What does this mean for you?
If you have been using the USCG-approved Tide and Current Tables, this year is the last year that you will be able to do so. Lovers of printed tide books will be disappointed to learn that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced this spring that 2020 would be the last year that NOAA’s printed tide tables would be available to boaters.
Until 1996, NOAA or its predecessors published and printed the tide and current manuals. Since then, as a cost-cutting measure, NOAA has limited itself to producing the electronic version of the tables, and allowed third party commercial printers to produce the actual hard copies for sale.
Over the past several years NOAA has made a PDF version of the books available on its web-site. The PDFs were exactly the same as the printed versions, They were hard to find but they were there. Now, even these PDF versions of the Tide and Current Tables will no longer be available.
This announcement is consistent with the approach taken by both the Canadian and US governments to make digital information available online and to phase out printed charts and publications. Both countries have in recent years amended their regulations to allow vessels to operate without paper charts and have made all the charts and publications required for commercial ships available online.
In Canada, the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) continues to publish and print tide and current tables, and has recently made PDFs of these documents available online. But one of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic is that CHS has closed its printing establishment with the result that Canadian paper charts and tide tables are now very difficult to find.
NOAA’s reasoning for discontinuing even the PDF version of the tables is that its web-site provides more timely and more accurate tide and current predictions for all 3,000 locations in the United States for which data is available. This claim is absolutely true. There is no question but that the NOS web-site provides detailed information on all aspects of the numerous tide and current stations that are available—many more than are published in the printed books.
In fact, I strongly recommend that you take a tour around the NOAA Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) web-site – www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov. Spend some time looking around and digging into the dark corners to see what type of information is available. But it has one significant failing. It does not recognize the fact that much of the time boaters in the Pacific Northwest do not have internet connections and are not able to take advantage of this massive trove of
online data. Most boaters don’t need the massive amounts of data anyway. They just want to be able to navigate safely (and maybe to go fishing when the fish are biting).
The government position is that anyone can go to the web-site and either download or print an annual PDF for any tide or current station they may need. The problem is that you must print (or download) the data for each station, one at a time. In other words, if you want a hard copy you are expected to print it, assemble it and bind it yourself.
But never fear, because in the Pacific Northwest, the annual tide and current guide, Ports and Passes is available. Ports and Passes covers the Washington inside waters, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska—from Olympia, WA to Glacier Bay, AK. The data it contains is obtained from the Canadian and US governments, the very organizations that performed the surveys and generated the predictions. Ports and Passes tabulates tide data in both feet and metres. It uses the 12 hour clock (AM/PM) and it
accounts for Daylight Savings Time when in effect.
Full disclosure: I am the managing director of Chyna Sea Ventures Ltd. The publisher of Ports and Passes, so obviously I think it is a great resource. But you should make up your own mind. Ports and Passes is available at marinas, chandleries and bookstores throughout the Pacific Northwest or through the Waggoner Cruising Guide bookstore (www.waggonerguidebooks.com) or through the Ports and Passes website (www.portsandpasses.com.) Ports and Passes is also available in three volumes as
a Kindle e-book from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
Managing Director, Chyna Sea Ventures Ltd.
Canadian Coast Guard (retired)