Skip to main content
Supported by Trinity House

Moving with the tides

Learn the basics of nautical navigation and design active games to put your knowledge to the test.

You will need

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Big sheets of paper/whiteboard (optional)
  • Tide tables
  • Information about the UK buoyage system
  • Tidal stream atlases
  • Marine logs (or photos of one)
  • Nautical charts


Before you begin

  • Source enough tide tables and tidal stream atlases so that small groups can share them. To borrow them, try contacting a local port, sailing club, Sea Scout group (speak to the Admiral Lord Nelson Active Support Unit about where to look) or the RNLI. Tide tables expire all the time so you may find some that are no longer needed. Free online tables can be found at tide times.
  • Familiarise yourself with how the tide can impact your adventures on the water. The Royal Yachting Association offers some great simple videos on YouTube: watch Oh Buoy! and Tides to get you started.
  • This video from Leith Nautical Sailing Academy is particularly useful for understanding tidal atlases.
  • You can create flashcards or posters with this resource from Instructor Toolkit.
  • You may decide you need the help of an expert guest to deliver this session.


Understand the materials

  1. The person leading the activity should explain that the tide can impact adventures on the water. They should show everyone how to understand a tidal stream atlas and explain what the UK buoyage system is.
  2. Everyone should split into small groups and sit down with scrap paper and pencils, tide times, a marine log, nautical charts, information on the UK buoyage system, and a tidal stream atlas.
  3. Each group should look through their materials and talk about the following:
    • How would you get hold of these materials if you needed them?
    • How long are these materials useful for? When do or did they expire?
    • When would these materials be of use to you, and what can they tell you?

Design a game

  1. Each group should make up a short (less than 10 minute) active game to help cement some of the knowledge they’ve just learned. For example:
    • Each player represents a boat that has to work its way around a course without being grounded.
    • Objects could be used to represent the different types of buoy.
    • Use signals to communicate high and low tides. How could spring tides and neap tides be represented?
    • Incorporate timekeeping so the tide changes at different intervals of the game.
  2. The person leading the activity should support each small group to risk assess their game, check they’re including the key learning points, and make sure their game is accessible for everyone.
  3. Each group should take it in turns to run their games.


This activity was about trying new things and being active. It needed group members to work together to test their knowledge in a fun and active way. Ask everyone to think of other examples of where navigating terms or techniques can be made into fun games. For example, are there any games to learn basic navigation skills, such as map or compass reading?


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed.