Tidal mysteries…

Ron suggested the other day that I write a blog about tides. Except, I really don’t understand tides. Oh, I know that the low tide is particularly low and the high tides particularly high during cycles of a full moon (which was 2 nights ago).

And tides levels vary wildly depending on the area you’re in. For example, we dealt with a 9-foot tide just north of Boston, where we took delivery of Prudence P. Fishpaws nearly 30 years ago. Here in the Fort Myers Beach area of Florida, tides run around 2 feet one way or the other. That may not seem like much, but when you’re dealing with the “skinny water” along much of the west coast of Florida, two feet can make a difference whether you’re floating or hard aground. And whatever you do, you want to make certain that you pay close attention to the navigational aids, especially in a busy and sometimes confusing area like Estero Bay.

This large motoryacht sat most of Thursday perched precariously on its port side (and port prop/strut). He got just a bit to the left of the channel on the north side of the mooring field, presumably while looking for either an empty mooring or dock space. Oh, and did I mention that the wind was blowing stink out of the NW? The boat was later seen hanging in a travel lift after finally being “rescued” during high tide by Towboat U.S. (Towing insurance is an absolute must–and thankfully inexpensive–if you’re cruising Florida waters!)

The photo above was taken at low tide yesterday morning and shows the sand spit on the north side of our mooring field. (The motoryacht was stuck on the western end of this shallow area.) That black box sitting there? You only see it at very low tide. Regulars in the mooring field often take their dinghies to the spit during very low tides to clean bottoms. There are some with dogs who let them run leash-less on the spit during low tide. And yes, there IS a narrow channel (can’t see it in this photo) on the other side of the spit, that cruisers and the shrimpers use to get in and out of the harbor.

This shallow area is well marked on the chart, but all the boat traffic and moored boats can get confusing if you’re unfamiliar with the harbor.

This area has two high tides and two low tides in a 24-hour period. There is no rhyme or reason to their timing, if you ask me. While living in Newport, RI in the mid-80’s we purchased an annual Tide Tables book that gave us the times and levels for the tides in the area. Now it’s a simple app that is downloaded to our iPads that we check frequently while we’re cruising. Although this inlet is not a problem during low tide (there’s plenty of water), there are many inlets (and anchorage entrances) that are problems for us. We need to try to time our arrival to a rising tide or close to high tide. (With a captain, always impatient to get going and not one for waiting, it gets tricky!) And then there is the whole issue of current as the tide rushes in or rushes out. (See last year’s “dancing marker” video http://youtu.be/I1dFHJEpfuo) But do we pay much attention to the timing of the tides while we’re sitting here in the mooring field, not moving? Not so much, unless curiosity gets the best of us.

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One thought on “Tidal mysteries…

  1. Glad you weren’t around with your camera when we went aground in NJ ICW (ask ME about placating an impatient Captain). I think we know the couple on Blue Moon, nice people. Hope all is well with you and your sister.

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