Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Tide

A regular periodical current of waters, setting alternately in a flux and reflux; it is owing to the attraction of the sun and moon, but chiefly the latter.

Thus begins Admiral Smyth’s discussion of the word tide in The Sailor’s Word Book. Obviously, tides and tidal fluctuations are an integral part of sailing, but just how many kinds of tides there are and how they can potentially effect a ship is somewhat daunting.

The word itself comes to us from the Anglo-Saxon tid which originally meant season or hour. A vestige of this usage remains in English when we speak of times of the year or day as in the examples given by Webster’s: Eastertide or eventide. The old proverb “Time and tide wait for no man” originally referred to hours of the day (time) and seasons of the year (tide) but for most of us that meaning has long since been forgotten. We now approach the proverb as a seaman might; for the tide will not wait and you better be aboard ship when it is time to weigh anchor or you’ll be left ashore.

Small ships can tide, using the word as a verb. This indicates working up or down a river with the tide and weighing anchor when the tide turns. This is possible for larger ships only in the mightiest rivers on earth; the Mississippi is a good example. Along the same lines, a bay that can only be entered by ships when the tide is in flux is known as a tidal harbor.

When a sandbar encloses a bay or harbor, it is often the case that ships can only come and go when the tide is high. To again refer to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, an example of such a “bar harbor” is Barataria Bay; no wonder it was so popular with pirates. In such cases, ships may refer to what is known as a tide ball. This float, similar to a buoy, is set out as a marker. When the tide is too low, it rests on the bar; when the tide is high, it floats freely. These are generally tethered by a cable either to a stake in the bar or on land.

Similarly, a tide gage can be used from the ship itself to measure the height of the tide.

Rip tides are familiar to anyone who has been to a beach. These are generally caused by two currents meeting and conflicting. Curiously, these can occur at sea but tend to have little if any effect on a ship’s course.

A ship is said to be in a tide rode when she is moved about while at anchor by the tide. This is obviously a different situation than a wind rode, when the anchored vessel veers due to wind.

Tide way is what a ship looks for in a river to move her out toward the ocean. This is the channel in the river where the tide runs the most strongly and is usually – but not always – toward the center of the river. Tide work is the amount of progress a ship makes in such a favorable tide. However, tide work can also indicate necessary cleaning or repairs done to a ship when the tide has left her either completely or partially out of the water for the period of its ebb.

As a point of interest, the highest and fastest tides in the world are seen at the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Contrarily, the lowest and most sluggish are in the Mediterranean.

And that is enough of tides for one day. Happy Saturday, Brethren; fair winds and good tide way to one and all.

Header: Beached by Dennis M. Bunker via American Gallery


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! I believe that those high and fast tides seen at the Bay of Fundy are sometimes called "bore tides". We sometimes see them here on the Turnagain arm of Cook Inlet.

I like the painting too.

Pauline said...

Absolutely correct, Timmy! and thank you for adding that. I like the painting, too.