Jonathan White grew up surfing in California. Later he became a sailor, building a 26-foot sloop in college and taking it up and down the Atlantic and into the Caribbean. At age 25 he bought a 65-foot wooden schooner and founded a nonprofit educational organization that took people out on the water to conduct seminars deep in the heart of the subject matter.

In other words, Mr. White knows the oceans. And yet even after all his years and experience at sea, he realized he didn’t have a clue about how the tides worked. He understood the moon was a player, but what else? And this wasn’t just an academic exercise. So much time at sea had often left him aground after failing to read and understand the shifting tides.

So he set out to educate himself, traveling the world, from Chile to Scotland, the Arctic and tidal rivers in China. The result is his new book Tides: the Science and Spirit of the Ocean.

On Thursday, June 29, Mr. White will speak at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven, in an event co-hosted by the Vineyard Haven Library and Sail MV. The talk begins at 7 p.m.

Mr. White’s book is many things — a personal quest, a scientific exploration, a spiritual meditation. Riding its wake, the reader abandons an armchair existence and heads out to sea to, as Mr. White writes in his introduction, “sail down the low tide’s valleys and up the high tide’s mountains. Hanging on as a tidal passenger isn’t always as easy as it might seem.”

Mr. White has good company in his exploration of the subject. From Aristotle to Newton to the Maori of New Zealand to fisherman and surfers on the Vineyard, the ocean and its movements have loomed front and center.

It took Mr. White 20 years to conduct research for his book. On Thursday, the Vineyard is the beneficiary.