15 December 2011

The Ebb and Flow of the Tides

"First the tide rushes in, 
La la la, la la la ..."

(I don't know anybody who can sing all the lyrics to Ebb Tide. Everyone knows that first line, but what comes next? Go ahead, finish the song — before playing the video.)

There must be tides in the East River. There must be tides in the Hudson River. But when you live in New York, who knows about tides? Who cares? Tides don't impact on our lives in any way. But now the very first Internet page I open up in the morning — before The Times, before O Globo, before Facebook, before e-mail — is the Búzios tide tables page. You don't want to miss a good low tide here on Manguinhos Beach. Other Búzios beaches are so wide that you can walk ten abreast even at high tide. But our beach is narrow. When the tide is in, the water slaps high and hard against our beach wall, completely covering the sand. There's no walking on the beach unless you're willing to get good and wet. But when the tide is out, okay, then you're home free. You can structure your day. Check the tide table and you know when you can go food shopping via the beach, instead of via asphalt. You know when you can take a long walk on the beach, instead of exercising at home. And you know when you can join friends for lunch via the beach, instead of getting into the car and driving to meet them the old-fashioned way.

For the longest time we allowed tide action to remain in the background, to be some vaguely perceived show out the window.  At low tide we watched the locals fan out in our bay and dig for cockles and small crabs. At low tide we watched the fishermen walk out to where their once-bobbing boats sat in the muddy sand, ready for repair and maintenance. At low tide we noticed that people used the beach simply as a more pleasant way to get  from here to there. When a complex of shops and restaurants opened down the beach we knew we could get there by car, on the street, in traffic. But if we waited until the tide was out we could also get there via the beach in six minutes. 

So, since we're not fishermen or born-and-bred buzianos, we had to turn to Google to find out when the tide would be low. We found a terrific tide chart at  http://www.tide-forecast.com/locations/ArmacaodosBuzios-Brazil/tides/latest  that's got a red flashing ball going up and down the bar chart with the ebb and flow of the tide. No way our newfound smarts will get us graduated from the US Coast Guard Academy — I still don't know a spring tide from a neap tide — but, in our way, we do now live by the tides. Makes us feel at peace with our environs.

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