Time and Tide Wait for no Man (or Woman)!

There is a lot of truth in the old adage for boating people especially. But, what is the tide and what does it mean to you?

Experienced boaters and commercial mariners know how to work with the tides, newbie boaters and inexperienced sailors are advised to attend an approved training course to receive guidance about tides and learn the basics before setting sail.

Tides are a natural global phenomenon that occurs with predictable regularity across the world. The gravitational pull of the Moon as the world rotates causes the oceans to lift skyward and as the clock ticks that lift is released causing water levels to drop back down causing a surge that in turn gives the rise of the tides. As the Lunar pull is exerted the tides go out – an ebb tide, as the Lunar pull is released we get a flood tide.

Marineforecaster’s Tide Data- Weather Option


Tides, then, are very long-period waves that move through the oceans in response to the forces exerted by the moon, the sun, and the rotation of Earth . Tides originate in the oceans and affect the coastlines where they appear as the regular rise and fall of the sea level.


Low tide corresponds to the lowest part of the wave, or its trough. The difference in height between the high tide and the low tide is called the tidal range.



Interesting facts:


The Canadian Bay of Fundy has the highest tides along with Anchorage Alaska with waves of 40 feet in height – over 12 metres!

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Southampton United Kingdome has double tides each day as water rushes from the North Sea around the Isle of Wight and back toward the Atlantic Ocean, making it a superb natural sea port.

The full and new moons normally create better fishing conditions because of the spring tides. The reason is that fish are easier to catch when they are feeding and  the tide and currents dictate this condition.

Because the Earth rotates through two tidal “bulges” every lunar day, coastal areas experience two high and two low tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes. High tides occur 12 hours and 25 minutes apart.

While tides are usually the largest source of short-term sea-level fluctuations, sea levels are also subject to forces such as wind and barometric pressure changes, resulting in storm surges, especially in shallow seas and near coasts.

So, why are tides so important to boating folks?

Consider that at low tide water may be abscent from the Marina basin, not a good time to sail!

Whereas at high tide and water flooding into the moorings it is possible to sail.

By knowing when the tide is coming in it is possible to plan your trip, and this applies to sailing anywhere in the world.

There are places in the world where incoming tides move with lethal speed, Morecambe Bay in England for instance where the incoming tide will outrun a man – many people have drowned (historically) by not respecting the power of the tides, don’t be one of them!

Always check the tides before doing anything else, talk to experienced boaters in your Marina or Club house about local tidal conditions – sand banks and obstacles that will be uncovered by a receding tide, look at the experienced hands if they are sailing it should be safe for you too, follow the basics as taught on professionally run courses.

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Never take risks, safety always come first.

Sail safe, sail free.



Author : Roger Langley