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Old 11-06-2017, 09:22 PM   #1
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Horrifying Experience

Yesterday while cruising south to FL from CT I had the most frightening boating experience I have ever had in 53 years of boating and boat ownership. I was in FL and had just crossed the St. John's river southbound. I entered the continuation of the ICW at Pablo Creek. The current was against me at a pretty good clip. Ahead was a fixed bridge, the Wonderwood Expressway Bridge.

A construction barge was anchored under the bridge blocking about 50% of the clearance through the bridge. A small bowrider was coming through the bridge with the current and I gave it the right of way. The current through the bridge was intensified by the barge blocking half of the clearance. A no wake sign was posted. That bowrider almost flipped over as the current shot it through like a cannon ball. It was a miracle that the passengers weren't ejected. A heart stopping experience. But wait, there's more.

Now it was my turn. I proceeded against ththe current at a slow pace. Almost immediately my bow was thrown toward the barge. I reacted without even thinking about what I was doing. In seconds I was about to hit the barge. I spun the wheel, applied power and the bow swung toward the bridge fender. I spun the wheel the other way and cut the power. I got hit from behind by my own wake and was accelerated through the bridge.

I hit nothing but in my mind I was hitting everything. I know that Neptune smiled upon me. It took me quite awhile to feel normal again. About a half hour later the CG broadcast a warning of hazardous conditions at that bridge. I will never forget this event, not ever.
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Old 11-06-2017, 09:25 PM   #2
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Congrats that you made it through!! Pucker much???
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Old 11-06-2017, 09:28 PM   #3
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Dang, Howard. Talk about pucker factor. I won’t forget that situation on my way up the ICW.
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Old 11-06-2017, 09:29 PM   #4
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I still can't unpucker.
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Old 11-06-2017, 09:39 PM   #5
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Glad you got through it. Scary, sounds like it would be no picnic even without the barge.
Bridges are often at narrow points, and tide rushes through. Check how the water behaves around the leading pylon edges.
I learnt at one bridge I pass through regularly(Brooklyn Railway Bridge) to always have a hand on the throttle levers.I do it at pretty much all bridges with pylons (though not the Sydney Harbor Bridge).
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Old 11-06-2017, 09:56 PM   #6
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Not the Wonderwood, but the Atlantic Blvd Bridge. The current through there is very brisk all year, but even more so because of the barge that is there rebuilding the fenders.

We went through there a couple of times last week on our way to lunch in the little RIB. It was ripping.

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Old 11-06-2017, 10:16 PM   #7
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Thanks for sharing that story Howard, glad you made it unscathed. Poseidon was on your side this day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poseidon
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Old 11-06-2017, 10:31 PM   #8
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Scary stuff Howard. Glad all is well. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 11-06-2017, 10:57 PM   #9
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Itís comforting how well our instincts and experience serve us in a situation where we donít have time to think. Congratulations on great helmsmanship. I hope I can do as well if Iím ever in a similar situation.
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Old 11-06-2017, 11:04 PM   #10
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No worse feeling than when a current grabs hold of you, seeming like a giant hand is underwater but in control. Always good to come away with no damage, but not easily forgotten, that's for sure!
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Old 11-07-2017, 12:36 AM   #11
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Good job. Thanks for sharing.

Bridges end up being far scarier than one would think. It's always either too much power or not enough. I tend to do as you did, going from one extreme to the other in 5 heart stopping seconds.

The oceans is far easier
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Old 11-07-2017, 07:26 AM   #12
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I had a similar experience coming into the marina at Bald Head Island, NC. Narrow channel with rocks and bulkheads on both side. Entrance faces Cape Fear River that can get sea swell and wakes from ships and other craft. At least no current.

So I am coming in and no traffic, some swell coming in. Running about 6.5kts/800rpm. All ok. Then a swell came in behind me and picked up the stern, surfing me, and towards one wall. No rudder control. I swung the rudder over and hammered the power. Got boat away from one wall, only to aim at the other. Had to chop power, swing rudder and hammer the power again. Got it back on center, did not hit. But scared the cr@p out of me as I was basically out of control.

I have 6.5turns lock to lock and that hinders fast rudder response. High on my list is to modify the steering system to maybe 4turns. I also have electric-over-hydraulic power steering which sounds great (and works great) but it has a downside. It is only but so fast. If you try to turn the wheel faster than it can pump, you are not going to go any faster.
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Old 11-07-2017, 07:58 AM   #13
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Gee, Howard, what a harrowing experience. When the tide is running at full chat this is always a place to watch carefully. I can only imagine what the barge would do to the current pattern. Take a nice long unpuckering break at St. Augustine. Good to see that you have made it into the Sunshine State.
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Old 11-07-2017, 08:03 AM   #14
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Welcome to the Soiled Shorts Club. I remember on our first year of cruising coming out of a side channel where the ICW intersected a river on the ebb, somewhere in SC IIRC (have to go look in the log). I was positively sure I was going to directly ram a day marker right at the intersection corner. How I missed it I still don't know, lucky set of reactions I guess, or the intervention, a la Maradona, of The Hand of God.

A few others scary but avoided due to more experience for the particular situation, like the guy in a Viking coming down the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, there by the "Benihana House" turn who lost an engine and made a hard turn right in front of me, I can still visualize the Hatteras 58 LRC docked behind me on my starboard quarter that I came within a few feet of as I slammed into reverse after coming within feet of the Viking, whose captain also joined the Club but did a good job of not hitting anyone. For those of you have never been up there, fairly narrow channel with boats docked on both sides and all kinds of very big and small traffic.
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Old 11-07-2017, 08:35 AM   #15
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Well Howard you must have been grand entertainment for the good ole boys on the barge.
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Old 11-07-2017, 09:22 AM   #16
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They were probably not entertained much when he was bearing down on them......
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Old 11-07-2017, 10:00 AM   #17
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We went through last week. No traffic but us. Four knots or better current against us. We crept through at about 3.5 knots over ground.
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Old 11-07-2017, 10:23 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nomad Willy View Post
Well Howard you must have been grand entertainment for the good ole boys on the barge.
If contact had been made between Howard's FG boat and the deck barge, they probably wouldn't notice unless they were looking.

Appreciate the story and the candor, Howard. It will may help somebody out sometime - like me.

Flying Magazine used to (may still) run articles called "I learned about flying from that" - first hand, drop your drawers recounts of situations and recoveries (sometimes non-recoveries) of everything from weather, mechanical failure, and most often pilot error.

I wonder if TF members could generate enough interest to support a long term thread (think Interesting Boats) on the subject?
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Old 11-07-2017, 10:26 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbu22 View Post
If contact had been made between Howard's FG boat and the deck barge, they probably wouldn't notice unless they were looking.

Appreciate the story and the candor, Howard. It will may help somebody out sometime - like me.

Flying Magazine used to (may still) run articles called "I learned about flying from that" - first hand, drop your drawers recounts of situations and recoveries (sometimes non-recoveries) of everything from weather, mechanical failure, and most often pilot error.

I wonder if TF members could generate enough interest to support a long term thread (think Interesting Boats) on the subject?
I'd have plenty of fodder for that one!!
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Old 11-07-2017, 11:48 AM   #20
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I might time a nice run from the St Johns to St Augustine offshore rather than deal with that.

Maybe pick up a nice dorado for dinner along the way....
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