Saturday, 28 February 2015


We recently had monster tides, and windy weather with them. Our dinghy is tied up in a corner of the croft we call Kelvin Grove. You have to abseil down the crag into it, but at the bottom is an ancient boat haul-out behind a built up stone wall, where vessels have been sheltered from storms for centuries. An old Kelvin engine lies rusting in there from an old boat, the rest of which has been eaten by the sea. It's a huge, heavy thing, and handy for tying boats to. But the recent tide and wind pulled it right over. We are lucky not to have lost the boat.

When Pytheas travelled here, we know one of the things that fascinated him were tides, and the stories he told of the changing water heights around the Atlantic coastline were met with some doubts by his peers in the Mediterranean, which has tiny tides of barely 40 centimetres. These are easily hidden by weather, atmospheric pressure and waves, and don't cause much problem to boats tied up on shore. But when the tidal range is 5 metres or more, as they are here, you need skill and forethought to make sure boats remain safe around the clock.

I love tides, the twice-daily rhythm of ebb and flow. After 15 years of living on a tidal shore, I still marvel at that dance of the sea back and forth, and I still experience a frisson of fear at low tide, when all the rocks are exposed. Will it come back? There is an emotional rhythm that echoes this push and pull, and for me, grim moods are like the tide at its lowest. Its rhythm is one of many natural cycles: night and day, the waxing and waning of the moon, our menstrual cycles, and the seasons turning around the year.

One of the things that must have perplexed Pytheas is the way that the biggest tides, the springs, happen twice monthly at the new and full moons. Except they don't. They happen a few days after the moon changes.

Similarly, although we've passed the middle of the winter, and the days are lengthening, I feel like we're only now reaching the deepest and darkest part of the year. But it will turn. It always turns.

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