My Love Affair with Low Tide
When I moved to Gloucester in 1994, I knew nothing about tides. I grew up near Lake Erie, but tides were not part of our daily intake. At first when I moved to
East Gloucester, I enjoyed staring out at Wonson’s Cove to watch a huge swath of water depart and return – filling up and emptying out like a bathtub every 6 hours. Truthfully, I couldn’t wait for it to be low tide to see what treasures were left behind. This was my first true relationship with Low Tide and it was love at first sight! It also paved the way for my interest in sea glass hunting and my husband’s guidance as to when and how to find it!
Low tide also gave me the opportunity to take much longer walks on all the beaches – opening up places that were inaccessible at high tide. After being accosted by an angry neighbor once in Wonson’s Cove, I also learned about “Tidelands” the law that covers public rights around the shore. Until 1641, private property ended at the high tide mark and then Mass Bay Colony started to grant Low Tide or inter-tidal rights to some land-owners. Gloucester having so much history has such areas and so one does have to respect local exceptions that go all the way to the low tide mark. It’s a fascinating distinction and some is covered on the MA website. Still one can fish, “shellfish,” navigate, or hunt birds in all areas. I ask…and why can’t sea glass hunting be added?
Speaking of shellfish. Now that I live on the other side of the island and on the river, I adopted another great low tide activity – clamming.
There’s something very gratifying about heading out to dig for clams and then bringing them home to steam up for dinner. With a particularly large harvest or larger clams, the next step is to make baked stuffed clams. For me, it is a simple as jumping in my kayak and in 5 minutes I can forage the raw clams for a few good dinners! I am the proud owner of a shellfish/clamming license from the City of Gloucester. Now more than ever, it’s really important to have one to guard against illegal poaching of our stock and the occasional “closures” for red tide or rainfall related issues. There’s a certain romance about clamming which truly entails the most primitive tools and a lot of muscle!
Low tide also creates the most exquisite beachfront along the river and the seaside for my other favorite activities – beach yoga, reading a book, and walking out to our Boston Whaler! My vocabulary now includes important nuances that help clarify just how “low” is low? Is it merely an 8 ft tide? Or 11 feet? Is it a full moon tide? The moon’s gravitational pull is powerful along the shoreline and it produces the most amazing low and high tides! To that point, I have to give some kudos to the “flood” tide for launching the boat, sliding my kayak into the river, and wiping out the greenheads in the marshlands.
So now I have come full circle and try to observe the changing tides anywhere I travel. Admittedly, when visitors to my studio ask the inevitable question “where do you look for sea
glass?” My response is always, “you are asking the wrong question.” It’s not where, but when. And truly my favorite time is at the crack of dawn after a stormy night when most people would prefer to be curled up in bed!