Posted by George Morrison

The Turn of the Tide                  Word on the Week               1st April 2023.

The tide turns sooner or later, it always happens.    There is a rhythm to it which is entirely predictable.   It is governed by the moon. The full moon exercises the strongest gravitational pull on the water.   This in turn produces the highest tides of the monthly cycle.

My teenage years were spent watching the tide and the effect it had on the activities in the Aberdeenshire village of Collieston.   The harbour was tidal meaning there was no water in it at low tide.   Boats were grounded and you were not going anywhere unless you had had the forethought to moor the boat near the point of the pier where there was always water.

High tides became progressively lower until they reached their lowest point mid-way between when the moon stopped waxing (increasing) and started to wane (decrease) The build-up to the next full moon began and the cycle continued.  The times of the tides and the height of high water were published in the daily paper but we soon learned to work them out for ourselves.

The equinoxes produced the highest rise and fall in water level.   At low tide the sea withdrew revealing rocks which were normally submerged.  This was the time to go fishing for Partans (edible crab).    They were to be found in small crevices in the rocks and extracted with a wire hook and nimble fingers. Very seldom a lobster would be stranded by the exceptionally low tide but they were usually found to be ‘berried’ i.e. pregnant and had to be returned to the sea.  

The tide not only rose and fell in height, (at Collieston it varied from 8 to 13 feet rising to the highest at the equinoxes) but also the current flowed from flowing North (tide coming in) to flowing South (tide going out).   The speed of the current could reach 4 knots at the equinoxes reducing to about half that at its lowest point between them.

We always rowed against the current when going out to sea to fish so we could come back with the flow of water assisting our tired limbs!   The ‘ebbing stone’ as the name suggests submerged and emerged with the tides.   It lay near the entrance to the harbour and was just one of a number of things you had to avoid.

The anchor was dropped to secure the boat in its position on the sea.  It was important that it fastened securely to the sea floor to stop the vessel from drifting.   PJ Owens hymn visualises our anchor in the Holy place with Christ.                 

We have an anchor that keeps the soul 
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll, 
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move, 
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.           (Hebrews 6 verses 19/20).