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Old 04-14-2014, 12:40 PM   #61
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(even if it's on demand)
I made friends with the bridge tender in New Bern. One of the first things he taught me was that not bridge is "on demand"... they are "on request"... In other words, be nice and you'll get the bridge open. You are in no position to demand anything
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Old 04-14-2014, 12:53 PM   #62
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I radio each and every bridge tender I come to, whether I need them to open or not. Even when I have clearance I let them know that an opening isn't required and I'll be passing underneath. Most of the time they appreciate the heads up.
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Old 04-14-2014, 01:43 PM   #63
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This is very good advice. A boat was severely damaged at the Little River Swing bridge this weekend because strong current caused them to make a maneuver too close to the edge of the rock lined channel there. Never anticipate that a bridge tender will open a bridge when you want it (even if it's on demand) and always consider current as you're approaching bridges. You are in command.

And from experience, if you have a disagreement with a bridge tender, don't argue with the bridge tender. Be polite. Then pick up a cell phone and call the local Coast Guard station for advice and assistance. If a bridge is closed for an extended period, there needs to be a LNM published about it or continuous CG radio alerts. We've had two instances where a bridge tender was very coy about telling us that the bridge couldn't open - asking a question like, "we'd like to keep the bridge closed for 90 minutes - do you understand?" Most people will just agree. We came up on three boats waiting in that situation hearing the radio exchange 20 minutes prior. When I requested an opening, I politely refused to "understand" and re-requested the opening. The bridge tender told me that we would have to wait. One CG call and the bridge opened 5 minutes later.
So where to you get these CG phone numbers?
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Old 04-14-2014, 01:54 PM   #64
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Just for y'all making the ditch transit in NC: They finally dredged that nasty sand bar at Mason's inlet. Wide open now. Last fall and all winter boats were piling up there daily. Just south of MM 280.
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Old 04-14-2014, 01:57 PM   #65
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Some parts of the "ICW" or "coastal" trip involve committing yourself to open water passages...make sure your vessel and crew are up to it if you are slow enough you need several day weather windows or have the time to stay put till the weather breaks.

The "core" ICW and a few small boat "rough weather" routes are there to eep going despite weather.
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Old 04-14-2014, 02:00 PM   #66
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If you can't get the USCG on the phone...try CH16...I've had bridge tenders jump through their butts once the USCG gets involved..

Usually being polite and good on the radio waorks...but "on demand" is just that unless they ave special "wait 15 minutes rule if they just opened" like Socastee and Little River.

I'll wait 15..then call again...if still inaction...I call the USCG...has worked every time for over 50 years.
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Old 04-14-2014, 04:08 PM   #67
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The daytime guy at Socastee was notorious for making you wait 20 minutes no matter what; still that way? Been a couple years. Guy at Causton Bluff was the absolute best.

I too got in the habit of calling all tenders (well other than the real high ones like 17th Street in FLL and I64 in Norfolk) to let them know if I was going to need them or not, and double check clearance. And a follow up "we're clear, thanks for the opening" once passing through an open bridge. Make sure you have all your antennas down if they are your highest point, especially in S. FL.
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Old 04-14-2014, 04:31 PM   #68
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Of course then there is the private sugar mill bridge just a few 100 yards west of the Moorehaven Lock by the Okeechobee... they make you sit until there isn't a moving train within 15 minutes of the bridge.

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Old 04-14-2014, 05:07 PM   #69
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Don't know how I missed this thread, see it originated when I was in internet no-man's land. But a few quick reactions:

1) I strogly disagree with cutting across the Okeechobee when time is not a factor. You miss some of, if not most of, the best cruising of the whole journey that way. Doing urban SE Florida is fun the first or second time, as is the entire length of the Keys, particularly if you like marinas.

2) The northern half of North Carolina is much more fun if you skip the ICW and detour into Manteo and Ocracoke (especially Ocracoke). So much nicer than the Alligator River, Pungo, Goose Creek et al.

3) not sure if the OP has a dinghy and is totally a "no anchor" vessel, but if you like unspoiled beaches, at least one night anchored out at Cape Lookout to enjoy the best beaches in the eastern USA.

Agree with all the above.
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Old 04-14-2014, 06:07 PM   #70
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The daytime guy at Socastee was notorious for making you wait 20 minutes no matter what; still that way? Been a couple years. Guy at Causton Bluff was the absolute best.
I've had to wait more than 10 minutes on several occasions at Socastee. Also if there are any boats within sight they will wait to let everyone go at the same time.

The worst bridge ever, and I oughta know, was Sunset Beach. During the last few years of operation they could not open during some low tides. It could be 3 hours in some instances, and because only the smallest boats (and I do mean small) could go under, the openings resembled a traffic jam of all different sized boats, and rude behavior was often encountered. Once during high wind, it actually was stuck in the closed position for several hours. Not only could boat traffic not pass, but car traffic too. I was there in my Boston Whaler and along with two other boats, we actually helped push the bridge back into position so car traffic could get on and off the island. A loud cheer erupted when the bridge clunked back into place as vacationers had waited hours to get off the island.

Anyway, as long as we're talking bridge etiquette, when traffic going both ways always let the side with a following current go first. Also, let faster traffic go first --- they'll only need to pass you later and those of you who have slow boats know how much of a pain passing can be at times, especially with some of the more hard headed sailor friends!
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Old 04-14-2014, 06:11 PM   #71
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My wife seems to get better response from bridge tenders than the rest of us.

Odd how bridge tenders sometimes are on the grouchy side and lock masters almost always are extremely nice and great to deal with.
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Old 04-14-2014, 06:17 PM   #72
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So where to you get these CG phone numbers?
*CG used to do it but they've removed that service.

As with all things, the internet is your friend while underway. You can easily get the phone number for every CG installation.
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Old 04-14-2014, 06:27 PM   #73
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I've had to wait more than 10 minutes on several occasions at Socastee. Also if there are any boats within sight they will wait to let everyone go at the same time.

Socastee bridge has never been a good experience for me. The bridge tender will seldom acknowledge a radio call, and always would make us wait while going in circles.

The worst bridge ever, and I oughta know, was Sunset Beach. During the last few years of operation they could not open during some low tides. It could be 3 hours in some instances, and because only the smallest boats (and I do mean small) could go under, the openings resembled a traffic jam of all different sized boats, and rude behavior was often encountered. Once during high wind, it actually was stuck in the closed position for several hours. Not only could boat traffic not pass, but car traffic too. I was there in my Boston Whaler and along with two other boats, we actually helped push the bridge back into position so car traffic could get on and off the island. A loud cheer erupted when the bridge clunked back into place as vacationers had waited hours to get off the island.

I finally figured out the protocol at the old Sunset Beach pontoon bridge. SeaRays had the right of way.

Anyway, as long as we're talking bridge etiquette, when traffic going both ways always let the side with a following current go first. Also, let faster traffic go first --- they'll only need to pass you later and those of you who have slow boats know how much of a pain passing can be at times, especially with some of the more hard headed sailor friends!
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Old 04-14-2014, 06:47 PM   #74
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Odd how bridge tenders sometimes are on the grouchy side ...........
Probably not the best job in the world.

I wonder though, has anyone ever complained officially to the CG or other authorities about these events or do they just complain on boating forums?

If there have been official complaints what were the results?
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Old 04-14-2014, 06:54 PM   #75
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Bridge tenders and supervisors as well as the bridge commission (if there is one) is reprimanded....well at least chewed out which usually does help.

The USCG takes bridges seriously...but will fry a boater as well for hitting one or not following the rules.
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Old 04-14-2014, 08:03 PM   #76
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The protocol for the whole Lockwoods Folly-Shalotte- Sunset Beach stretch was, and for my money still is, even with the new high rise@ Sunset, go outside from Cape Fear(either from Southport, a nice town, or Bald Head Island) to Little River. Nothing to see there, except a good chance to hit bottom @ the inlet intersections and a bunch of yahoos as your fellow boaters. Same argument can be made for Beaufort to Wrightsville, avoid a bunch of irritating bridges and mostly dull scenery, though Swansboro is a nice little town and the training grounds at Camp Lejeune are unique. Not worth the aggravation IMO.
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Old 04-14-2014, 08:26 PM   #77
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Bridge tenders and supervisors as well as the bridge commission (if there is one) is reprimanded....well at least chewed out which usually does help.

The USCG takes bridges seriously...but will fry a boater as well for hitting one or not following the rules.
I don't think a lot of people complain and while some get talked to I don't believe many get formally reprimanded unless some major malfeasance of duties which is rare.

While it doesn't justify their response in some situations, bridge tenders also put up with a lot. If they don't open, boaters complain. If they do open, car drivers complain. Ultimately whether to wait for others, timing, and those issues are subject to their judgement.

They put up with a lot of crap too. I've seen people want a bridge opened who had 3' extra clearance and didn't know the height of their boat. I've seen people not wanting to lower an antenna that would make it easy for them to clear. On the other hand I've seen bridge tenders get quite agitated over an antenna when the boater was explaining his boat air draft versus the bridge and it still left him over 2' too tall so why go to the trouble of lowering if you won't fit regardless. In South Florida, just as boaters get upset with tenders who don't answer, the tenders really get upset with boaters who won't answer them. A lot of boaters either don't have radios, don't have them on, or don't have them on the right channels, which seems to be the most common situation. I've heard boaters frantically yelling on 16 and act shocked when I told them to switch to 9.
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Old 04-14-2014, 08:33 PM   #78
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I don't think a lot of people complain and while some get talked to I don't believe many get formally reprimanded unless some major malfeasance of duties which is rare. .
With all the complaints I've read on web forums and print sources, I would think that if formal complaints had been filed, the problem would be solved by now.
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Old 04-14-2014, 09:59 PM   #79
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We've got this large mast with the antenna on top, creating a 28' air draft.

The mast holds the cargo boom and is a pain to drop. There is a large bolt that must be removed along with 4 guy-wires, then it's a two-person job to hinge it back.

With the mast dropped we get to 16' air draft. After that, if we dropping the bimini we can get to 13'.

Is it reasonable for a bridge tender to expect us to go through all this? We can do it but just asking what may be expected.

BTW, some GREAT information on this thread. Thanks to all.
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Old 04-14-2014, 10:05 PM   #80
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We've got this large mast with the antenna on top, creating a 28' air draft.

The mast holds the cargo boom and is a pain to drop. There is a large bolt that must be removed along with 4 guy-wires, then it's a two-person job to hinge it back.

With the mast dropped I get to 16' air draft. After that, if we dropping the bimini we can get to 13'.

Is it reasonable for a bridge tender to expect me to go through all this? We can do it but just asking what may be expected.

BTW, some GREAT information on this thread. Thanks to all.
If it is only antennae and an easily folded bimini, yes. A mast with navigation equipment supported by 4 guys-----no.
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