Cape Cod Tide Chart
If you're planning to spend any time on the water, a Cape Cod Tide Chart is essential for determining not just what time of day the high tides and low tides are, and what levels they will be, but what direction the tide is moving at any given time between those high and low points.
With this being a coastal community, a Cape Cod tide chart will typically be published in all the local newspapers and can be found online at a number of specialized websites (see links below).
Tide information is critical whenever you are boating, kayaking or fishing anywhere other than a pond. They're certainly a must for surfers and windsurfers, and can even have an impact on the safety and enjoyment of a simple day at the beach.
High Tide Versus Low Tide
Tides rise and fall based on the gravitational effect of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. The moon causes tides to rise not only when it passes overhead, but also when it passes underfoot (on the other side of the earth). And since it does each of these things every day, there are two high tides and two low tides every day on Cape Cod.
Life would be easy if this entire lunar cycle took exactly 24 hours because that would make high tide and low tide happen at exactly the same time each day. However, it actually takes a little under 25 hours for the moon to completely orbit the earth so a high tide that takes place at 6am one day will take place a little under an hour later the next day.
What's more, high tide and low tide occur at different times depending on where you are on the Cape, and the effect of tides varies depending on the shape of the coastline. This is particularly relevant in case of Cape Cod, where the Bay side (to the north) is shaped like a shallow bowl while the beaches on the ocean side (to the south and to the east) have a much steeper incline.
A drop of several feet in the tide level at Nauset beach in Orleans, for example, will cause ten or twenty yards of additional beach to become exposed, allowing more room for sun bathers, and making a trip to the beach that much less crowded.
That same low tide on the Cape Cod Bay side at, say, Brewster flats (maybe 30 minutes away by car) will push the ocean out half a mile or more. This makes Brewster at low tide a wonderful place for walking, exploring and finding crabs, but you need to be aware of when the tide turns because it comes in very quickly and you can easily get stranded as the tide rushes in around you.
Boaters and kayakers also have to be aware of high and low tides because certain boat ramps are unusable at low or high tide while rocks and sand banks that are deep under water at high tide can cause real damage to your vessel at low tide.
Many of the tidal creeks and back marshes are simply not navigable at low tide, and water levels, particularly on the Bay side can drop several feet in the space of an hour. Many an inexperienced kayaker has mistimed their trips and found themselves either having to walk their kayaks out or sit there stranded on a mud flat waiting for a rising tide to lift them off.
Currents - Flood, Ebb and Slack
Just as important as the height and timing of high tide and low tide is the direction a tide is going at any given time between those points. A tidal current flowing into a coastal area causes a flood current while a tide that is flowing out is called an ebb current. The short time between a flood and an ebb is called slack water, when little or no current is evident.
In the waters around Cape Cod, these currents can be surprisingly strong. We know of one boater, for example, who tried to take a sailboat with an overheating engine through the channel at the Old Stone Drawbridge in Woods Hole. It took him an hour to travel half a mile against the tide there.
And if a motorized craft like that should struggle, imagine how tough it could be to paddle a kayak if you don't get the timing just right. Add in the possibility of a 10-15 mile per hour headwind and you could find yourself exhausted, or worse, before your trip is over.
Kayaking couples will want to time their trips so that they can take advantage of incoming and outgoing tides. So if low tide is at 6:00am, for example, and you plan to paddle inland on a trip that will take about 3 hours, you'll be paddling with the current as long as you leave before 9:15am. By 12:15am, it will be high tide and pretty soon after that, the tide will start to go out again. Then there is a six hour window during which you'll want to paddle back, with the ebb current helping you along the way.
Two Cape Cod Tide Charts
Okay, so now you know a little about tides and currents, let's introduce you to a couple of online Cape Cod Tide Charts. There are two that we use, each of which has various pros and cons, depending on your circumstances.
This site will also give you information on currents such as the time and the speed of maximum flood and ebb currents. This is particulalry useful for kayakers who want to avoid paddling against a 4 knot current. And you can also request non-tidal information, such as sunset times for couples who want to time a romantic walk on the beach to watch the sun go down.
The BoatMA.com link offers a more comprehensive listing of tides for up to six months in advance, but does so for far fewer locations. Maybe a couple that has a boat moored on the Cape, plans regular trips throughout the season and wants to plan them according to optimal tide times would find this one more useful. It also has a pretty good print function so you can print out copies for each month and use them to plan ahead.
Whichever one turns out to be your preferred Cape Cod tide chart, we can pretty much guarantee that you'll have a safer and more enjoyable trip if you make a habit of consulting it on a regular basis.
Copyright© 2007-2012 Cape Cod For Couples. Please do not reproduce these articles without permission.
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