A Guide to Tidal Forecasting
There are many elements to a successful kayaking expedition – packing correctly, being prepared with what you wear, a well maintained kayak, and of course, the weather. But a factor that can be sometimes overlooked is tidal forecasting – knowing when the tide will be at an appropriate level for your planned activities.
Successfully planning a trip around the tide is great – you’ll know when it is high enough to easily launch your Fatyak without the risk of bumping and scraping your way down the beach. Additionally, some coves and areas that you may have wanted to paddle through may only be available at high, or low tide specifically. Travelling through certain areas at low tide could definitely offer some challenges you may rather avoid – so make sure you have a backup plan too!
In addition to the benefits that can be taken from successful tidal forecasting, there are some dangers to be avoided from paying attention also. Low tide in general could make it rather treacherous to paddle in some areas, as you may be too low to rocks, general obstacles, and the seabed itself. It’s also worth considering any gear you may leave on the beach if you have travelled in a group or have somebody waiting on the shore – unexpected high tide could see all that being washed away.
The tide works by the moon’s gravitational force pulling areas of the ocean as the earth rotates – so if the moon is directly overheard as you are on the coast, you will experience high tide. Likewise, if the moon is directly overhead on the opposite site of the Earth, you will also experience high tide as the earth is pulled slightly towards the moon. However, depending on the geography of where you are, tides may behave slightly differently due to the shape or gradient of the surrounding coast and land.
Therefore, with the tides changing every 12 hours or so, you will get two high tides, and two low tides each day. Other factors come into account though, such as the specific position of the moon and the sun, and the different forces that act on tides making a tide book or another source of guidance a very handy investment for forecasting the tide, and making sure it suits your activities.
The UK Hydrographic Office has a great online tool for tidal forecasting, offering predictions for different areas over the next 6 days free of charge. Additionally, tidetimes.org.uk and BBC Weather both have their own offerings, as well as books and smartphone apps being available, which may be more useful if you’re already out on the water – so see what suits you best and take your pick!
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