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Avatar_fan
02-01-2011, 07:55 AM
Can someone help me out? I'm writing a book, and almost all the characters live by the ocean or a salt water type body of water. The problem is I live in the Midwest, and I'm not exactly familiar with seaside living. Can someone describe what's it like? I've been to San Francisco, New York City, Jersey shore, South Carolina coast, and Florida spaced out over years during family vacations. Also, these trips usually lasted one week, and my attention wasn't on the setting but the attractions in those places.

Lastly, is there a difference between living by the British coast and a tropical setting? I imagine the British coastline feels somewhat like New England or the Pacific northwest like in Twilight. I also think a tropical beach setting is like Florida? Any help would be appreciated.

MissMacchiato
02-01-2011, 08:18 AM
yes, they're different. Very :)

I live in Sydney, Australia, and have lived beach-side all my life.

Beaches can be quite aggressive, barren places where the water is crashing against rugged cliffs, or it can be a soft and gentle expanse of powdery sand down to cool, clear turquoise waters.

It really depends what you're wanting for this, and what the setting is.

compare this picture of champagne bay, vanuatu:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/112/266553143_d7f0f49235_z.jpg

with this picture of Dover in the UK:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/White_cliffs_of_dover_09_2004.jpg

and then compare those with my local beach, Coogee, in Sydney Australia:

http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/00/13/a0/1b/coogee-beach.jpg

to give you some more food for thought, the types of living arrangements are different too. Here's Robin Hood's bay, in the UK:

http://www.first-contact.davelawrance.co.uk/landscapes4/rhb1.jpg

and here is the frontage at Surfer's paradise in QLD, Australia:

http://surfboardsale.com.au/files/2010/08/surfers-paradise-surfing.jpg

If you are looking for some kind of specific experience, I'd be more than happy to help, I live literally within 10 minutes walk of a beach.

DavidZahir
02-01-2011, 08:38 AM
I've lived next to the sea virtually my entire life--in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the Florida Panhandle, then New York City and now Los Angeles. My point of comparison is the few months spend in Ohio and then the differences between living at the beach versus further inland.

The beach is windy. In the summer you're glad of that but in the winter it can cut like a scalpel. There's the slightest taste of salt in the air, and over time you can develop a genuine "smell" for the weather, which has frankly always seemed more "regular" to me near the water. Maybe it just felt that way because I had a subliminal sense of what direction the weather was headed.

Actually on the beach, sand invades wherever it can. Salt can corrode electronics. Storms can be much fiercer because of strong winds and possible tidal damage. Seagulls are pests, even if pretty, and get into the garbage.

The sound of the sea can be amazingly restful, like white noise intended to soothe you to sleep. But every now and then you get a whiff of an algae bloom, which smells like sour organic garbage.

Driftwood is fascinating, or can be. As are seashells. During the Summer, beaches are crowded. In winter they're almost deserted, and it can feel desolate, yet strangely beautiful if you're in the mood. After awhile, you get to have some familiarity with whatever types of ships are common to that area of water.

Hope that helps.

Pyekett
02-01-2011, 09:30 AM
Most of the British coast is rather rocky and rough, but there is a near-tropical stretch at Cornwall which is lush with palm trees, etc., particularly at the Roseland Peninsula (http://www.igougo.com/journal-j41675-Cornwall-The_Roseland_Peninsula_-_Cornwalls_Tropical_Paradise.html), thanks to certain currents. It's the general area where The Pirates of Penzance is set. You may also have heard of Land's End, which is in the same area.

Polenth
02-01-2011, 09:33 AM
I live on the South coast of England. Yes, it's very different to anywhere tropical. The water is colder and cloudier. The waves aren't as strong, because they don't have much distance to build up (not true of everywhere in Britain... places that border an ocean rather than a sea will have big waves). You wouldn't try to surf where I live.

In wildlife terms, seagulls are a very noticeable thing. They'll travel inland calling when storms are coming in off the sea. My house is actually a few miles from the coast itself, so if the flocks fly above calling, it's a short warning before the storm hits.

Something that is the same on every beach is the salt air. Metal things rust faster, stonework corrodes and paint peels. Nothing lasts as long. I don't notice the salt smell when I'm at home, but I notice the lack of it when I go inland. The beach is always windy, ranging from a steady breeze to gales.

It's a shingle beach, with sand only showing at low tide. This isn't universal across Britain though... you'll find everything from sand to rocky beaches. For details like that, you really need to pick a place and research that specific beach.

DrZoidberg
02-01-2011, 11:47 AM
The sea is a very special and diverse environment. I suggest writing what you know. Don't confuse what you think is exciting/exotic with what most people think is exotic. I'm sure there's plenty of things you're familiar with that is exotic to many people. Living a life completely away from open water (the mid-west) is more exotic to most people. Coming from you, I'm sure it'd be a more interesting story. Most people live by the sea/open water.

Steam&Ink
02-01-2011, 12:17 PM
Sand is different depending on where you are. On my beach we have grey sand (on the East coast of NZ), and it is medium coarse. I've been on golden sand beaches where you can loofah your feet on the wet granules (actually it's quite nice), and on white sand beaches where the sand feels almost like powder. The colour varies from almost white, to light caramel, to yellowy-golden, to reddish, to grey, to black even (I've not seen black sand myself).

Generally, the beach is a big part of the city life and shapes the way people do things. My husband and I walk daily on the beach, even in the winter. People walk their dogs there.
People jog, surf, sunbathe, sit and smoke on the beach. If the beach is right next to the city, you'll get spillover of people wearing quite casual clothing in the city.

Also, investigate whether the beaches you're writing about have sand dunes or not. Dunes give the beach a much more rugged and wild feel than shores whcih meet the city without any barriers.

Umm... so much more to say! But I'm not really sure what direction you want to go in with your question. In an ideal world, you'd go to these places and experience it for yourself (ah, the hardships of research!). I know that the beaches I've visited in France, the UK, Australia, NZ and the pacific islands all have their own distinct flavour.

Terie
02-01-2011, 04:16 PM
I think you need to target your reseach more carefully. Asking 'what is it like to live near the sea?' is a lot like asking, 'what is the weather like in the US?' You would be better off determining what the exact setting is (or, if this is for a fantasy, pick a real-life setting similar to your fantasy one), then researching that specific area.

Lil
02-01-2011, 05:57 PM
It's damp. At least if you are quite near the shore. This may be less of a problem now when there are dehumidifiers, air conditioners, etc., but mildew can be a real pain.

Also, how close to the water do you want to be? This can have a major effect on what plants will grow.

You could probably get much better information if you picked a geographic location.

brainstorm77
02-01-2011, 06:04 PM
I live surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches here are mostly pebbles. We have a lot of clifts....

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y9/jackie6977/100_1114.jpg

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y9/jackie6977/100_1141.jpg

shaldna
02-01-2011, 10:18 PM
I imagine the British coastline feels somewhat like New England or the Pacific northwest like in Twilight. I also think a tropical beach setting is like Florida? Any help would be appreciated.



Hahahah. No.

Firstly, for most of the year it is C.O.L.D.

The wind blows in across the sea and it's cold, the weather is awful. If you venture onto a beach in spring, winter or autumn then you are askign to be cold and miserable,. Sudden waves, spray and litter.

Not pleasant.

The summer is lovely though, says me, who has lived on the coast her whole life.

cate townsend
02-01-2011, 10:23 PM
I agree with those who say to target your setting to a specific coastal area. As you know, they are all vastly different. I live on the central coast of California (Monterey Bay), so if your setting ends up being there, feel free to pm me for more details.

Bookewyrme
02-01-2011, 10:35 PM
I will also say you need to target your location more specifically. And not just focus on types like northern versus tropical, but also think about how the beach looks. Is it sand dunes? Filled with boulders? Broken volcanic rock? Cliffs? Mud? Are there trees or other vegetation? What kind? All of this will make a difference toward the experience of living near the beach.

One thing that does seem to be nearly universal however is the wind. Whenever I've lived near an ocean or large body of water, there has always been a near-constant breeze. Sometimes it is really strong and wild, and sometimes it is just a gentle current of constantly moving air. But it's always there.

Anyway, good luck. ^_^

aruna
02-01-2011, 10:46 PM
[I agree with those who say to target your setting to a specific coastal area. As you know, they are all vastly different. I live on the central coast of California (Monterey Bay), so if your setting ends up being there, feel free to pm me for more details.

Absolutely!

I grew up on the coast in Guyana, South America and have at various times lived at or visited the seaside in north of England, the Caribbean, India, Sri Lanka, Dubai, California, Florida. Right now I live in Eastbourne, a rather old-fashioned seaside town on the South Coast of England. The picture of Dover in the second post is just like the coastline just West of the town.

Otherwise it's a rocky beach with a cold, gentle sea which is dark aqua in colour. Lots os seagulls. At first I loved their call, but after a few years seagulls began to get on my nerves. They are scavengers like rats, loud and raucous, and once they ganged up and shit all over my car. No kidding. The whole car was white with seagull shit.

A tropical beach is not a bit like Florida, in spite of palm trees. It's hard to desribe the difference; but I'd say you're more likely to find smaller bays in the tropics, (I'm thinking particularly of the Caribbean). Miami Beach and South Beach are just huge long stretches. There's something balmy and gentle and very mild about a Caribbean beach, even if the water might be rougher. And the colour! Just a sweet, transparent, pastel turquoise, warm and delicious.

For me, the people make a huge difference to a beach atmosphere. A small local Caribbean beach is quite different to a tourist beach.

As for the feeling: I think if you grow up next to the sea it's somehow part of your mental makeup. I've had times that I;ve pined to be near the sea again. I breathe differently when I'm there: deep and slow. I feel relaxed, at home by the sea, no matter where it is. I can gaze at the sea and it's like looking up into a starry night sky, exquisite. One of my most profound experiences is travelling by ship from Trinidad to England when I ws sixteen. It was magnificent. I love seeing nothing but sea all around me.

BTW, I've also been on a black-sand beach, in Tobago! Pink and white beaches iin Barbados. Shell beaches in Guyana.

backslashbaby
02-01-2011, 11:08 PM
The monkeys and alligators, caymans, etc. were the most striking thing about the Costa Rican beaches compared to ours in NC. They look entirely different, too, but the loud monkeys in the trees was what felt so strange to me. And the hermit crabs don't want to be put in the surf, lol. They live in the trees!

We have alligators in marshy NC beach areas, but the actual shore is different. We always think of the sound vs the ocean, because we have sounds all along our coast. It's just a different setup :)

Of course, farther north, you don't have alligators at all :D Cold beaches always strike me as an entirely different thing. Rocky and grey. Just different :) The Irish beaches don't even smell like a beach! It's the temperature, I guess. It's interesting. I'd love to see an icy/snowy beach.

LaceWing
02-02-2011, 01:01 AM
The rhythmic shush of the surf -- there's nothing like it. There's nothing like sleeping with it.

The expanse of an ocean's vista is as large as the sky, larger than any prairie.

The way sand and pebbles slip under the feet into wetter depths -- we take the ground itself less for granted.

Embroilment in the surface roil -- on a spectacularly good sailing day -- makes you want to dive under it all to find the cool calm. You'd swim with sharks just to know the contrast.

Anne Lyle
02-02-2011, 02:15 AM
Lastly, is there a difference between living by the British coast and a tropical setting?

:roll:


Yes, the British coast is cold most of the year, and the sea is pretty much always on the cold side. You won't see any pretty coral reefs with brightly coloured fish, either, though in wilder areas there are seals and puffins. The sea around Britain is usually dark blue or grey, not the brilliant blues and greens of tropical waters, and the beaches vary from standard yellowish sand (various locations) through multi-coloured gravel (Suffolk) to huge grey-white pebbles (parts of North Wales).

OTOH whilst winds might get up to gale force, we rarely get hurricanes or other major storms. So it's not all bad!

Avatar_fan
02-02-2011, 05:01 AM
Wow, the responses have all been fantastic. I can't thank everyone here enough. For those interested, I think one of the ways the Midwest can be split up is to separate the areas close to the Great Lakes (mainly Lake Michigan) and those not close to the Great Lakes. I've been to Chicago many times, and from my limited experience with open water, Lake Michigan looks like the ocean! But I live several hours away from Chicago so I'm in the not close to the Great Lakes camp.

Ok, people are saying to pick certain geographical areas to be more specific so I'm thinking I'll start with the British coastline. For those living in the UK or have been there, what's it like living in a small island off the British mainland? Is there a difference if the small island is off the coast of Wales, Scotland, or England? (Ireland can be included even though that's not the UK except for Northern Ireland) My fantasy character lives in a small island, and I imagine the climate to be similar to Britain and environs.

I'm still looking at which tropical setting I want so I'll come back later with that question. Again, thanks everyone.

muddy_shoes
02-02-2011, 05:31 AM
Yes, there is potentially a very large difference between living on an island in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland and living on one off the coast of Wales or the South of England.

I suggest that you either pick a more specific locale to ask about or describe specific qualities you're looking for and then people can suggest a locale.

bananamelissa
02-02-2011, 05:58 AM
There are some great tips above, but I have one more. When I really want to get into an atmosphere and I find sound recordings and play them while I write. There are some nice collections of Ocean sounds on places like Itunes and Amazon. You could also cruise the Itunes podcasts for free nature recordings. I have one of waves that plays for two hours, and its really great. It works as inspiration for mood/atmosphere but I also find nature sounds in general make good background noise when I write. Lastly, try looking for videos of the ocean online. Visuals with sound can really get your imagination running.

frimble3
02-02-2011, 08:37 AM
And the sound varies from beach to beach. I remember the first time I heard the waves on a shingle beach, at Brighton, as I recall. The water lifts and moves the pebbles, making a sort of chattering sound, different from the mud flats around Vancouver, and the bare rocks of my childhood.
Speaking of my childhood, sometimes there is no beach. On the B.C. coast (apparently so much the classic fjord geography that homesick Norwegians burst into tears) the mountains drop straight into the sea. Sometimes there's a small beach, at the mouth of a river, or a little pocket of sand or gravel, cast up by previous events. But, generally, it's a cliff with trees clinging to it.

Anne Lyle
02-02-2011, 11:26 AM
For those living in the UK or have been there, what's it like living in a small island off the British mainland? Is there a difference if the small island is off the coast of Wales, Scotland, or England? (Ireland can be included even though that's not the UK except for Northern Ireland) My fantasy character lives in a small island, and I imagine the climate to be similar to Britain and environs.

Wherever it is, the island is going to be colder and windier than the comparable mainland nearby. However life on the island will vary enormously with factors like location and distance from the mainland. Islands around the south coast of England (Channel Islands, Scillies) have a mild climate and a busy tourist trade, whereas the ones around Scotland are likely to be cold and bleak, with a tiny insular community and limited mod cons. Which type of island do you need for your story to work?

shaldna
02-02-2011, 11:37 AM
This Ballywalter beach - about 20 miles away from where I live.

http://www.panoramio.com/photos/original/10790755.jpg

This is Donaghadee Harbour, whic looks quite tropical in this photo.
http://images.marinas.com/med_res_id/102213

abut never worry because it looks like this in real life
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3117/3152889131_174c8c14f4_o.jpg

and this is a bit of slipway at Crawfordsburn beach in bangor
http://www.yourlocalweb.co.uk/images/pictures/00/59/slipway-at-crawfordsburn-country-park-5882.jpg

and because you are all interested, here is what the beach looks like at the bottom of my street
http://lh3.ggpht.com/_SXb9GR8DYlM/TBMlUIH3q5I/AAAAAAAAACE/t-KghqueoIM/Portaferry%252B%252B1106%252B008.jpg

Mr Flibble
02-02-2011, 12:36 PM
Ok, people are saying to pick certain geographical areas to be more specific so I'm thinking I'll start with the British coastline. For those living in the UK or have been there, what's it like living in a small island off the British mainland? Is there a difference if the small island is off the coast of Wales, Scotland, or England? (Ireland can be included even though that's not the UK except for Northern Ireland) My fantasy character lives in a small island, and I imagine the climate to be similar to Britain and environs.


As noted above, Britain has various geographical environs too! North or South, East or West? The Isle of Sheppy is a bitch in winter (wind comes straight off the North Sea. You DO NOT want to camp there in October, unless you're right by the nice warm pub. Trust me) but the Isle of Wight is extremely mild. The geology is different too, leading to different beaches and sometimes different fauna. They are roughly 130 miles apart. Neither can really be compared to living on the Scottish coast.


So narrow it down a bit lot more.

waylander
02-02-2011, 02:08 PM
Ok, people are saying to pick certain geographical areas to be more specific so I'm thinking I'll start with the British coastline. For those living in the UK or have been there, what's it like living in a small island off the British mainland? Is there a difference if the small island is off the coast of Wales, Scotland, or England? (Ireland can be included even though that's not the UK except for Northern Ireland) My fantasy character lives in a small island, and I imagine the climate to be similar to Britain and environs.


There are more inhabited islands to choose from off the west coasts than the east.

Kitti
02-02-2011, 07:06 PM
Just because I haven't seen anyone mention it yet... when I was living near the ocean, I was always at least peripherally aware of the tides. Depending on what kind of boat your people use to get back and forth from their island, they might keep close track of the tides, or they might not notice anything more than whether it's high or low tide.

Also, you're going to have tidal rivers.

Avatar_fan
02-03-2011, 07:44 AM
How about the St. Kilda archipelago in Scotland? I think it has the qualities I'm looking for.

muddy_shoes
02-03-2011, 08:10 AM
How about the St. Kilda archipelago in Scotland? I think it has the qualities I'm looking for.

No personal experience to give you but a Google video search for "st kilda island|archipelago" turns up lots of useful clips for you to get a feel for the place.

waylander
02-03-2011, 02:14 PM
St Kilda is owned by the National Trust of Scotland and is an important bird reserve. There are no permanent residents. The only people you'll find there are a few bird wardens and Ministry of Defence personnel (at the radar station). Some specialist bird-watching trips are run to there in the summer, otherwise it is pretty inaccesible

shaldna
02-03-2011, 08:05 PM
St Kilda is owned by the National Trust of Scotland and is an important bird reserve. There are no permanent residents. The only people you'll find there are a few bird wardens and Ministry of Defence personnel (at the radar station). Some specialist bird-watching trips are run to there in the summer, otherwise it is pretty inaccesible

Same with alot of our islands here.

Avatar_fan
02-04-2011, 05:41 AM
Thanks everyone. Lots of useful info and strategies. On the tropical location, does anyone know the feel of a place like Sri Lanka?

aruna
02-04-2011, 11:07 AM
Yes, I've been to SRi Lanka, spent a day on the beach on a stopover!
It's very much like the Caribbean in feeling, but the water is not nearly as clear and soft, the sand not nearly as white and pure. But very relaxed, very melllow feeling. Course, that was over 20 years ago and with all the political upheavals the atmosphere might have changed. Remember that a touristy beach is quite different to a quiet beach where only the locals go. The tourist beaches are usually the most beautiful, but overcrowded and commercial, with deckchairs and umbrelllas etc for rent, vendors selling stuff, etc.

If you want a fantastic description of a Sri Lanka beach, read Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne.
The first part is so evocative of Sri Lanka I almost swooned - delightful, and very realistic. You couldn't find anything better, for a description of a tropical beach! Unfortunately the book imo goes downhill in the later, London, section.

Kenn
02-04-2011, 11:16 PM
How about the St. Kilda archipelago in Scotland? I think it has the qualities I'm looking for.
St Kilda is not so much living by the sea as living in the middle of it. It is very remote and inaccessible. It is also abandoned, rather than uninhabited. The residents were evacuated (by request) in the the first half of the Twentieth Century. There is quite a lot that has been written on the sociological reasons behind the decision. As an example, it would have more to do with living in a remote community rather than living by the sea.

Most mid-latitude islands are rocky, although that dosn't mean they can't have sandy coves.

As mentioned earlier, the tide is very important in Britain. The landscape can be transformed as vast areas of rock pools can be formed and miles of mud flats exposed, at low tide. It makes the whole environment very dynamic. The coast on the mainland covers everything you can imagine (cliffs, sandy beaches, shingle, fjords, mud flats, etc.)

Boston Steve
02-04-2011, 11:51 PM
As mentioned earlier, the tide is very important in Britain. The landscape can be transformed as vast areas of rock pools can be formed and miles of mud flats exposed, at low tide. It makes the whole environment very dynamic. The coast on the mainland covers everything you can imagine (cliffs, sandy beaches, shingle, fjords, mud flats, etc.)

This.

Here's a picture of what the continental shelf looks like around Europe. Look at how far it extends to the northwest, around the British Isles and Scandinavia. That's what makes for all that tidal flow.

http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h236/SteveR61/europe.gif

The sound of the ocean will also vary depending on the time of day, time of year, and the weather. A gentle surf, coupled with the sound of seagulls on a hot summer day is very different from the wind and rain of a winter storm, or the clanging of buoys and eerie call of a foghorn in the dead of night.

Avatar_fan
02-07-2011, 10:50 PM
Thanks everyone for all the thoughtful responses.