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Old 11-25-2019, 08:05 AM   #1
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Passing Before Bridges

OK, Iíll put on my flameproof suit and start this conversation:


On our recent trip south (now interrupted to return home for the holidays), we came upon the Wally Wad of over a dozen boats traveling in company and waiting for a bridge to open that we can easily go under. Narrow channels lay ahead and I could see that we would be passing all of these craft and spending considerable time doing it over the next hour or two. So, with most of them standing still and a couple of sailboats doing slow circles I decided that this would be the best place to pass. I decided not to use the radio as we crept through the fleet. Many of the boats did not have easily visible names and I reasoned that the chain reaction we might cause by prompting people to try and move out of our way and uncertainty about which boat was talking to which would only confuse the situation. I used the ďPretend you are invisible.Ē, principle at a speed where I could crash stop in a boat length or less and our twin screws make sudden direction changes possible even when not moving forward. I stopped a couple of times to see which way a sailboat would turn and then moved through the space they vacated. It all went very smoothly with no near contacts. The bridge opened just after we went through and we never saw any of those boats again. The episode was marred only by someone exclaiming loudly on the radio, ďA__[orifice]!!Ē.

Now, I want to be very clear. If we had contacted someone, it would have been 100% my fault, no defense, no excuses. Iím a strong believer in proper radio procedure and often make Security calls. Usually, in similar passing situations at bridges, I do talk to vessels Iím passing. However, there are situations which are exceptions to every rule. A key point is that, if I had made radio calls and hit someone, it still would have been 100% my fault as the overtaking vessel. My judgment call at the time was that the distraction and confusion of getting a multi vessel radio conversation going would only increase the unpredictability of the other vesselís movements and that it might also increase the chance of two other vessels contacting. This was a fine point call and I might well have done differently on another day. I would have used the radio if it were the usual situation of just one or two boats. I might still decide I was wrong in this case which is why I am posting some food for thought.
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:32 AM   #2
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I faced the same situation just last year heading through the Titusville area (NASA Causeway Bridge I think). Four or five boats, all with masts, were waiting north of the bridge. I slowed and then got on channel 9 (assuming they were all standing by on that channel) saying that I was dropping my antennae so did not require an opening so would pass slowly through.

The bridge tender came back and told me that he was just about to drop the road barriers and open the bridge.

I replied that I would then hold my position and pass through in line. Immediately one of the sailboats came back and suggested that I go through first so that I wouldn't have to do slow passes with them all afterwards. I thanked them all and proceeded.

Not saying that was what would have happened to you but clearly stating your intention and the rationale behind it ( helping everyone in the long run and better safety) would have left you feeling much better about the situation.
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:39 AM   #3
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I maybe would have issued a general broadcast message on 16 or 9 to all the boats in the area (referencing "to all boats waiting for xxx bridge") all at once instead of each one individually (which as you state would not work) with my intentions.

Otherwise. I see nothing wrong here.
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:52 AM   #4
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Greetings,
Mr. RL. I agree with previous suggestion that you contact the bridge tender announcing your intention and go with HIS/HER suggestion IF any was to be offered. If no specific reply was received, proceed with caution.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:01 AM   #5
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You are really trying to get some traction with this story. You pasted it right off of your Facebook account at Bob's ICW page too.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:04 AM   #6
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I wouldn't worry about it.


No matter what you do some will not get your intentions because of ego, lack of understanding, or just stupidty.


Sure a radio broadcast makes it just that little less stressful if soething goes wrong...but so many things can go wrong in a clusterfuc* with coneheads...I stopped worrying long ago.


It was like your insightful suggestion to use CH 13 as the common hailing frequency or using whistle signal jargon versus the OFTEN COMPLETELY misunderstood port and starboard passing jargon...and yet argued by experienced cruisers here that it was improper or other.


The point is that you didn't collide..and there shouldn't have been any collisions assuming that all involved had bare minimal operating capabilities.


I run into the same situation all the time and it seems to go a little different every time.


If someone called me and suggested I pass...I might have tried to get a consensus on the radio before proceeding, but I wouldn't have not tried had I not.


I also disagree that you were the "overtaking vessel". This is clearly where Rule 2 is the overriding rule....too many variable to make any other rule clearing the primary rule. Often there are many vessels that can pass under a closed bridge and those waiting for a bridge should make allowances. The bridge-tenders are all over the map as to whether they will get involved.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:13 AM   #7
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So the sailboat that called you out on the radios theory is all should wait in line regardless of clearance. Wonder if that applies to center console boats PWCs and kayaks? IMHO just a naive newbie that doesn’t know better.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:19 AM   #8
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So the sailboat that called you out on the radios theory is all should wait in line regardless of clearance. Wonder if that applies to center console boats PWCs and kayaks? IMHO just a naive newbie that doesnít know better.

Exactly... so many out there with no clue.....


And they learned it from the "old salt" at the dock...which in real english.... is just another "no clue boater" with more years boating under their belt.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:40 AM   #9
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We confronted this issue frequently and always found using the bridge's radio channel effective, getting the tender involved in most occasions.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:50 AM   #10
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You are really trying to get some traction with this story. You pasted it right off of your Facebook account at Bob's ICW page too.

Not traction. I've noticed before significant differences in responses between this group and others. Interested in the broader perspective.
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Old 11-25-2019, 10:28 AM   #11
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Not traction. I've noticed before significant differences in responses between this group and others. Interested in the broader perspective.

Yep... you got THAT right for sure
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Old 11-25-2019, 10:32 AM   #12
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I slowed and then got on channel 9 (assuming they were all standing by on that channel)
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Originally Posted by boathealer View Post
I maybe would have issued a general broadcast message on 16 or 9 to all the boats in the area (referencing "to all boats waiting for xxx bridge")
I would hail on whichever channel that bridge-tender is monitoring (commonly 13). I would further assume that any vessel holding position for a bridge is standing-by on that same channel. (if not, they should be...shame on them).

I would have had the open discussion with the bridge-tender. For example, technically the downstream traffic or tide direction has priority. I don't know that the bridge tender might be opening the bridge and giving traffic on the other side priority. If the bridge opened prior to me going through, then unfortunately it looks like I just cut the line.
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Old 11-25-2019, 10:44 AM   #13
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I would have had the open discussion with the bridge-tender.

Bridge tenders are an unknown quantity and I wouldn't depend on them for traffic control. Many won't do it anyway because of liability.


We were going a bridge recently with the current against us and heard the tender tell TowBoatUS with a sailboat on hip tow that he could go through after the two southbound sailboat cleared. I called up the tow and asked if he would like to go through first since he had the current behind him. He agreed enthusiastically and the tender told us there was plenty of water outside no wake buoy. The tow called me after and thanked me saying he was afraid he was having a terrible time backing that sailboat against the current.
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Old 11-25-2019, 10:57 AM   #14
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Going with the current is not automatically "a right of way" .... (one of the few times the concept is even recognized)...


Western Rivers (US) and in certain locals as mentioned in the Coast Pilots are the most common ones.but you don't know unless you have really researched it of the bridge tender quotes it...otherwise it is only a "courtesy"...but a good one.


Also interesting the bridge tender gave the sailboats the nod as he is usually on demand for commercial traffic but not necessarily for the rest of us.


Sad but true...the longer I boat the less it seems that radio calls are effective, but I do understand the legal implications of NOT broadcasting/calling.
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Old 11-25-2019, 11:00 AM   #15
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I would hail on whichever channel that bridge-tender is monitoring (commonly 13). I would further assume that any vessel holding position for a bridge is standing-by on that same channel. (if not, they should be...shame on them).
Channel 9 in Florida.
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Old 11-25-2019, 11:01 AM   #16
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I am often running at 20kts so when waiting on a bridge I'll call on the bridge channel and request getting first in line to avoid any passes down the road. Sometimes someone comes on and says they are going to run 23 or whatever, and I'll say then on the radio, ok, I'll go second. Seems to work ok.

Even if I am in slow mode (7.5kt), I'll wiggle ahead of the sailboats. If someone gripes, I just say I'm going to pass you in one place or another, much more polite to do it here with no wakes.

Even the sailboats going like 5.5-6kts would rather not have to deal with a pass by a trawler running 7.5.

The guy that called you an a-hole was out of line.
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Old 11-25-2019, 11:28 AM   #17
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"I've noticed before significant differences in responses between this group and others. Interested in the broader perspective. "
I am guessing that most boaters fall into 3 categories; Brand new boater, minimal knowledge (Some of them will listen and learn but others are not interested); Boater with several years experience, still hasn't learned very much; or the "Old salt" who knows it all (just ask).
I'll be most of them have never taken a Boating Safety Course.
Just my observation.
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Old 11-25-2019, 11:46 AM   #18
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Bridge tenders are an unknown quantity and I wouldn't depend on them for traffic control. Many won't do it anyway because of liability.
Quantity? (why would I care how many of them are in the booth)?

I'm not asking them for traffic control. The assumption is that I am essentially notifying the active listeners of my intentions. I'm using the channel that is being used for that bridge (again, whatever it is for that area) assuming that that is the channel most are currently monitoring. The assumption is, if there is going to be any information of note, or a problem, the tender will advise. (The bridge will be opening in 2 minutes; hold for opposing commercial traffic, or whatever).

Maybe the only benefit is not getting cussed out by someone who doesn't completely understand what is going on or the intentions.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:13 PM   #19
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I don't think you had the right to pass into the front of the line. You made a few assumptions which could have been wrong. How did you know they were all traveling together, how did you know they were going to be slow on the other side of the bridge, requiring passing? How do you know they would all be confused by a radio call?

Just because you have a highly maneuverable, quick boat does not give you any right to pass the others while waiting for a bridge.

No, any way I look at it, you were wrong..

Sorry,

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Old 11-25-2019, 12:18 PM   #20
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If they were waiting and he could safely pass them and get under the bridge...he had every right to pass...as there are no prohibitions against it....


Even a brige-tender I don't believe has any authority other than a boater using common sense and once the tender declares a passing order, unless you have special needs, good seamanship would be to follow the recommendation....


That is unless there are special rules that are in effect for that bridge including the tender's authority.


Good seamanship is rule 2 and that goes both ways....
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