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Old 03-25-2013, 03:06 PM   #1
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Time, tides, and currents

I am curious as to how many of us truly attempt to use the tide and currents to our advantage while cruising? As an example, looking at the tide chart in Budd Inlet for this Friday March 29th, high tide is a +15 at 7:15 am. If I wanted to cruise to Seattle, I would time my departure for between 7 and 8am and ride that ebb which at places would create favorable currents of 4-6 knots, especially between Eagle Island and McNeil Island as well as through the Tacoma Narrows. I have a small quantity of fuel on board so it matters very much to me, plus it has become a bit of a game to see how few gallons I may use on the journey.
I ask this question for two reasons; (1) there was an older thread where Marin stated (and I agree) that tides and currents do not always even out during a cruise such that fuel consumption is the same coming and going; and, (2) because many boaters I know do not seem to give much thought to the tide and currents, they simply go when they are able to go. Part of number (2) may be work schedules, it could be darkness, or even weather.
Since we have many slower boats on this site, it would seem that most of us should care and plan accordingly. Who does and who doesn't?
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Old 03-25-2013, 03:43 PM   #2
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If you look at a chart or map of the USA south east coast (the AICW) you will see that in many places its' just a few miles between ocean inlets. What that means is, traveling the ICW, the tidal currents will reverse every few miles. You can have the tidal current in your favor, then fight the current, then have it in your favor again several times in one day's run.

So no, I seldom figure the tidal current in my travel plans. I do look for slack tide when possible when leaving or returning to my marina because it's a pretty difficult marina to get into or out of.
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Old 03-25-2013, 03:49 PM   #3
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I am curious as to how many of us truly attempt to use the tide and currents to our advantage while cruising?
Every time we go out. As you know the currents can be strong here. So we always try to take advantage of them, or at least minimize their negative effect, every time we go out. Our schedule and destination doesn't always allow this but we are always aware of exactly what the current is doing to us all the time.

We use several tools to do this from iPad apps to paper current books and tables to our two dedicated chart plotters. And as we gain local knowledge, either by direct experience or by being told, we are learning what sides of channels to favor to minimize the effects of adverse currents.

Dealing with strong currents is one of my favorite things about boating in this area.
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Old 03-25-2013, 03:51 PM   #4
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I do.

It's rare for me to untie the dock lines without at least a basic plan for using the tides to my advantage. Even when just going out for a fishing trip a couple miles off the dock, I want to hit slack tides, so I need to be aware. The only exception I can think of is a 1-2 hour sunset cruise with guests where we are simply going out to go out and return in short order.

I boat in the same area (moored in Tacoma and very familiar with your route), and if I do pay attention to the tides and maximize the currents, that run can be as short as 5 hours. If I don't pay attention (or mis-read the tide tables ), then it can easily take 10+ hours from Olympia to Seattle.

Also, it's fun for me to open up something like OpenCPN, or even google maps, and plan a route for a trip... and from there determine departure times to take advantage of the tides and currents.

We have even changed destinations on a weekend cruise just to adjust to the prevailing currents during our travel times. We are boating for fun, and if tides (or weather, schedules, etc) don't work out in our favor, then we simply adjust our plans.

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(2) because many boaters I know do not seem to give much thought to the tide and currents, they simply go when they are able to go.
I think this is largely the realm of the fast boats -- when you are skimming along the surface at 30kts, the impact of a 2kt current is marginal... that is, until they get caught in some nasty chop from an opposing wind.
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:03 PM   #5
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Same as marin, every time we go out try and use tides to our advantage. We are on the Hudson so can get a very good push with the tide. Wouldn't want to fight the tide and current in Hells gate, you won't win with a trawler
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:13 PM   #6
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On the chart software there is a tide and current animation/simulation that I play every time to make sure there is enough depth and the current when/if we are going through a narrow passage/channel and/or entering a marina. The Eagle draft is 5í9Ē and max 10 knots so there are several areas that we have to wait for the tide. If I can follow a big sail boat, I may not wait, figuring if they can make so can we. Before Everett Marina dredge last winter at low time we went a ground and could not get in/out of the marina. If we are just going out in the Puget Sound and in deep water usually I donít check.

However, being a live aboard because of the ramp angle we know on a daily bases what the tide is. Heavy items are taken/ to/from the boat at high tides. We also keep close track of the weather also. Just part of being a live aboard
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:37 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by MVNoPlans View Post
I am curious as to how many of us truly attempt to use the tide and currents to our advantage while cruising? As an example, looking at the tide chart in Budd Inlet for this Friday March 29th, high tide is a +15 at 7:15 am. If I wanted to cruise to Seattle, I would time my departure for between 7 and 8am and ride that ebb which at places would create favorable currents of 4-6 knots, especially between Eagle Island and McNeil Island as well as through the Tacoma Narrows. I have a small quantity of fuel on board so it matters very much to me, plus it has become a bit of a game to see how few gallons I may use on the journey.
I ask this question for two reasons; (1) there was an older thread where Marin stated (and I agree) that tides and currents do not always even out during a cruise such that fuel consumption is the same coming and going; and, (2) because many boaters I know do not seem to give much thought to the tide and currents, they simply go when they are able to go. Part of number (2) may be work schedules, it could be darkness, or even weather.
Since we have many slower boats on this site, it would seem that most of us should care and plan accordingly. Who does and who doesn't?
Absolutely...

After running the AICW there are definitely spots that you may want to run only in one direction or wait for the correct tide.

Two I can think of right off the bat is the Stono River leaving Charleston to the south. It's a long run of faily high current if it's ebbing. The waterway guide concurs.

The next is leaving Myrtle Beach headed south out the Waccamaw River towards Georgetown and the ocean. Again you are OK headed south most of the time but coming north...you fight the ebb and the current and it's a killer.The waterway guide concurs.

Just remembered the Cape Fear River between Southport and Wilmington....don't try it going Northbound with a full moon ebb and after a good rain..we saw over 4 knots and I wound up hugging the beach in less than 10 feet of water till the current started to swing.

Then there's the Delaware Bay where you can ride the tide for almost the full 6 hours headed towards the CD...and a little with the ebb towards the ocean...but that ride is never as good...you don't want to fight it either way for the almost 60 miles from the C&D to tCape may.

The other is the Chesapeake...beter to run the length of it with favorable tides over the course of several days versus the other way aroung. Many places it's less than a knot but over several days it will sure help the MPG in a slow trawler.

All these examples are inportant to me because I've been running at 6.3 knots cruise RPM...at it I AVERAGE around 3.3 NMPG (this is REAL cruising NMPG...you know...including waiting for locks, bridges, dockhands, speeding up and down for boats/no wake, etc...etc...not the sissy number you get from a floscan and gps every second...it would be the numbers from totalizing that are real).

So yes on my final legs of a 2000 mile cruise (4 months) down and up the AICW...only those who don't mind spending money on fuel wouldn't use tidal/river current to their advantage.

Now...those poor unfortunates with jobs and schedules....please disreagard everything I just posted.
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:41 PM   #8
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This will seem odd to some folks, but on the Columbia River we have tidal effects 70 miles upriver to the point it reverses the flow for a few hours. I'll be fishing in the current, then the current will stop and reverse.

Also in my research on cruising the inside passage, you have to pay attention to the currents or in some places you could be WOT with your boat going backwards and on the rocks as you don't have enough power to overcome the current. That will be a fun trip!
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:42 PM   #9
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A hundred years ago when I lived in Sonoma County (CA) and operated a little 24 hp 8 ton motor-sailor out of Bodega Bay (CA), we lived and died by the tides, especially on excursions down to SF Bay and into the Sacto-San Joaquin River systems. I come from a generation brought up reading the exploits of heroes like Eric and Susan Hiscock, and Sir Francis Chichester, and that strange fellow who penned "Riddle of the Sands." Those guys also lived and died by the tides. Now that I'm back home in Dixie where local diuranal tides are relatively insignificant (i.e. around 1' range), I've fallen into the slothful indolence of the "typical" boat driver. Mention set and drift to the locals and they either assume you're a Yankee spy, or cast a quizical look in your direction. Fact is I greatly respect the skipper who knows how to read tide/current tables and use them to his/her/its advantage. Cheers!
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:43 PM   #10
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Columbia River

I think the tidal effects go all the way to Camas/Washougal
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:47 PM   #11
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I definitely use them. On longer legs, I'll actually plan our lunch stops around them . Sitting in a quiet cove for an hour having lunch is awesome. Even better if you realize the time you save underway by waiting a little while.
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:51 PM   #12
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I think the tidal effects go all the way to Camas/Washougal
Yep it do, but the farther up that way the less the effect. Now the Columbia River Bar, that will be a new experience for me....(note still a virgin)
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Old 03-25-2013, 05:01 PM   #13
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We're 330 miles upstream from the ocean so we don't get any tidal effect. This year we're also not seeing much current flow. None of the dams are spilling any water and only passing what goes through the turbines to generate power.

Normally by this time of year we have about a 3-4kt current. We were out yesterday and it measured about .5-.7kts.

There is a federal mandate that Bonneville Power keep a certain amount of water for the salmon. I'm guessing that there's not much snow pack up in the mountains so they're holding back all the water they can (behind the dams) so they'll have enough for the fish.

Which makes me wonder (RANT ON!!!) why it is that we have listed several species of salmon as endangered species, yet they have a salmon fishing season. I can't go into a restaurant and order a filleted breast of Spotted Owl because it's endangered. Why can I go into that same restaurant and order a salmon fillet?

If they're REALLY endangered, get rid of the fishing seasons, commercial and sport fishing, for a couple of years until the salmon runs build up in number. RANT OFF

I know the answer to that question....it all comes down to dollars. Commercial and sport fishing bring in millions of bucks to the fisherman and all the way up the line. They'd scream like mashed cats if the season were halted for a few years.
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Old 03-25-2013, 05:51 PM   #14
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If they're REALLY endangered, get rid of the fishing seasons, commercial and sport fishing, for a couple of years until the salmon runs build up in number.
Those fishing licenses pay for the hatcheries and their operating costs, which sustain and subsidize the breeding stock despite the poor river flows.
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Old 03-25-2013, 06:57 PM   #15
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Every time we go out.
Same here.

Even on a shrimp platter & wine bay cruise. The decision as to where we start out and how we finish depends on the tide & sun angle. Guests are very impressed with the ride and they don't even know why.
One push of a "soft key" on the plotter tells me exactly what Mother Nature has in store. (Tide wise.)
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Old 03-25-2013, 07:12 PM   #16
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Always. It's better to have a knot with you that a knot against. It's surprising how much tide there is even 50 miles off shore. Get in the right stream and you can easily pick up a couple of knots.
Here on the east coast of NZ, the tide floods from north to south, so when heading north from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, having an ebbing tide is very helpful. Of course, it's 120 miles so you can only get about half way with the tide at 9Kn through the water. Time for a 6 hour break....
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Old 03-25-2013, 08:46 PM   #17
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Play them almost every trip. The classic example is the Hudson River; keep your speed right and you can pick up at least a knot each way almost all the way to Albany. The Native name for the Hudson translates to "River that runs both ways"; of course when canoes are the vessel of choice, it really makes a difference. Not to say a free 10% or so ride doesn't hurt with my beast either.
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Old 03-25-2013, 08:48 PM   #18
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Most of the time I've no particular destination in mind on a day cruise, so currents are largely irrelevant (except for determining turn-around time) and I may be moving 4.5 knots in one direction and 10 knots in the other because of the current. Tide levels can be important too: two hours before low tide we were "pushing mud" (with dredging overdue and chart soundings out of date) occasionally on the Petaluma River last Thursday. Nevertheless, tidal currents in the San Francisco estuary make a whale of a difference on one's forward progress.

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Old 03-25-2013, 09:31 PM   #19
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Always. It's better to have a knot with you that a knot against. It's surprising how much tide there is even 50 miles off shore. Get in the right stream and you can easily pick up a couple of knots.
Here on the east coast of NZ, the tide floods from north to south, so when heading north from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, having an ebbing tide is very helpful. Of course, it's 120 miles so you can only get about half way with the tide at 9Kn through the water. Time for a 6 hour break....
A fine break right about the Poor Knights?
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Old 03-25-2013, 09:46 PM   #20
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Absolutely...

After running the AICW there are definitely spots that you may want to run only in one direction or wait for the correct tide.

Two I can think of right off the bat is the Stono River leaving Charleston to the south. It's a long run of faily high current if it's ebbing. The waterway guide concurs.

The next is leaving Myrtle Beach headed south out the Waccamaw River towards Georgetown and the ocean. Again you are OK headed south most of the time but coming north...you fight the ebb and the current and it's a killer.The waterway guide concurs.

Just remembered the Cape Fear River between Southport and Wilmington....don't try it going Northbound with a full moon ebb and after a good rain..we saw over 4 knots and I wound up hugging the beach in less than 10 feet of water till the current started to swing.

Then there's the Delaware Bay where you can ride the tide for almost the full 6 hours headed towards the CD...and a little with the ebb towards the ocean...but that ride is never as good...you don't want to fight it either way for the almost 60 miles from the C&D to tCape may.

The other is the Chesapeake...beter to run the length of it with favorable tides over the course of several days versus the other way aroung. Many places it's less than a knot but over several days it will sure help the MPG in a slow trawler.

All these examples are inportant to me because I've been running at 6.3 knots cruise RPM...at it I AVERAGE around 3.3 NMPG (this is REAL cruising NMPG...you know...including waiting for locks, bridges, dockhands, speeding up and down for boats/no wake, etc...etc...not the sissy number you get from a floscan and gps every second...it would be the numbers from totalizing that are real).

So yes on my final legs of a 2000 mile cruise (4 months) down and up the AICW...only those who don't mind spending money on fuel wouldn't use tidal/river current to their advantage.

Now...those poor unfortunates with jobs and schedules....please disreagard everything I just posted.
What he said
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