waves breaking on outlying islands, and the transformation of Achelong bay into coffee-colored water.  We turned on our VHF and listened to the chatter.  The word was out.  There had been a tsunami.



This is the beach at Achelong Bay.  There were Thai long-tail boats washed up on shore and sunken in shallow water.  Chaos reigned supreme with destruction everywhere you looked.  Power boats and yachts alike had been driven ashore.


This picture shows an overturned Thai long-tail vessel, a power yacht, and a monohull washed ashore.  Trash and debris litters the beach.  These pictures are taken two days after the tsunami when some of the mess had already been cleaned up.


In this picture, you can see how shallow the water is in Achelong Bay.  It's that shallow water that placed these yachts at so much risk.  I talked to a friend on a trawler motoring in this bay during the tsunami.  He was in deep enough water that he was able to motor into and over the tsunami wave, but it was a very close call.  Not all were so lucky.



The tsunami happened the day after Christmas, and you can see a decorated Christmas tree standing next to a motorboat that washed ashore.



Once we discovered there had been a tsunami, we felt it was unsafe to enter the shallows of Achelong Bay, and we turned around to return to Niharn Bay.  As we got closer to Niharn Bay, there was already a debris line floating about half a mile offshore.  Many of the yachts in Niharn Bay made a hasty exit from the bay after the tsunami because they were afraid that another one might be coming.  Of the hundred or so yachts anchored in Niharn, about ten of them were already milling around outside the harbor entrance trying to figure out what to do.  Should they return to anchor or motor around in circles outside the mouth of the bay in deep water.  Most of them motored for a couple of hours, picking up tsunami debris and putting it on deck so that it could be returned to hotels and resorts on shore.  This yacht carried deck chairs and cushions that they plucked out of the water.


The debris field was extensive and extended for miles.  It was a hazard to navigation, and you did not want to suck up the floating debris into your engine's cooling system.  Like other yachts, we motored around looking for survivors trying to avoid the debris as much as possible. 


We motored for a couple of hours in the debris field, and when it appeared that there was little additional tsunami risk, we headed back in to Niharn Bay.



As we entered the bay, we saw that the restaurant was destroyed where we had our Christmas party a day and a half before.  The only thing left was the concrete slab seen in the picture above.  Our dingy had been pulled up on the beach just inside the rocks during that party.  Three hundred yachties attended the event.  If the tsunami had happened during the party, it would have wiped out three hundred members of the cruising fleet.  We were all very lucky.




This is a pick-up truck that was parked at our Christmas party restaurant, and it was thrown up on the rocks.  Many cars suffered a similar fate.



We landed our dinghy on the clearest section of the beach to avoid sharp debris that could puncture the dinghy.  All around us there was destruction from the force of the tsunami wave.



The main section of the beach was like a city dump.  The junk on the beach was the same stuff that we found floating in the debris washed out to sea.  Most of the items on the beach were destroyed and unusable.



Lot's of beer coolers were strewn around the beach.  I did not check inside the coolers for a drink.



Much of the beach debris was odd, if not weird.  These mannequin legs came from a shop destroyed by the tsunami.



Propane tanks were strewn around the beach, and many of them washed out to sea where they posed a hazard to yachts leaving to cross the Indian Ocean.



Erosion was particularly severe beneath concrete steps leading down to the beach.  Retaining walls funneled water to the steps, creating a deluge that eroded the sand away from the steps.



The lifeguard tower survived the tsunami's destruction.  It must have been in exciting ride inside the tower.



The tsunami picked up and deposited this dinghy on the top of a building.  Unfortunately, the outboard was submerged in the process.



These are the shops on the northern half of the beach.  They did not fare well.  Anyone inside had a high risk of being killed by the crush of debris.



The tsunami struck with enough force to destroy concrete block buildings.



Whole building were washed away leaving only concrete foundations.



This catamaran survived intact.  Yea!!!   It tipped over.  Booo!



The tsunami had one other treat in store for those of us waiting to sail across the Indian Ocean.  It deposited giant trees that were more than one hundred feet long into the ocean.  We had to carefully pick our way through all the tsunami debris as we sailed from Thailand to the Maldives.  The long arms of the tsunami extended all the way across the Indian Ocean.



These jaws of doom could easily have dismasted our yacht if the limbs and gotten entangled in our rigging.



The root system anchoring this tree was at least ten feet in diameter and was a major hazard to navigation.  Hit this at night, and it could well be the end of your Indian Ocean Adventure.





There was so much tsunami debris in the Indian Ocean that we lashed oars down the front of our bows to act as shock absorbers in the event that we struck  large objects floating in the water.  The oar on the port bow did not survive the tsunami debris in one piece.  The picture shows the fractured blade of the oar lashed back in position after repairs to the oar were complete.



In spite of the Global Tsunami, Exit Only had a great Thailand adventure.  We came through almost without a scratch.  Before we left Thailand, we found Exit Only at the end of a rainbow.



1.  When you are anchoring in Tsunami Land, anchor in deeper water.  Avoid the temptation to anchor close to shore.  Even if you have a shallow draft yacht, it's safer in deeper water.  You will exponentially increase your chances of survival if a tsunami should happen.

2.  If you are anchored in a bay during an earthquake, immediately raise your anchor and head out to sea.

3.  If a tsunami warning sounds, raise your anchor and head out into deep water.

4.  If you are on shore or on a dock, and the water level starts to rapidly fall in the harbor drawing away from the beach, immediately run for higher ground.  A tsunami wave will soon be heading your way, and if you can get to higher ground, you may survive.

5.  If a massive earthquake happens even a thousand miles away, take tsunami warnings seriously.  More than 100,000 people died from the tsunami in Sri Lanka.  The massive loss of life was preventable to a great extent.  There was plenty of time for them to evacuate the waterfront if they had a tsunami warning system in place.

6.  When motoring through tsunami debris, watch the temperature gage on your engine, and make sure cooling water is flowing out of your exhaust.  Tsunami debris can easily clog and block the flow of cooling water through your engine.

7.  When sailing through massive tsunami debris, (giant logs south of Sri Lanka) stop your boat and heave to at night.  You cannot afford to collide with a giant log in the dark.  One steel yacht sailed on through the night off Sri Lanka and struck a log in the dark.  He sailed over the log without sustaining hull damage, but his wind vane self-steering was severely damaged when it struck the log.  Sailing over logs in the dark is dangerous.  It's a good way to hole a yacht, bend and break rudders, and destroy wind vane self-steering.


8.  When sailing through tsunami debris, it's a good idea to have a person on the bow scanning the water for partially submerged tsunami debris.


9.  Anything that you can do to protect your bow from tsunami debris is a good idea.  We lashed oars on the bows of Exit Only to distribute the forces in the event of an impact with tsunami debris.






Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew of Exit Only shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea.  The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal.  It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers.  Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.  The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.  Order your copy of the Red Sea Chronicles and experience the adventures of Exit Only as they sail around the world and up the Red Sea.

Meet The Crew

Dave Abbott - Captain

Captain Dave always dreamed of sailing around the world on his own sailboat, and his eleven year circumnavigation with his family made his dream come true.

Donna Abbott - First Mate

Donna earned her stripes the REALLY old fashioned enduring the rigors of passage making for the thrill of exploring exotic ports across the globe.


Sarah Abbott - Deck Swab

Sarah is the newest member of the family and crew. Despite her limited sailing experience, she jumped right in to life on the high seas. Her fresh and enthusiastic perspective on cruising help make the Red Sea Chronicles so special.


David Abbott - Cameraman/Director/Editor/Narrator/Composer

David shot over 170 hours of footage on the voyage from Australia to Florida. He then spent a year and a half on dry land editing and producing the Red Sea Chronicles DVD. In addition to the narrating the film, David also scored, performed, and recorded the entire soundtrack for the project.


Wendy Abbott - Voice of Ninja Crab

Wendy is the daughter of Capt Dave and Donna. She sailed on Exit Only from Florida to New Zealand. Wendy guest stars as the voice of a Ninja Hermit Crab in the Red Sea



10. The Red Sea Chronicles is an affordable CHRISTMAS gift for the sailor in my life.  Where else can I get a totally awesome gift for only twenty bucks?  
 9. I work hard for a living, and I deserve to reward myself with the Red Sea Chronicles.  
 8. My Dream Machine could use a shot in the arm, and the Red Sea Chronicles will give it the boost that it needs.  
 7. Every minute spent watching The Red Sea Chronicles extends my life by a full year.  
 6. I want to see what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before I spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one.  
 5. I want to see how a catamaran handles in heavy weather.  
 4. I want to see the Storm Management video so I understand what I need to do when I get in a storm at sea.  
 3. If I buy The Red Sea Chronicles, then Maxing Out Media will start production on two new DVD's - Australia to the Red Sea, and Med Sea to the Caribbean.  
 2. I like the Maxing Out web site, and I would like to support the website by purchasing their DVD.  
 1. After watching the Red Sea Chronicles, I can finally see myself sailing on the ocean of my dreams.


"Story, quality, music, people, boat... Just excellent."

e got the DVD yesterday and watched it last night (we had no problem with the different format at all), what a great adventure and well put together DVD it was entertaining as well as informative and funny at times, a great combination. Well done you guys are natural movie stars, Laura and I watched the DVD twice and I am sure we will watch it many more times in the future."

I hope you guys are going to make more DVDís of your previous sailing trips for us to enjoy."

"Amazing...Just watched your dvd The Red Sea Chronicles for the third time today...I called my boss at home and turned in my notice...I'm going sailing!"

"The best cruising video to date from any source and should be on the shelf of every one who shares the cruising spirit even if only in dreams."

"...a great video that transported me from a damp, cold day in Wales to cruising aboard Maxing Out in the Red Sea - pure nectar."

"The only "problem" is that this has left me wanting more of the same stuff, just from some of the other places Maxing Out has visited!"

"Thumbs up. I also wish the entire circumnavigation was documented, but this small portion in the Red Sea is excellent. Well done."

I just watched the Red Sea Chronicles and second what all the others have said. I'd love to see a whole series of Maxing Out DVDs...Good job!"

Red Sea Chronicles DVD Previews

The Red Sea Chronicles is now available!

  We are attacked by flying fish as we cross the Indian Ocean on our way to Salalah, Oman. When we make landfall, the local suq (market) helps us regain our land legs.


  The riskier side of world cruising. In this episode we prepare to sail through "Pirate Alley" in the Gulf of Aden

  We arrive in Aden with a damaged alternator and are delighted to find a superb local machine shop. As we prepare to leave, fellow cruisers are attacked by pirates.

  We must sail through the notorious Bab el Mandeb (Gate of Sorrows) to enter the Red Sea. 50 knot winds and relentless sandstorms are ready and waiting on the other side





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Blue Water





Storm Management Offshore
Parachute Sea Anchor Chainplates
When To Deploy Chutes and Drogues

The Almost Never Fail Catamaran Anchoring System
How Big Should Your Anchor Be?
Far Horizons
Tsunami Damage - The Starboard Bow Takes A Licking
Everywhere, Everything
Go West Young Man - Seasteading
Beam Me Up Scotty

Ten Reasons Why Night Sailing Rocks
When Are You Coming Home?

Sailing to Borneo to See Wild Orangutans
Double Headsail Downwind Sailing
Grand Schemes And Other Important Things
Rigging Emergency Prevented - Listening To Your Boat

Dreams Do Come True
I Have A Dream

I Am Wandering, But Not Lost
Missing Out
The Facts of Life

Red Sea Rigors and Rumors
Never Surrender Your Dreams
Red Sea Sunsets

Exit Only Survives the Global Tsunami
The Sea Is So Big and My Ship Is So Small

34 Things I Learned in 33,000 Miles
Space Travel

Ten Disasters I Was Afraid Of That Never Happened
Kissing Cobras

Pirates of The Malacca Straits
The Tree That Wanted To Eat My Boat

Offshore Dream Machine for Circumnavigation
The Facts of Life Rafts

Surviving the Savage Seas
Abbott Drogue - Adjustable Medium Pull Drogue
You Must Know The Sea

Listen to the Sound of Your Dreams
Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend

Exit Only
Life Is Good
Getting Connected

First You Think It, And Then You Do It
My Addiction
Cook's Look at Lizard Island

I've Got Trade Wind Dreams
Storms Come and Go
Go Ahead.  Live Your Dreams.
The Next Step

Take Care of Your Autopilot So It Takes Care of You
Danger Zones On Board Exit Only


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