Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Paddle boarding


The moon, the sea and the tides


Living in Hastings most of us love the sea – either to look at, appreciate the light, the sun and the moon shining on the sea.  And be in it. And now it is a wonderful sight on a still sunny morning or evening seeing people taking to the sea, swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking and kite surfing. But how much do people really know about the marine environment?

Lauris Morgan-Griffiths contacted William Thomson who as founder of Tidal Compass leads Tide Walks to share his knowledge of the sea and, consequently, by understanding the tides, waves and winds help seafarers have safer and more satisfying watery adventures. Time and tide wait for no man.

Where do you live?

I live by the sea in Deal, Kent, but I’m often found all around the coast of Britain and Europe in my camper van, learning about the sea and leading Tide Walks.

When did you become fascinated by the sea?

I have always lived by the sea, but it wasn’t until I was 18 and started travelling and having more intense adventures, like scuba diving and surfing, that I became really interested in the natural processes making tides, waves, winds and currents, so I could harness their energy more effectively.

We know the moon and the sea forces are linked –are you always aware of those strong, natural forces?

A quirk of the tide I’m fascinated by is that the tide times are directly connected to the moon phase, so in Hastings high tide at the full moon is always around 10:45.

HASTINGSIt’s then around 50 minutes later every day, because it takes 24 hours 50 minutes for the earth to realign with the moon because in that time we have made a total orbit of 360 degrees. In 24 hours, the moon has orbited about 12 degrees around us, so it takes another 50 minutes to ‘realign’ with this new position of the moon.

One of the beautiful ‘equilibriums’ of nature is that because tide times are 50 minutes later every day, over a month it adds 24 hours, so the tide times essentially reset themselves every month. And with this knowledge you can look at the moon and work out the time of high tide.

And while the moon has the biggest effect on the time of the tide, the sun plays an important role; when the sun and moon are in line with the earth (twice a month), their combined gravitational pull brings more powerful tides, a time called ‘spring tides’ – nothing to do with the season, but because the tides ‘spring’ forward with more energy.

Near Hastings, in Camber Sands in 2018, seven people drowned – what are the best warning and tips you can give to keep people safe, besides the fact that it is a powerful fore of nature and must be respected at all times?

You should never try and overpower the sea, however fit or strong you are; you will tire out long before the sea does. Instead, it’s much better to plan your adventures to harness the ocean’s energy. When it comes to engaging safely with the sea, brain is infinitely more powerful than brawn, and staying calm is the greatest skill to employ.

New Year's Day swim 2019

New Year’s Day swim 2019

What is a rip tide and what do you do if caught in one?

When waves break on the beach, the water needs to get back out to sea and it does this through a rip current, a narrow stretch of water that either runs along an obstruction or through a deeper channel like a gap between sandbanks.

The first thing you should do in a rip is lie on your back, control your breathing and take stock of the situation – staying calm is crucial. If there are lifeguards, raise your fist and they’ll come to rescue you. If there are no lifeguards, swim across to where waves are breaking, and swim in with them, remembering that ‘waves bring water into the beach, rips take that water back out to sea’.

What can you expect from the Tide Walk? Is there something for all ages?

The walk will provide people with a fun and simple insight into the elements that make the sea change from day to day; what makes tide, how tide powers the currents, how the moon and weather affect them, how waves work and how they power rip currents.

I have developed a number of models and demonstrations – audience participation guaranteed – that make it quick and easy for people to digest complex concepts, so the next time they get out on the water they will be far more knowledgeable of what’s happening around them.


Tide Walk with William Thomson: on Saturday 4 May high tide is at 10.37, low tide 17.43. The walk starts at 15.00 at Hastings Pier and finishes around 16.30 at the Jerwood Gallery. Tickets are £20 – book here. They include a 20% discount on William’s books – The Book of Tides and Tides and the Ocean as well as prints.



Posted 11:43 Wednesday, May 1, 2019 In: Nature

Also in: Nature

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