'A senhora, onde esta o mar?'

One century ago, we used to live very close to Paris. Our new (very old) house needed a lot of renovation (and it’s another long story). At one time, we needed a new building firm. Our architect hired some great guys from Portugal. Really great guys and wonderful workers. Then a recession hit. As usual, the building industry stopped dead for a while.

Les Tertres needed a new coat of paint and several other beauty treatments. We decided to give those men a chance to weather the crisis and we hired them for the second time.

They left Paris and went to spend a few weeks in Brittany. They were mountain people and had never lived close to the sea.

They arrived at Les Tertres quite late at night. The following morning, I got a phone call.

‘A senhora, onde esta o mar?’

Which meant: ‘Madame, où est passée la mer?’

I stifled a laugh. This was spring tide time. Late at night, the tide was high, very high. The sea looked very close. In the morning, the ebb had receded far away from the cliff... as usual.

Quite hard to explain the mystery of tides, especially spring tides to people who had never lived close to the Channel where those tides are very impressive with extremely high tidal ranges.

From low tide to high tide, there is a difference of 45 ft (sea depth/height).

Very impressive.

High tide covers all the small islands that can be seen all year long, at high/low water.

Low tide allows faraway rocks to spring up from the water. Vast beaches and sandbars appear. And in some places, you can stand on your own feet on the bottom of the sea, a few miles from the coast.

 It’s quite fascinating to walk through fields of laminaria instead of sailing over them, without even seeing them.

In Brittany, lots of people plan their holidays according to the spring tides. In the summer, they go boating and they explore those hidden islands and beaches and they do a lot of fishing. In wintertime, they take long walks on the foreshore.

The landscape is amazing at low ebb, that’s one thing. But why do we all love spring tides so much?

To be really interesting, a spring tide has to be over 108 (tidal range)... This happens sometimes once a month and sometimes only three or four times per year.

This year, January and February were great. So was March. There were none in April till mid-August (two days). There will be two in September and October. And then, we’ll have to wait until next year to know when the next ones are scheduled... when the ‘Almanach des marées’ gets published. (A different one per area.)

For a photographer, it’s like being offered a true treasure. The foreshore is filled with life and colors and light and all sorts of precious things  normally unseen and hidden, an invitation to a whole new world.

But most people love spring tides because they get to fish species quite impossible to catch otherwise because they live under rocks at the bottom of the sea.

Velvet swimming crabs are the favorite here. Small juicy crabs that you eat almost in one bite, shell included, so tender and delicious, cooked in salty water. They are hard to catch. You have to use a hook. I do not know one household in the area without at least one crab hook in their garage.

Spider crabs too. And a vast number of shellfishes.

Spring tide can be very treacherous. Every summer, tourists get caught on a rock at high tide. In some places, high tide comes in as fast as a galloping horse.

Most people know that it’s much safer to start walking/fishing/taking pictures when the tide goes out. You follow the water, which gives you about 5 hours to be on the safe side.

This year, I won’t enjoy this August spring tide as much as I used to since my ankle is not well enough yet to take long walks. But it’s allright.

We’ll go boating and I’ll watch from our house... and take pictures even though the scenery won’t look to me as strange and surprising as what I discover year after year on the foreshore.

Today, the spring tide will have a 112 range (in French, ‘un coef’ de 112’). Not bad.

‘A senhora, onde esta o mar?’. So lovely!

*Good luck, and Good Night*

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