12 August 2017

Saturday Spotlight | Tides By Jonathan White

In addition to the usual blog posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday about our eccentric travel adventures and day-to-day life living aboard a sailboat, I also occasionally post on Saturdays, focusing on things related to writing such as cover reveals, book launches, reviews, interviews with authors etc. So if you're a bit of a book nerd like I am, check in on Saturdays - you never know what might pop up.


Today, I'm featuring Jonathan White's fascinating book - Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean.

I was intrigued by the subtitle - science and spirit. Let's face it, sometimes science-related books can be a bit dull (and I know, I've read my share of some real yawners in graduate school), so a dry, boring scientific explanation of tides is enough to put me to sleep, but throw in a discussion of the spirit of the ocean and the impact of tides on humans at a visceral level and I'm hooked.

White interweaves stories - both scientific and spiritual - into his book. Like the chapter on Mont Saint-Michel (the tidal island off the Normandy coast of France). In medieval times, pilgrims would make their way across treacherous tidal flats in order to reach the abbey and pray to St Michael. White recounts his visit to the monastery and discussions with the monks on the connection between God and the tides, alongside a history of early scientific attempts to understand how tides, the sun and the moon are interrelated.

It felt like White was sharing his travel stories with me over a cup of coffee, while sneaking in a few scientific and historical facts and tidbits here and there. Without realizing it, I was drawn in and had actually learned something about tides. Which is really the best way to learn something in my opinion - over coffee with interesting people who know how to tell a story.

Mont Saint-Michel {Via Jonathan White}

If you live and cruise on a sailboat like we do, it's important to understand and pay attention to the tides. To be honest, until I read Tides, I didn't really understand much about tides, but I did know enough to pay attention to them.

For example, we time going through certain cuts with slack tide or risk the wrath of Mother Nature. She's been known to reward sailors' ignorance and stupidity by slamming their boats into rocks before. Even for cuts that aren't that tricky, taking the tides into consideration can make all the difference between a quick passage or a very long one depending on whether the current is in your favor or not.

And when it's time to drop the hook, we need to know when the next low tide is and what the tidal range is. Our boat has a 5' draft (depth of our keel from the waterline). At high tide, we might have anchored in 7' of water, but at low tide, we might find that the water has dropped to only 4'. I'm no math whiz, but even I can figure out that that would be a big problem.

Even though we haven't been caught out by the tides when anchoring our boat, we have had a few misadventures with our dinghy resulting from our complete and utter lack of attention to the tide tables. Like leaving our dinghy on the beach, going for a delightful hike and returning only to find the foreshore dried out for what seems like miles. Do you wait until the tide comes back in or carry your extremely heavy dinghy to where there's enough water to float it?

Rocky Bay on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Yep, we carried our dinghy a long way until it floated.

To give you an idea of how dramatic tides can be, check out these photos of Perranporth, England at low and high tide. Imagine reading a good book and drifting off to sleep on your beach blanket at low tide, only to be rudely awoken at high tide by the water rushing in and getting you and your book sopping wet. There's a lot of other great pictures showing the difference between low and high tides in White's book.

Beach in Perranporth, England {Via Jonathan White}

And here's an even more dramatic one - a tidal bore at Qiantang, China going over its banks. I was intrigued by White's account of his visit to the Bore-Watching festival which attracts over a million tourists each year. Some come for spiritual reasons, others for holiday celebrations with family and friends. Some people are so fascinated by the tidal bore that they risk their lives standing too close, only to get swept away and drown.

The Quatang tidal bore as it overtops its banks in China {Via Jonathan White}

If you're into sailing, beach-combing, fishing, surfing or other activities influenced by the tides, this is a book you'll want to check out. Even if your daily life isn't ruled by the ebb and flow of the tides, I bet you might still find this book fascinating, because, after all, the ocean affects us all in one way or the other.


Book Information & Blurb

In Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, writer, sailor and surfer Jonathan White takes readers across the globe to discover the science and spirit of ocean tides. In the Arctic, he shimmies under the ice with an Inuit elder to hunt for mussels in the dark cavities left behind at low tide; in China, he races the Silver Dragon, a twenty-five foot tidal bore that crashes eighty miles up the Qiantang River; in France, he interviews the monks that live in the tide-wrapped monastery of Mont St. Michel; in Chile and Scotland, he investigates the growth of tidal power generation; and in Panama and Venice, he delves into how the threat of sea level rise is changing human culture – the very old and very new.

You can get your own copy of Tides on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Bam!

If you want to find out more about the book and its author, check out Jonathan White's site.

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean
Trinity University Press
Publication date : February, 2017
ISBN: 9781595348050

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of Tides in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. 


What about you - have you ever thought much about the tides? Ever been caught out by the tides? Do you live in an area which is affected by tides? 

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  1. We are ever aware of tides. When to travel to and from and getting into and out of different marinas. Sometimes that water is moving very fast. Slack is a good time for those places.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. ☺

  2. That looks fascinating. I love books that weave facts and stories together. It's how my brain works, too.

  3. It is indeed an intriguing title and cover, you did well to outline the information found inside. Thanks for sharing, great photos and warm greetings to you!

  4. Hmmm, I might have to actually pay for this book. When someone says, "the rule of ....", my eyes glaze over.

  5. Sounds like a terrific book! I grew up around the water and used to be very attuned to the tines for fishing, crabbing, clamming, boating and such, but we've lived inland since 1971, (sigh)so tides don't play much of a role in my life anymore. (sigh) But the spirit of the ocean? That will always be a part of me.

    1. I really enjoyed it. Love that the spirit of the ocean is part of you even though you're inland.

  6. Oh, wow. I bet this read would really resonate with me, an inland dweller with the heart of an islander. Thank you for sharing.


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