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Low Tide Key West

Key West Sandbar Charters and the Tides

Every Key West sandbar excursion is different. Seeing the changes as a visitor is not easy when you only get one or two trips a year. But the locals like Captain Zak will tell you–you never know what you’re going to see or what it’s going to be like out there.

The wonderful thing about living on an island in the ocean is that things are always changing. The weather comes and goes, and the tides go up and down. Critters migrate above and below the water, the sand shifts, and the channels move.

Low Tide Sandbar Cruise in Key West

Sandbars are built for low tide.

You’ll have the most exploration options when you head to the sandbar at low tide. You can walk and walk if the tide is low enough to expose the sand. Most of the time, though, some of the bar will still be covered by a few inches of water. On the sides, where the bar meets the channel, the water will get deeper, and you can swim.

But no matter what time of day you head out on a Key West private sandbar charteryou’ll have a great time. Since the total tidal range in the Lower Keys is a little more than one foot, there’s not too much difference between high and low. However, in North Florida, where the tides are as much as nine feet, low tide exposes sandbars that you would have never even seen at high tide!

Check out this photo on the right.  This is what Snipes Point looks like at low tide.

Low Tide at The Sandbar
Key West Sandbar Charter

What are Tides?

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun on the surface of the water and the rotation of the Earth.

Tides are not always the same amount of vertical change, either. As the Moon rotates around the Earth, the pull will be greater when the Moon is aligned with the Sun. This occurs with a new or full moon. At other times, the pull is evened out when the Moon is at an angle to the Sun. This happens on the first and third quarter moons.

The Moon takes approximately one month to orbit the Earth, so this cycle repeats every month. When the tides are higher than average, they are called spring tides. When they are lower, they are neap tides.

What Makes Tides Happen?

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun on the surface of the water and the rotation of the Earth.

Tides are not always the same amount of vertical change, either. As the Moon rotates around the Earth, the pull will be greater when the Moon is aligned with the Sun. This occurs with a new or full moon. At other times, the pull is evened out when the Moon is at an angle to the Sun. This happens on the first and third quarter moons.

The Moon takes approximately one month to orbit the Earth, so this cycle repeats every month. When the tides are higher than average, they are called spring tides. When they are lower, they are neap tides.

What are King Tides?

But wait, there’s more! The orbit of the Moon around the Earth is not a perfect circle– it is elliptical. That means the Moon doesn’t stay the same distance from the Earth. And when it is closer, it influences the tide level more. So when the Moon is close (called at perigee), the tides are greater. The tides are less when the Moon is farther away (at apogee).

If perigee occurs at the same time as a spring tide, the tide could be really big. This is properly called the perigean spring tide, but most people know it by the name “king tide.” Maybe too many television weather personalities couldn’t pronounce “perigean.”

Storm Tides

The only thing that gets bigger than a king tide is a storm tide. Storms push and pull the water’s surface, causing water levels to rise in advance of a storm and drop behind it, depending on the wind direction. Furthermore, the low barometric pressure inside powerful storms can also pull the sea level higher.

A hurricane’s storm tides can sometimes be 20 feet high or more. So despite the common belief that it is the wind speed that is dangerous, storm surge flooding is the greatest danger to coastal communities. When you consider that the highest point on Key West is a mere 18 feet above sea level, you can see why.

But storm tides work both ways, and some storms create vast areas of low water, too. There have been several instances when a passing storm has “sucked” the water out of Florida Bay in the Upper Keys, leaving boats and fish dry in the mud.

Key West Charter Boat
best snorkeling trip key west

Predicting the Tide for Your Sandbar Boat Trip Key West

Tides are pretty complex. If only there were a scientific way to predict what they will be. Oh, wait–there’s an app for that!

Tide levels have been tracked and recorded at stations all around the world. You can view historical information, but more importantly, you can view location predictions. NOAA Tides and Currents has a link to the Key West tide station.

But the best way to experience it is to see the difference. You can book sandbar charter Key West today and see what the sandbar looks like today.

Key West Tides FAQs

What time is low tide at the sandbar?

Low tide occurs at a different time every day, and the time varies by location, too. Tides go through cycles depending on the phase of the Moon and its distance from Earth. The tides in Key West are semi-diurnal, meaning there are two highs and two lows every day.

To predict the tide for a given day, check out a website or app tool like NOAA Tides and Currents.

What is better low tide or high tide?

Low tide at the sandbar or beach is when there will be more beach exposed. No matter where you are, the best explorations occur at low tide. As the water drops, tidepools are exposed, and sandbars are shallower.

Unless you are on a boat and you have run aground. Then high tide is better than low tide!

What is low tide?

Tide refers to the vertical change in sea level throughout the day. The change is caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun, the Earth’s rotation and is affected by local underwater features. Low tide occurs when the water is at its lowest point of the day at a given location. The time it happens changes with every tide cycle, and low tide occurs at different times at different locations.

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