Smart Coastal Cruising

Coastal boating presents unique pleasures and challenges. The ocean level near shore changes four times a day, when the tide goes in and out. Luckily, the tides are predictable, so you can easily plan your cruises and strategize your fishing trips.

What causes tides, anyway?  When the moon and sun are on the same side of the earth (at full moon and new moon), their combined gravity creates especially high tides. That's a spring tide. About a week later, the moon and sun pull at a perpendicular angle to each other, causing a much less dramatic change at each tide. This is called a neap tide.




Besides being amazingly beautiful over the ocean, supermoons cause super tides. As the moon passes closer to us than usual, its pull on the oceans is even stronger.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Incoming and outgoing tides cause currents, which can make it hard for a boat to make headway. Water movement affects fish behavior, too, and savvy fishermen make the tides work for them to help catch their limit.

An ounce of prevention...  Be prepared with a tide table. Grab one from the marina, check the newspaper, or download an app for your iPhone or Android smartphone. If the tide goes out when you're ready to head in, that launch ramp might be inaccessible.

nukejr Photo: nukejr

Look out below!  Running aground on a sandbar is bad enough, but imagine your boat hitting an oyster bed, or even a reef, that was well under water earlier in the day. Your propeller will be toast, and your hull might be done for, too. Even worse is running aground at high tide, because the water level is only going to drop, leaving you even higher and drier than before. Keep up-to-date charts when you're cruising the coast to avoid a costly and dangerous mistake.

As always, wear your life jacket, boat sober, and have fun!

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