Watching the Tides
You’ve packed your picnic basket and are about to load up the boat and head to that special location, or your bait is ready and you’re heading offshore, but have you checked the tides? There are two reasons why paying attention to the tide cycle is important. One is the rise and fall, and the other is the ebb and flow.
Being aware of the rise and fall of the tides can affect your navigational safety. Running aground can not only damage your boat, but can also cause serious injury to yourself and your passengers on board. It also can adversely affect your boat when anchoring along a sandbar or on an island. There’s nothing more stressful than returning after a walk on the beach to find your boat high and dry because the tide has receded. Likewise, if the tide came in and you didn’t put out enough anchor rode, it could cause the water to lift the anchor and carry the boat away, or weigh it down, and cause it to take on water. Worst-case scenario, you’re going to need someone to come and get you. It’s easy to find out your area’s tidal rise and fall. Visit your local tackle shop or outdoor store for a tide table or visit the links listed at the end of this article.
Tidal ebb and flow can also be beneficial information, especially if you are planning to go in and out of an inlet or channel. You need to not only know how fast the water is moving, but also in which direction, so you can safely navigate your boat through the area. A good suggestion is to either consult with other boaters in the area, or download an app that will give you this information. You’ll also benefit from knowing the speed and direction of the tide when trying to dock your boat. There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting yourself into a tight spot with other boats at the dock. Knowing which direction the tide is moving will help you adjust your steering to compensate for the current. Wind direction and current can be working with or against each other, and should also be taken into your calculated approach to the dock, wet slip, or trailer.
Being up-to-date on the tide schedule for the day is just as important as being weather aware. It’s always a good idea to make this part of your checklist before heading out on the water.
You can find more information on this topic online by visiting the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association Marine Weather Service website. Another useful source is US Harbors.