Tidal and inertial current ellipses, measured at several locations and depths in the central North Sea during a number of monthly periods in 1980, 1981 and 1982, are decomposed into counterrotating, circular components to which Ekman dynamics are applied to determine Ekman layer depths and vertical phase differences, from which are inferred overall values of the eddy viscosity and drag coefficient. Stratification effects produce an additional vertical phase shift of the anticyclonic rotary component, indicative of an inverse proportionality of the eddy viscosity to the vertical density gradient. From the time variations of the Ekman layer depths of the semidiurnal tidal components, as well as from the vertical structure of the inertial current component, we infer variations in the relative vorticity of the low-frequency flow.