Five Feet per Minute

After yesterday’s extended whining about the Scottish beaches (“A Day at the Beach”) you might be interested to know that we went back last night after dinner. We were curious to see the tide come in.

That is one feature of the Scottish beach that is peculiarly fascinating to me. I don’t recall seeing the tide move so much in Texas. I suppose it did, but not nearly with as much drama as the Scottish tide.

Since visiting the coasts of Britain (last week we were on the East coast, this week the West) we have only seen the sea at low tide. As I mentioned in “Lindisfarne,” the tide comes with grave warnings about its comings and goings. Too many schmucks have been caught too many times in the waters to allow unwitting tourists to stand about idly as the waters come in twice daily. We expected a tsunami but had as yet been disappointed, this in spite of the fact that we have waited and watched for it at least twice.

We’re heading home tomorrow and, though the tides will still be at the end of a fairly short drive, it is much closer here. Plus, the kids needed something to do after dinner other than watch reruns of Friends on the telly.

We went back to the same place the kids visited the other day and upon our arrival Lisa’s first words were, “Oh wow, it really has come in a long way!”

She pointed to an outcropping that looked to be a mile out from where we were standing. On their prior visit the sand was visible all the way out. It was now well over half the way in, and it kept coming. There was no tsunami, but it was easy to see how someone might find themselves wet, even trapped by the rising waters.

It comes in with gentle waves, much like the waves of the Texas beaches. The difference is that these waves don’t recede. They come in and stay, filling the tiny gaps and rivulets left by its departure six hours prior. And it comes in with noticeable haste.

I paced off about 30 feet from its edge to a rock we were standing on and within 6 minutes we needed to move; that’s roughly five feet per minute of encroachment. We couldn’t tell if it was getting faster or not, but it was clearly coming in and covering its former territory.

I paced off a chunk of sand to the kids and did the math. It was going to take another forty minutes to reach them and we were starting to get cold so doubted we would be there to see it. Looking at the tidal lines along the rocks around the bay we noticed that the water was going to keep coming for some time as it was going to rise by at least another ten feet, covering all the sand and a goodly portion of everything else.

Johnny's Castle

As I’ve said before, the kids love playing in the sand and were deep into the construction of several sand castles (all doomed for destruction) as the tide made its way inexorably towards them. In time, again as usual, they lost interest in the sand and began to splash around in the gentle waves: first the ankles, then the knees, then the bottom of the shorts and so on until someone takes the plunge. Last night it was Ben and Elisabeth who went in, opting for the cold wet ride home.

Again, as I said in yesterday’s entry I had deep fears about the icy temps of the water. On the East coast it was frigid, even on my little feet (that was the only portion I was willing to get wet). Friends had told us the West Coast waters are warmer because of the Gulf Stream (also the reason it rains more on the west side); they are. There is a very noticeable difference making the water reasonably temperate and tolerable, even when the wind is blowing and the skies overcast, quite remarkable really.

We were pleased to see the tide and would be happy to watch the process again sometime. Good news is that it has happened countless times before and will go on each day as long as the moon stays in our orbit, probably a while longer.

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One Response to Five Feet per Minute

  1. Ever since we moved to Texas and had the opportunity to watch the tides on the Gulf coast I have wondered why the tide there does not come in and go out the way the tides in the UK do. I am sure there is a reason possibly due to the location on the globe. If you ever find out why that happens you can let me know.

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