It’s easy to get muddled up with spring tides and neap tides. In fact, about tides in general. If you don’t live near the sea, the tides seem an irrelevance, a subject for caricature salty seadogs to pronounce about, gnomically. But if you have any regular dealings with the sea – and frankly, on the Island we all do – then knowing at least a little about the tides is inevitable.
Tides influence a lot about life on the Island; from the tilt of the gangplank when you walk or drive off the ferry, to the best time of day to go to the beach – or even which beach to choose. If you’re at all into sailing or boating then you’ll need to know all about the tides for obvious reasons, but it’s also worth keeping an eye on the cycle of the sea for landlubbers too. You can find the weeks tides printed in Isle of Wight County Press, various online locations, and doubtless there’s an app for tides, for all I know.
So this summer plan your beach holiday with the tide in mind – you’ll get a lot more out of it! For a start, there are some beaches that are a lot easier when the tide is out. Colwell Bay, for example, or Gurnard. Fort Victoria too is a lovely beach for a walk with the dog (like most Island beaches, dogs are allowed there all year round) but when the tide’s up, you can’t get on it. At the other extreme there’s also the ‘miles of sand’ at Ryde that mean you won’t be doing any swimming when the tide’s out – unless you’re also willing to go for a very long walk!
So here’s a few detailed tips that many years of dossing on the beaches have taught me. Firstly, Sandown Bay. The golden sands of Yaverland, Sandown and Shanklin beaches are always very popular, and even a bit crowded at the peak times – so check the tides before you pack for the day. Pick a day when the high tide is in the first part of the morning, so you will have plenty of room to play and splash about as the tide goes down. Avoid days when the high tide is in the early afternoon – that’s when the beaches can get really crowded as the tide rises and people have to move up the beach! Ventnor is similar, although it rarely gets as busy, and there’s usually room to retreat if the tide does catch you.
The wonderful quiet beaches of the south-west coast have a charm all to themselves. There are no amenities – well, hardly any – and sometimes a bit of inpromptu cliff-clambering is necessary to get to them. That’s part of the charm. Another advantage is that they face west, so the golden afternoon and evening sun will be warm down there after Sandown, Shanklin and Ryde beaches have gone into evening shadow. But be careful – the tides down here can come in and catch you unawares. If you wander far along the beach there’s a real risk that the incoming tide might strand you. So keep an eye on the sea to enjoy a safe day on the beach.