Surge tide on the East Coast


On the night of January 31 1953 I was, at the age of two, cuddled up in the bosom of my mother while my father went to Canvey Island, Essex to help sand-bag the broached sea wall.Storm force north-westerly winds combined with high pressure and a big tide had left 58 people dead from flooding on the low-lying island.

Last Friday the BBC warned that we were facing similar conditions. It was the day I was laying the boat up. In the morning I looked out across Sea Reach in the lower Thames towards the heavily developed acres of Canvey. To my astonishment the mudflats were already covered and the tide lapping halfway up the sea-walls. All this with FOUR hours left of the incoming tide.

Around at Paglesham, Essex, new home of Minstrel Boy, my Contessa 32, the flood-gates had been closed at Shuttlewoods yard. On board as a cold north-westerly gusted up to 32 knots I was surprised to be able to see the surrounding fields: the boat was riding that high in the water that I could see over the top of the sea walls.

But we need not have worried. The previous night’s tide had simply failed to ebb away fully and the following day we had a ‘surge’ two hours before HW proper, then a momentary ebb when the tide dropped a foot or so, before HW proper came in building on the predicted 5.6 m, but not by much. It was just that we had a lot of water early.