It is always a delight to watch the sea retreating several miles and the water blending with the sky. What a pleasure it also is to admire the sheer force of Mother Nature when the water lashes against the land. Painters down the centuries have never tired of trying to capture this phenomenon because the sight is just so fantastic. However, we should always be careful during this never-ending spectacle. Take care not to get trapped during high tide and low tide. The rise and fall of the tides transforms the coastal landscape - and often much quicker than we might think.
Vigilance is paramount
At high tide, troughs of water form and cut off sandbanks. Once the tide starts to come in, do not stay on a sandbank as there is the risk of loosing your footing in a trough of water and being carried away by the current if you leave it too late. In the same way, when the tide goes out, it could very easily take you out to sea with it. Vigilance is paramount, and for swimmers with floats and inflatable boats in particular.
The Moon and the Earth
To understand how the tides work, you have to remember what Newton said! Tides are caused by the forces which occur between celestial objects. The moon has a gravitational pull on the Earth, which makes the oceans move. So, when the moon pulls our oceans towards it, there is high tide.
One tidal cycle lasts a little over 12 hours. As a result, there are just 6 hours between high tide and low tide. The timetables and tidal ranges are posted in lifeguard stations, in port harbours and are often available free of charge in shops.
The tidal ranges
By being aware of the tidal ranges, both professionals and amateurs can get some idea of the size of the tide and not have an unpleasant surprise when the tide comes in. This ‘scale’ is between 20 (lowest neap tide) and 120 (Spring equinox tide). A high tide is one where the tidal range is over 90. When there is a full moon or a new moon, which is when the Earth and the Moon are on practically on the same axis, the gravitational pull between the celestial bodies increases and tides have a greater range.
Spring tides are the largest and take place every six months, close to each equinox. The phenomena is mostly seen in March and September, but some months it can take place in February or April and August or October. Every year, thousands of interested sightseers come to witness these large tides which transform the landscape and the light. During this time, the coast shows its most stormy side.