Home Boating Safety Talkin’ Tides

Talkin’ Tides

by Boatanista

Let’s talk tides! Taking a boat out one day might be totally different than taking it out another. Tides can make a quick trip down the coast a bit more complicated than you remember. Imagine hopping in the car and heading to the grocery store and the street is half as narrow as last time! Understanding tides is essential to becoming a better boater and most importantly a safe captain.

Tide Tips

  • There are high tides and low tides. If the water is higher than sea level, it’s a high tide. If it’s lower than sea level, it’s a low tide.
  • Most areas have semidiurnal tides. This means that they happen twice a day.
  • Times between high and low tides are approximately six hours.
  • Because of the earth’s rotation, and relative position to the moon, tidal changes are on a 24.8-hour schedule. This means that low and high tide will be one hour later every day. For example, if low tide was at 6 am and 6 pm on Wednesday, it would be 7 am and 7 pm on Thursday.

Navigating Tides and Hazards

  • Just knowing the tide might not be enough when you are boating a new area. If the tide moves through a channel or narrow waterway it might cause rough conditions. Be extra mindful in narrow channels and waterways.
  • Some channels might require you to plan entirely around the tidal flow. Navigating with the tide can help optimize your fuel economy.
  • One of the scariest things to me is considering all the hidden obstructions that aren’t visible during high tide. Obstacles could include oyster bars, fallen trees, rocks, sunken boats or whatever else might be lurking beneath the waves.
  • If you boat the same areas often, it’s important to familiarize yourself with any submerged hazards so you can avoid them in the future.
  • When boating in new areas, always check your charts and tides when planning your trip. Go slow If you are in an unfamiliar area.
  • Having a GPS and depth finder on board can be extremely helpful in both new and familiar waters.
  • Taking advantage of boating courses and training is a great way to gain navigation experience. Being a member of a boat club such as Freedom Boat Club is a great opportunity to hone your skills since they offer unlimited, on-water training.
  • When going to a sandbar, make sure you know the tides beforehand or you may risk getting grounded. Getting grounded happens when you anchor your boat in shallow water, then the tide goes out and your boat is completely on land. This can be especially problematic at low tide because of how long it takes for the tide to come back up. You might be high and dry for hours before you can move your vessel again. You may also need to call a Sea Tow or Boat US to pull you off the sandbar if its not too late for them to get to you. You can learn more about tides as well as getting grounded in my blog Don’t Be Left High and Dry.

Now that you can talk the talk, it’s time to walk the walk. Remember to always check the tides for your location and time whenever you go boating. A good captain will be aware of the currents and on the lookout for any hazards in the water. Proper tide knowledge can make a day on the water just as easy as a trip to the grocery store, and you don’t even need to worry about the traffic! 

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