Tides, winds, sunset times - you name it, and there's a smartphone app
that will put it readily at your fingertips.
In fact in most cases there are several options in each department.
Growing up, we didn't have any of this stuff.
We had little printed booklets for the tides.
If you wanted an indicator of sunset times,
you had to look that up in something like a Farmer's Almanac.
And wind, well, you either had to follow the weather forecast
(which was in the newspaper or on radio and TV),
or you had to have a sixth sense about such things.
Nowadays we have smartphones, and apps,
and the whole freakin' world is at your fingertips.
Honestly, if you're not in awe of it, then you're either a kid,
or an ungrateful person with no appreciation for technology
(or possibly a strange kind of steampunk traditionalist).
These days I don't leave the dock without my phone,
and a day doesn't go by without me checking several things on my phone as well as on my computer at home.
I know that some gondoliers don't like handling their phones while out on the water, but even at the dock, or on the way to work,
you can access information that can make a difference in your route,
and how you go about cruising.
In some places the tide is not an issue.
If you row on a lake or a waterway that's not affected by tidal flow,
then maybe you don't need to check tides.
But if you've got any bridges on your route - that are not always passable,
or if the tidal flow will effect your cruising time, then download something from the app store and get to checking!
I find that tide apps for surfers are perfect for keeping up with the rise and fall of the surface of my little corner of the Pacific.
I'm currently using ShralpTide.
The ShralpTide main screen shows the current sea level,
along with times and levels of high and low tides within the day.
You can also swipe through a five day period to find out
what the tides will look like during future days.
Turn the phone sideways and you get a better
visual idea of that same 24 hour cycle.
A couple of my gondoliers in California are avid surfers.
I've seen them wearing watches that track the tide as well.
Knowing the difference between "Sunset" and "End Civil Twilight" is an important thing.
Figuring out how buildings on the horizon might affect the view of that sunset, well, you'll have to do that on your own.
And while everyone seems to want to see that big orange ball drop below the horizon, you and I both know that the ever-changing colors that come afterwards are often even more impressive than the sunset itself.
Sunrise Sunset Lite is what I'm checking on my phone these days.
You can also keep track of the lunar phase, and know when to expect a full moon. Many apps across the spectrum of tide, sunset/sunrise, and even weather will also allow you to keep tabs on what the moon is up to on any given evening.
Oh, and if you feel like going old-school, some printed wall calendars also show the projected moon phase (in case your phone falls in the water).
Often the greatest variable that affects gondoliers is wind.
On the water I check an app from The Weather Channel.
My real go-to resource though, when it comes to wind, is www.windyty.com.
I love this website.
Windyty - in all it's glorious, um, windiness.
It not only allows you to monitor what the wind is doing anywhere on the globe,
it also gives you ability to look forward and see what the projected wind speed and direction will be at any given hour for the coming week.
Read more about windyty in my post "Seeing the Wind".
One Other Thing to Monitor:
Oh, and there is one more useful app.
It involves flow and timing.
Not of tides and sunsets, though, but of traffic flow,
and the likely timing of your passengers' arrival.
Sigalert on my smartphone.
Full screen on my computer
It's available as a mobile app, but also online at www.sigalert.com.
The company offers traffic report maps for dozens of U.S. cities.
Sigalert as it might relate to a guy doing cruises in Gig Harbor, Washington.
The term "Sigalert" originated in the 1950's
here in Los Angeles.
A broadcast executive named Loyd C, "Sig" Sigmon,
(the guy on the left)
who had served in World War 2 - working in Signal Corps in the European theater, came up with a system of alerting drivers in Southern California of traffic problems.
And the Point Is?
"So how can it help me?" you ask.
Let's say you're a gondolier in Sunset Beach or Alamitos Bay.
You've got some folks driving in from Burbank.
You look at the traffic map on Sigalert and notice that both the 710
and the 605 freeways are registering red.
(that's bad, by the way)
These are the most likely freeways your passengers will use
to drive to your location.
But then you see that the 110 freeway is registering a delightful green.
(that means little traffic, and probably smooth sailing)
You could assume that your passengers are on the ball,
and monitoring the traffic on their own.
(insert your own favorite Murphy's law wisecrack here)
You could say something like
"whatever, not my problem if the guy gets caught in traffic
and his proposal is a disaster"
Ahh, but then what kind of gondolier would you be?
Instead, you pick up your phone, or have someone from the office call the guy, and let him know that if he takes the 110 to the 405, he'll be able to avoid the red areas and hopefully get to your boat on time.
Rounding It All Out
You wake up on a Saturday morning,
get a cup of coffee, and sit down at your computer.
Checking the weather, you see that it will be cool,
and you pull out an extra layer.
Clicking over to Windyty, you realize that you'll be blessed with
the challenges of a strong wind coming out of the west in the afternoon.
You check the tides and see that the cruise you have at 3pm...
coincides with low tide.
Learning this, you make plans to adjust your route,
knowing that your boat will fit under one of the lower bridges on that route.
You take what would have been a cold and unpleasant cruise experience
for a family with their elderly grandmother aboard,
and make it relaxing and enjoyable,
by "taking the canal less windy".
Later, while preparing for your first cruise,
you pull up an app to find out when the sunset is.
You plan your second cruise route to maximize the passenger's sunset view.
Nice views become breathtaking ones - for a couple expecting their first child.
and the reason it's so important that they make it to your boat in time,
(besides the fact that he's proposing)
is that you've got a fourth cruise that's scheduled right after.
For that fourth cruise you row through the first half of the route quickly...
so you can then turn towards a rising full moon.
As that giant white sphere rises above the trees, your couple,
who are celebrating their anniversary, share a true "perfect moment",
as you row back towards home slowly.