Late summer during our second look trip, we were astounded at the change in water levels due to the tides. At high tide, s/v Rachel J Slocum’s dock was flooded by half a foot and one needs to step up at least one meter to board the boat, making transport of goods and individuals perilous.
As a result, we had learned to check for tidal information from US Harbors on a daily basis and then plan our departure from the boat accordingly. In time, I hope this information would come intuitively as I calculate the lunar day (24 hours and 50 minutes) versus a solar day (24 hours) and adjust my perception of high tide and low tide accordingly.
The reason that a lunar day is longer than a normal 24-hour day is because the moon rotates around the Earth in the same direction that the Earth is spinning. It takes the Earth an extra 50 minutes to “catch up” to the moon.
If you’re interested in learning more about tidal information, check out NOAA’s tidal tutorial as well as other articles describing what other factors can affect the tide and the frequency and shape of tides.
On the day of our sea trial, we also became painfully aware of the strong currents flowing along New River.
When our new neighbor Randy moved his 55’ trawler Brandy into the space next to us, he circled for about an hour waiting for slack tide. That day, low tide was 1439 and slack tide would begin an hour or so afterward. We had errands to run and wasn’t around to see him dock, but according to his account, the flood current was still quite strong when he backed into the slip.
The current was stronger when Rich maneuvered into another slip during ebb current at 1402 and slammed his sturdy aluminum boat into the pilings.
The two main components of current are speed and direction. To measure a current, toss an object into the water and time how long it takes to get to a certain point a known distance away. If you want to learn more about currents, check out NOAA’s current tutorial.
While we were waiting out the latest storm so we could begin another boat project, Andrew decided to research local information on the timing and speed of current ebbing and flooding New River. According to Tides Near Me, Randy was battling about -1.9 knots of current as he was docking compared to Rich’s 3.4 knots.
Andrew has been dabbling with the idea of pushing off and practicing docking and undocking exercises. I’m all in favor of gaining more experience, but not in New River playing “bumper boats” with our home under these conditions.
We only touched on one of the five forces involved in docking, which includes rudder, prop walk, prop wash and wind. If both these experienced sailors wait for favorable conditions before attempting these maneuvers, why wouldn’t I? I am more than happy to wait until we get into an area that is more forgiving.
In the meantime, I am battening down our leaky hatches as the latest minutecast weather for Ft Lauderdale predicts rain in the next 18 minutes.
Thanks for reading!
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