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Old 04-24-2014, 11:09 PM   #1
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Air Draft and Bridge Openings

I read this response of Fred's in another thread.

[QUOTE]<snip>
The stern anchor is a nice emergency brake , we deploy it when waiting for the rare bridge (air height under 12FT) to open on time.
<snip>
[\QUOTE]


How often do you need bridge openings? How much time have you waited?

Like Fred I drive a low air draft boat (10 feet) so have not yet had to call for an opening in my home waters. I'm especially interested in hearing from those of you on the ICW/Loop inland waters. If I understand correctly, many of those open on a regular schedule.
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Old 04-25-2014, 06:59 AM   #2
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I have waited up to an hour for a bridge...an hourly one I just missed. Some can have pretty good tidal currents pushing you into a bottleneck that can have a lot of smaller traffic zooming all around you making maneuvering challenging. So I can see someone using a stern anchor if they choose....but most find a way of just milling about with all sorts of time killing maneuvers.

Timing can be done by varying your transit speed to arrive at opening time, but you don't want to cut it too close as a small issue along the way could make you miss the time. So I would say my average wait time is 10 minutes...and that includes when about a mile out and the bridge can see me (otherwise they assume you don't exist most of the time)...then I will idle up and try to hit it just right.
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Old 04-25-2014, 07:15 AM   #3
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I don't need an opening in my home waters (although I have to lower my bimini and antenna at mid or high tide for a pair of bridges.

On the ICW or other places, I need openings for some bridges and not for others. So far I haven't had to wait long but some bridges have severe restrictions during morning and evening rush hours and others are on an hourly schedule. Anchoring is an option. Others are trying to stay in place or turning around and going away from the bridge for a while.
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Old 04-25-2014, 07:48 AM   #4
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Always make a habit of calling the bridge you need opened even if they are on a schedule. Some times they don't see you........ intentionally or unintentionally. Will be building a new radar mast this summer to reduce my air draft to safely below 20'. Going from 23' to 19'+ should eliminate about 1/3 of my required openings. Active Captain is a great source for information on their opening schedules. Much prefer the long slow approach as opposed to dancing with others in front of the bridge.

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Old 04-25-2014, 07:59 AM   #5
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By law each and every vessel (even if a dozen are waiting ) has to call.


Coast Pilot #3

117.19 Signaling when two or more vessels are
approaching a drawbridge.
(513)
When two or more vessels are approaching the
same drawbridge at the same time, or nearly the same time, whether from the same or opposite directions, each vessel shall signal independently for the opening of the draw and the drawtender shall reply in turn....


My comment on waiting till the see you....in my experience you are just a caller...not a requester. I think their mentality is you have to call AND they have to see you before you get into their system. Seems like they always say..."come on up Capt and I'll open for ya"...not "OK Capt, I'll get started"....
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Old 04-25-2014, 08:20 AM   #6
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The bridges here on the s florida ICW. Open every 1/2 hour
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Old 04-25-2014, 12:04 PM   #7
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There are 17 lift bridges on the western end of the Erie Canal (Lockport to Fairport). All of them need to be lifted except for the very smallest of crafts (like maybe a canoe). The operators each run 2 or 3 bridges with a few exceptions. This means that they have to jump in a car and run to the next bridge to meet you. Gets tricky at times with boats traveling in both directions.. They all monitor Ch 13 and a call ahead is always appreciated. Once you are in the groove, they will call ahead to the next bridge set, but a courtesy call as you approach is always good and allows you to say a few nice words to these hard working people.

All of the bridges except Fairport (and even they will bend the rules) open on demand. Fairport is supposed to be on the half hour, but usually only enforced during morning and evening rush hours.
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Old 04-25-2014, 12:28 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motion30 View Post
The bridges here on the s florida ICW. Open every 1/2 hour
Actually some are every 20 minutes, some are on demand, some are on a schedule between certain hours and on demand other hours, and some are closed during rush hours. The 1/2 hour bridges may open on the :15 and :45, or on the :00 and :30.

I found the Waterway Guide best, nice to have hard copy at the helm rather than fish around Active Captain or Cruiser's net (my preferred on line source).
I make all the bridges I will have to lift waypoint's on my plotter, helps with timing in addition to the guides. And, after a few trips to have seen the sights and had the experience, and in good weather, the Atlantic Ocean is so much nicer when practical.

I was taught the hard way early on that you have to call even when the bridge is on a schedule, and most FL bridges want to hear from everyone going through. Also polite to let them know when you are clear and thank them.

Don't like the stern anchor idea at all, too many small craft zipping around, too much work, God help you if you have problems getting it up or have to make way for a big boat or barge, or a commercial/government craft that can raise on demand. Might set a "real" anchor if it was going to be a few hours and I could get out of the way of the channel. Once had to wait a long time at Titusville when there were emergency squads and ambulances on the island, the bridge was not allowed to open as long as they were there. Tender was really good at keeping everyone up to date. Otherwise I use it as a way to practice low speed maneuvering, running on one engine, etc and penalizing myself for missing the opening.

Some tenders are very liberal and helpful in getting people through, others are real jerks. I remember one of the Harpies at the Venetian Causeway, east in this case, making a guy wait because he was one minute late per her watch, really really petty seeing as how the bridge wasn't already opened and closed.

On the other hand, remember the folks in cars are also trying to watch the schedule and it can be a real pi$$er to get there when the bridge is supposed to have been closed and up it goes 5 minutes late or held open for some tardy boater when you are trying to make an appointment.
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Old 04-25-2014, 12:40 PM   #9
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At 10' you'll find minimal problems. Crossing 20' is where it really comes into play. On the loop, the route options from NY to the Great Lakes varies based on air draft but you're fine on all. The overall maximum air draft for the loop is 19'1" and that is due to Chicago where there is one bridge with no lower alternative and it is a fixed bridge.

Best thing is to plan your day and include the bridge openings in that planning if there are any. Timing can be everything. When there is a succession of bridges to be opened, as on the ICW in South Florida for taller boats, the bridges generally have timing that once you hit the first if you move at the right speed you'll hit the others right. For instance if one opens on the hour, the next one will open on the 20 minute mark.

In some areas, like South Florida, openings are less frequent during auto traffic rush hours. Lowest bridge on the ICW in that area is 15'.
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Old 04-25-2014, 12:57 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post

Don't like the stern anchor idea at all, too many small craft zipping around, too much work, God help you if you have problems getting it up or have to make way for a big boat or barge, or a commercial/government craft that can raise on demand. Might set a "real" anchor if it was going to be a few hours and I could get out of the way of the channel. Once had to wait a long time at Titusville when there were emergency squads and ambulances on the island, the bridge was not allowed to open as long as they were there. Tender was really good at keeping everyone up to date. Otherwise I use it as a way to practice low speed maneuvering, running on one engine, etc and penalizing myself for missing the opening.

I agree and a note to all of us to practice low speed maneuvering in various currents. It's a learned skill like docking and when dealing with bridges and locks can be very important. I've seen photos on the Ohio of hundreds of boats waiting for a lock.

On the other hand, remember the folks in cars are also trying to watch the schedule and it can be a real pi$$er to get there when the bridge is supposed to have been closed and up it goes 5 minutes late or held open for some tardy boater when you are trying to make an appointment.
First time I was ever the only boat requiring a bridge opening during rush hour and saw the cars waiting on both sides, I felt a little guilty about making them all wait. Wished I could broadcast "Sorry guys." But this does point out why schedules are used. Drivers in South Florida time the bridges during rush hour just as boaters do.

Can not emphasize enough notifying the tender and also being polite and respectful. Even your tone of voice in more a "Kind sir, I'm approaching your bridge and will need to pass through if it pleases you" and not a tone that sounds like "Open the d... bridge." Most of the tenders are nice and helpful. But they deal with angry car drivers and boat drivers daily, often getting fussed at just for doing their job correctly. One of the biggest sticking points is the lowering of tops or antennas or other things which can easily and safely be lowered. You cannot request an opening based on something that could be lowered so you can pass. And no, this does not mean you have to lower masts and other semi permanent items. Tenders will also ask your height or might form an opinion from distance. Be sure you know the bridge clearance and your air draft. And again if you can clear safely without opening, then they won't open. If it's too close for comfort the words would be, "Sir, I'm not comfortable I can do that safely" and explain why. Safely being the key, not that I don't want to.
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Old 04-25-2014, 01:15 PM   #11
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Timing can be done by varying your transit speed to arrive at opening time, but you don't want to cut it too close as a small issue along the way could make you miss the time.
There is a stretch between Swansboro and Wrightsville beach which has 4 bridges that open either hourly or on the half hour. The Figure Eight bridge is not a problem for most people, but Onslow, Surf City and Wrightsville can hold you up if not hit right. Hitting them all wrong can add 2+ hours to your day. I dial each one into my GPS to get an ETA, and it always seems I have a huge following current when I'm ahead of schedule and fighting a current when I'm running behind!

The Wrightsville Beach bridge on a summer weekend can be a real zoo, and it can have a big current too so I always prepare accordingly.
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Old 04-25-2014, 01:28 PM   #12
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There is a stretch between Swansboro and Wrightsville beach which has 4 bridges that open either hourly or on the half hour. The Figure Eight bridge is not a problem for most people, but Onslow, Surf City and Wrightsville can hold you up if not hit right. Hitting them all wrong can add 2+ hours to your day. I dial each one into my GPS to get an ETA, and it always seems I have a huge following current when I'm ahead of schedule and fighting a current when I'm running behind!

The Wrightsville Beach bridge on a summer weekend can be a real zoo, and it can have a big current too so I always prepare accordingly.
I feel your pain, very hard to time those particular bridges in a slow boat. Then of course there is the occasional extra added treat of the Corps shutting down the ICW altogether for live fire exercises. Throw in some problem shoaling here and there.....Much nicer to duck out Masonboro and back in at Beaufort if that fits your itinerary. Swansboro is a very nice little town, and it is sort of fun to see the training area of Lejeune, but once or twice is plenty for one lifetime, IMO. Then of course there is the occasional extra added treat of the Corps shutting down the ICW altogether for live fire exercises. Throw in some problem shoaling here and there.....
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Old 04-25-2014, 01:32 PM   #13
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There is a stretch between Swansboro and Wrightsville beach which has 4 bridges that open either hourly or on the half hour. The Figure Eight bridge is not a problem for most people, but Onslow, Surf City and Wrightsville can hold you up if not hit right. Hitting them all wrong can add 2+ hours to your day. I dial each one into my GPS to get an ETA, and it always seems I have a huge following current when I'm ahead of schedule and fighting a current when I'm running behind!

The Wrightsville Beach bridge on a summer weekend can be a real zoo, and it can have a big current too so I always prepare accordingly.
It's easy to hold a boat in place for a minute or two but it's those 45 minute waits in a crowded queue that require really knowing your boat and how to hold it. There are actually lake runabouts equipped with position holding equipment, automatic and works with gps. I don't know how well it works, but never have seen it on larger boats. This is another place thrusters can come in handy if you need to push your bow back in line. Also a use for the joysticks some boats have for low speed maneuvering.
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Old 04-25-2014, 01:37 PM   #14
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I would think that air height should be a major consideration when choosing a boat to be used regularly where there are low bridges. One of the great benefits of my changing from sail to power when I lived on the ICW was no longer having to mess with all the bridge openings. My present boat was built with fixed air height as a consideration.
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Old 04-25-2014, 01:47 PM   #15
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I would think that air height should be a major consideration when choosing a boat to be used regularly where there are low bridges. One of the great benefits of my changing from sail to power when I lived on the ICW was no longer having to mess with all the bridge openings. My present boat was built with fixed air height as a consideration.
Absolutely. If you live and boat in certain areas, 15' becomes the magic number. Other places it may be 20'. We're looking for a loop boat and it will be limited to 19'1" which it will probably achieve only with a hinged arch.

Bridges may also influence where you keep your boat. With us they even influenced to some degree where we wanted to purchase our home. We have two bridges to the ocean, one at 55' and one at 24'. That is going South. But to our north we have 22', 18', 9' and 15'. So a home further north or boat stored there could mean the 9' bridge. New River here has great marinas and many bridges.
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Old 04-25-2014, 02:48 PM   #16
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A lot of bridges have submerged cable crossings nearby. I'd also be very cautious anchoring in a restricted channel.
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Old 04-25-2014, 03:07 PM   #17
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Holding around bridges is one of my least favorite trawler activities. I listen to the bridge calling channel (09 here in SWFL) and hear the bridge telling others much closer what the schedule is so I can time my arrival. Getting better at it each trip.
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Old 04-25-2014, 03:22 PM   #18
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Holding around bridges is one of my least favorite trawler activities. I listen to the bridge calling channel (09 here in SWFL) and hear the bridge telling others much closer what the schedule is so I can time my arrival. Getting better at it each trip.
Here's a handy guide for you.

Cruiser's Net » BRIDGES – Western Florida
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Old 04-25-2014, 06:25 PM   #19
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The only bridge around here has a clearance of 85' at HW and it isn't enough clearance for some of the yachts that cruise and race in these waters.

Planning on a trip next year that will take us through the canals and rivers of NY, Vt and Canada, so expect to become more familiar with the issue.
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Old 04-25-2014, 09:09 PM   #20
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My Manatee is 13'2" to the pilothouse roof, 22' to the top of the mast. I recently removed the old mast/boom assembly, built a dinghy crane that lifts off its mounting, and also built a custom electronics mast that folds down in a flash. Traveling the ICW in Florida gives you plenty of practice putting down masts, antennas, and such, but I can fold down everything in less than a minute now, and once the antennas are also on the mast, maybe a half minute and will be gas-cylinder assisted for the Admiral. The longest I've waited on the ICW was a half-hour, and it was one I barely missed the opening. With everything down and at 13'2", I can squeeze under most of them, but if you plan on cruising the ICW like I do, whatever you can do to lower the air draft is a plus. Sometimes when heading north or south on the ICW, big Sport Fishers honk on it between bridges, but most of the time I catch up at the next bridge, and there they go again, only to be caught at the next one.
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