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Docking at Low Tide, High Tide or In-Between

by Scott Myers


If you're contemplating upgrading or purchasing your first boat with a fairly deep draw, it is important to follow the tide tables. Not only do you need to be careful when boating during low tides, but you should also know the depth of marina channels at low tide when you are ready to make your approach. It is necessary to know the depth of marinas at low or high tides. Understanding incoming and outgoing tides are additional factors to consider.





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What does a boat's draw mean? It's the boat's hull that sits under the water. Small boats may have less than a foot of boat under water, where mini-yachts may have almost six feet of the boat that is under the water line. Yachts and ships can have much deeper draws that can limit them on finding adequate dockage.


Boaters Should Understand the Tides

What better way to learn about tides but from the experience of those who depend on the water to do their job. Tides are affected by the locations of the moon and the sun in relevance to the earth. Found on Rigged and Ready, you will understand why the timing of tides change, why tidal forces may differ, and what other factors affect them.

  • Low tide is when the water level is at its lowest.
  • Slack tide refers to the water being at a standstill. There is no movement in our out.
  • Incoming tide means the water is moving in to rise towards high tide.
  • High tide is when the water level has reached its highest level.
    • The water again becomes stable with no movement for another slack tide.
  • Outgoing tide is when the water level begins to lower.
  • Tidal range is the difference in height between low tide and high tide. One area or marina may have a minimum variance, while another place may have a big difference.
  • Current is the speed the water is moving during incoming or outgoing tides.
    • Some areas and marinas have strong currents during incoming and outgoing tides.
  • Tide height is vital information. Charts usually reference the average, lowest water levels.
    • There are mobile apps, such as BoatU.S. to see the predicted tide heights and tide tables.
    • NOAA.GOV has another informative application to find your local tides and currents.
  • Spring tides are stronger due to the alignment of the sun and moon to the earth.
  • Neap tides are weaker when the sun and moon are not in alignment with earth.
  • Time regarding tides does not coincide with our time and annual calendar.
    • A tidal day is "24 hours and 50 minutes."
    • The phases of the moon take a total of "29.5 days."
  • Wind direction is another factor that can affect the level of the tides. If an incoming tide also has the force of incoming winds, the level of water can be significantly higher. Same is true for low tide with additional water being pushed out by the wind.  This can be the difference of having water underneath your boat, or your boat is sitting in the mud.


Approaching and Docking with the Tides in Mind

Docking a boat is more than just parking. Wind and current is part of the mix. Docking during slack tides does make docking easier because there is no water movement unless the wind is in play. BoatU.S. has numerous guides to help you further understand what you should consider when docking boats of different sizes and types. Along with other important tips, you will read how to dock your boat in tight spaces.    

When reading how to dock isn't enough, you may want to consider hiring a licensed captain. Docking will most likely be a big part of your learning experience.

Whenever you are coming into a marina, whether you are a novice or a seasoned cruiser, the marina staff are your best reference for understanding the best way to dock. They will instruct you how to approach, how to position your fenders, and whether to dock on your port or starboard side.



Duncan Seawalls: Building Quality Docks and More in Florida

Located in Southwest Florida, our expert team at Duncan Seawalls has been building quality residential and commercial marine projects since 1979. It is our pleasure to assist our customers successfully work through every step of a marine project starting with the initial permitting all the way through planning and implementation. We specialize in boat lifts, docks, dredging, seawalls and more. No job is too big or too small. We're always excited to show what we can design when you tell us your dream.





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