We’re talking North Atlantic, though I had earlier exposure to the North Pacific in Washington state as well as the Atlantic in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Long Island.
New England really is different. Here’s why.
- The water’s always restless, don’t be fooled. Those slow swells can get you seasick, too.
- The current in the water can push you one direction while the wind twists you toward the other. As I learned the first time I took the helm of a sailboat and tried to steer by the compass.
- Tidepooling presents an amazing crystalline world of miniature color in its unique range of flora and fauna. It’s well worth exploring in the rockweed at low tide.
- At night, the ocean can be terrifying. It’s utterly dark, surrounded by swirling and slapping sounds in unseen places. The stars – and distant beacons – are icy comfort.
- As for those romantic walks along the beach in moonlight? Most nights of the year are too cloudy and too cold. Maybe you need to book a flight to a Caribbean island.
- It’s dangerous. You think you’re standing sufficiently far back on a rock outcropping overlooking the water, but don’t be surprised if a big wave somehow crashes up behind you, threatening to sweep you out to sea. January and March add their own complications.
- I love bodysurfing in some big waves, come summer, meaning after the Fourth of July. Here we go! Whee!
- Whales! The tour captains know where to find them. But their blow spray stinks. Meaning the big leviathans, not the skippers, as far as I know.
- And seals! (And sharks, which go after them at Chatham, down on the Cape.) And lighthouses!
- The tides themselves are heightened here because of a fluke in the global streaming. They’re really impressive up in Fundy Bay and the easternmost flank of Maine. (Twenty-five feet change every six hours at Eastport, Maine, for example. It’s like draining and quickly refilling a lake.) Less than half of that where I live in New Hampshire, but still impressive.
As a footnote, there are only a few places you can swim in Chesapeake Bay without being stung by jellyfish.
And I love the way you really can see the curvature of the earth when you get an open panorama.