The effect of a tidal stream is a significant factor when navigating on any point of sailing, but can be crucial when sailing to windward. If you are in a small boat sailing to windward against a strong tide, it can often prevent you making any headway at all and it may be best to enter a port or anchor until the tide or wind changes direction. If this is not possible, you should try to keep to shallow water, away from the strongest stream. The presence of a strong tide will also affect the strength and direction of the apparent wind. When the boat is beating against the tide, the apparent wind speed will be reduced because the boat is being carried downwind. The converse also applies. When the tide is running across the wind on the lee bow, advantage can be gained because it increases the speed of the apparent wind and alters its direction so that the boat is effectively freed and can point higher. When the tide is on the windward bow, the effect is the reverse, so try and tack when the tide changes to keep it on the lee bow.
For more hints and tips on sailing techniques for both the beginner and experienced sailor, purchase Bob Bond’s The Handbook of Sailing today!