by Andy Schneider
"Time and tide wait for no man," has been a saying I've only heard when one boater is describing another boater stranded by the tide. It's not that I don't attend Free Verse Poetry Meets and Idioms of Phrase Workshops and hear these sorts of clever quotes all the time. Well, okay, maybe I don't frequent establishments where Poe, Frost and Dickinson are regularly quoted. But a boater walking around his stranded boat brings out the poet in even the most hardy of angler.
One sure way to avoid running aground is to be aware of what the status of the tide is and how it will effect the area you plan on navigating through.
Not just little books anymore
When the first iPhone was released in 2007, a new trending word debuted as well; App. App is short for Application Program or Application Software. Many may think that an App is only as complicated as Angry Birds, Facebook, Twitter or SnapChat, but there is some incredibly useful App's available in todays market. While the iPhone may have kickstarted the whole ‘App' craze, any mobile phone (yes even flip phones) sold in the last couple years has the availability to download App's. There are countless App's on todays market that are designed to assist in showing and predicting tides, some of the more popular ones are: WillyWeather, Tides, Tide Graph, Magic Seaweed, Nanoos and TidesPlanner just to name a few. But if your phone has internet capabilities, you can just as easy ‘Bookmark' some popular tide websites like: ProTides, Westfly, Saltwatertides and NOAA.
Even fish finders and chart-plotters have tide predicting capabilities. Just about any piece of marine electronics sold in the last 5-years should have tide and current prediction software either built in or available in an SD Card upgrade. One advantage with a chart-plotter predicting your tides over your smartphone, is that you don't need cellular service to review tides.
Predictions vs. Reality
While tides can be predicted years in advance; winds, river run-off and even atmospheric pressure can effect the tides. On the Columbia River flows change drastically throughout the year, effecting the tides in the estuary. With Bonneville Power Administration having to do court ordered spills, releasing water do to excess power from wind turbines and strong spring runoffs this can all but eliminate the tidal influence in the Columbia River. Don't expect an strong incoming tide in the spring similar to what we get in the fall around Buoy 10 season, it just doesn't happen when there is so much flow coming down the Columbia.
Many times anglers and boaters complain that the tide isn't doing what "The Book" says it should be doing; outgoing current past low tide, incoming current past high tide and asking when high or low slack is.
First, is ‘The Book' accurate? The standard ‘Free' tide table book you get with a store's logo on it is only accurate for where the store told the printing company to make it ‘adjusted' for. If a stores location is in Tillamook, Oregon then, more than likely, the tide table book was adjusted for Tillamook County Beaches. If you want to find what the tides are going to be inside Tillamook Bay, you will have to add a ‘adjusted' amount of time to the high tide and a different ‘adjusted‘ amount of time to low tide. Usually a conversion chart is provided in the tide book somewhere. Just remember how much you ‘paid‘ for the free tide table book and that the store supplying the free books isn't relying on the accuracy of the tide like you may need to.
Second, a tide books prediction is for high and low tides, not current or lack of. A printed high or low tide prediction is for the state of the tide when at its highest (or lowest) level. Current can be a result of the changing tide, but current doesn't always follow the tide. When the tide reaches it's lowest point, you still may have an ebbing flow (or outgoing current) even when the level of the tide (and water) has started rising. The same may happen at high tide, but with a flooding flow (or incoming current) when the level of the tide (and water) has started dropping.
Third, there is no "slack" in the tide. Every angler uses the terms, "high slack" and "low slack". But technically there is no such thing as a high or low "slack" tide. Just when the tide reaches its highest level, it's immediately on the drop again, when the tide reaches its lowest level, it immediately starts rising again. A slack current may occur close to high and low tide, but not necessarily.
Why don't tides occur at the same time every day? While it takes the earth 24 hours to make a revolution, it takes the moon 24-hours and 50-minutes to make a revolution around the earth. Since tides are effected by the moon's gravitational pull, not the sun's, tides get 50-minutes later every day.
When do tides have the biggest exchange? Every new and full moon, will have the highest and the lowest of the tides (called spring tides). The first and last quarter of the moon, will result in the least difference between high and low tide (called neap tides).
Are there tides offshore? Yes, but usually with less than 1.6-feet of difference.
Where are the highest tides? In the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada, where tides have a range of 44.6-feet.