Peter and I are not what you’d call "knee-jerk" decision
makers. We discuss; we analyze; we
probably think too much about decisions that would be better made with some
“throw caution to the wind” attitude!
For example, we traveled all the way around the world,
visiting 38 countries and covering about 36,000 miles aboard the good ship Peregrina and we were constantly
bitchin’ and moanin’ about the fact that we didn’t have wheels for our PLD!
For those of you who have NO idea what I’m talking about…see exhibit A below.
Dinghy wheels make light work of hauling your “Portable Landing
Devise” (more commonly known as your dinghy) up on the beach or over rocky
shores when high or low tide is a concern. What we didn’t know when we began our little
‘round the world adventure was just HOW MUCH of a concern this tidal issue was
going to be!
You see, as Florida sailors, we never had to deal with significant tidal changes in the Atlantic Ocean from our home base in Miami. For the most part, the difference between high and low tide is only a few inches in Miami. This has to do with gravitational pull between the moon, sun and earth; the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay; the shape of the coastline and the offshore winds and currents, among other factors. However, when you’re cruising in the other major bodies of water around the world and their associated river tributaries, tidal change can be a very big deal! (Did you know that the highest tidal change occurs in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia? 16.4 feet!!!)
Let me “give it a go” at explaining the tides. Bear in mind, this explanation is from an artistic, creative “right brainer” and not a math/science “left brain”whiz so I’ve had to resort to a lot of plagiarism here.
Well let’s begin…..The alternating pattern of the rise and
fall in sea level with respect to land is what we know as the tides. What causes this "motion
of the ocean"? In a word – gravity-
and, specifically, the gravitational forces of the Moon. The Sun also has a somewhat lesser role in
this process which we’ll cover in a bit.
The key to understanding how tides work is the relationship between the motion of our planet in relation to its bodies of water. As the Earth spins on its axis, ocean water is kept at equal levels around the planet by the Earth's gravity pulling inward and centrifugal force pushing outward.
However, the Moon's gravitational forces are strong enough to disrupt this
balance by accelerating the water towards the Moon. This causes the water to
“bulge.” As the Moon orbits our planet and as the Earth rotates, the bulge also
moves. The areas of the Earth where the bulge occurs experience high tide
and the other areas are subject to a low tide.
As I said, the Sun also has a role in tidal change but, because
the sun is 290 times further away from the earth than the moon, its’ influence
is much less. The two times that the Sun
plays a significant role in tidal change is during a New Moon or at the Full Moon. This is when the Sun and the Moon and Earth
all line up in a configuration known as syzygy - pronounced “SIZZ-A-G.”
When "syzygy happens" (LOL), the tidal effect is increased. These are known as spring tides, named not for the season, but for the fact that the water "springs" higher than normal. When the moon is on the far side of the earth we call it a full moon because the sun’s rays light it ll up. A new moon is between the earth and the sun and is only partially illuminated.
On the other hand, if the Sun and the Moon are 90 degrees apart in relation to an observer on Earth during the First Quarter Moon or Third Quarter Moon (sometimes called half moons), then high/low tides are not as high/low as they normally would be. This is because, despite its greater distance, the Sun's mass STILL allows it to exert enough gravitational force on the oceans that it can negate some of the effects of the Moon's pull. This phenomenon of lower high tides is called a neap tide.
OK, that’s enough science and astronomy for today. My head is aching…
Back to our now upgraded Portable Landing Device (PLD), a term I just made up which is pleasing me to no end!
We bought our new wheels from another cruiser in Bocas del Toro, Panama in January of 2016. It was such a stroke of luck because the minute we transited the Panama Canal and started heading up the Pacific coast of Panama, Costa Rica and now into Mexico, we’ve been encountering tidal changes up to 15 feet!
Here’s a photo of the beach at Playa Venao on the
southernmost point of the Azuero Peninsula in Panama where we stopped for three days to
hang out with the surfer dudes/dudettes at one of Panama’s most popular surfing
destinations. The beach is a perfect
crescent stretching along ¾ of a mile.
The surf, we’ve been told, (because
we’re just enough “old dogs” to know we’re not ready for “new tricks”) offers
exceptionally long rides.
But, it was the tidal change that impressed us! Over 14 feet here and that meant if we
brought our PLD into shore at high tide and hung around for six hours so Peter
could check out all the string bikinis, we had a very long distance to pull the
PLD before we reached the water’s edge at low tide.
But, NO PROBLEM with our new dinghy wheels! Here we are on a beach at Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica with a LONG way to go to get the PLD to the water’s edge. No worries…be happy!!!
We’ve already used these wheels a couple dozen times and we figure
that we’ve written off the cost considering the reduced “wear and tear” on our
backs and muscles. Now, if we had only
made this investment 6 ½ years ago when we first set out to sail around the
world – just imagine!
Maybe it’s time to think about buying those new sails we’ve been talking about since South Africa???