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Old 10-30-2021, 05:37 PM   #1
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Rules of the Road Ruling Needed

If this is too long just ignore... but I'd like some advice.

Let me describe the situation. South Florida, northbound on the ICW approaching a drawbridge with a 35' height and 90' width, big bridge. I'm operating a 52' MY and require 21' clearance so I don't need an opening. I'm in a slow zone with a mild current at my stern. I'm going only fast enough to maintain control of the boat, which is slightly above idle speed. I'm monitoring Ch 16 only. I see on the other side of the bridge a roughly 30' monohull sailboat with no sails and under power about 100 yds north of the bridge, facing west, which was into the wind and broadside to the bridge, but in a wide area. He was fine where he was. When I'm about 75 yds south of the bridge, heading north, it begins to open, presumably for the sailboat. However the sailboat does not begin to turn south and remains facing west until the bridge is fully opened. Seeing that, I continue north, hugging the right (east) side of the channel which would allow ample room for both of us to pass and as I am clearing the bridge he turns and begins south from about 100 yds away. We pass port to port about 75 yds north of the bridge and then the bridgetender hails me on 16 and tells me that this is a no wake zone, that I should be monitoring Ch 9 (the bridgetender channel in Florida) and that the sailboat has the right-of way. I reply that the sailboat had not even begun his approach when I passed under the bridge and that I had done nothing wrong. He advised that the USCG monitors this channel and that I could take it up with them. I followed this up with a phone call to the bridgetender when I was back in port. He maintained he was right, that I'm required to monitor Ch 9 when in the ICW and that once the sailboat received an opening they had the right-of-way.

So, my questions are:

1) Am I required to monitor Ch9 in the ICW in Florida. I understand that I hail the bridgetender on 9 but I did not need an opening.

2) I know that a sailboat under power is a powerboat but does a boat actually get special privilege because they have an opening? There was more than enough width for us to both pass safely under the bridge. I'm a good operator and in spite of having the current astern I was way over to my side, leaving more than 2/3 of the width for the sailboat.

3) Lastly, I was operating at the minimum speed required to maintain control of the boat, passing under a bridge. Regardless of the wake I left, which was minimal was I wrong? There were no marinas or docks near the bridge.

Thoughts? Opinions? Advice?

I want to be a good operator, and I believe I am. I received my 50 ton USCG License and ran Dive Charter boats here for about 5 years in the late 80's, early 90's and have had a boat in this area ever since. I'm not a novice but I'm beginning to wonder if I was in the right or in the wrong. I honestly wouldn't do anything differently, other than possibly monitoring Ch 9 when I approached the bridge, and that's a maybe.
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Old 10-30-2021, 06:02 PM   #2
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Having not been on site... Several items in your post I'll not take a stand on. However, will say [agree with you] that sail boat under power is then considered to receive/have same water/navigation rights as a power boat under power.

Looking forward to other's posts.
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Old 10-30-2021, 06:40 PM   #3
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The will be an over generalization but it has been my experience that a lot of bridge tenders will go to great lengths to increase their feelings of self worth and importance. They make you wait when there is no traffic, they act difficult when there is no need, and will never miss an opportunity to belittle someone.

Their sole purpose in life is to open a bridge, and when you give them the chance to do their job, they act like you are asking for an audience with the pope.

You can all jump on me for stereotyping people and you will be 100% correct. I know I am doing it. I know its wrong. I know my best self would not make such judgements. I am not that enlightened yet. There are still a few occupations that if I met you at a party and you said "Hi....I'm a ( insert job title here )" I would just walk away. Bridge tender tops that list.
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Old 10-30-2021, 06:51 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Benthic2 View Post
...
Their sole purpose in life is to open a bridge, and when you give them the chance to do their job, they act like you are asking for an audience with the pope....
Never had that experience at the Mare Island bridge.

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Old 10-30-2021, 06:57 PM   #5
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Without sails it's a power boat.

You should have dual monitored 16 and 9 coming to the bridge. It's not a law. When you saw the sailboat and or the bridge openings, you definitely should have monitored 9.

I don't know for sure but believe a bridge tender has authority over traffic going through his OPEN span. This would be similar to a lock master.

You are atleast partly at fault for not coming to a passing agreement with the sailboat in a restricted waterway. He is also at fault unless given sole authority to transit the open span.

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Old 10-30-2021, 07:04 PM   #6
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That he used the term "right of way" shows he's wrong right out of the gate. There's no such thing as "right of way" when it comes to being on the water. There's stand on and give way. I'm of the opinion the only factor that could differentiate in that situation, with both vessels being powered, would be the bridge clearance and depths needed by the sailboat (and possibly currents). That touching on a vessel being constrained by navigational limits. But it doesn't sound like that was at issue there. Sounds like the bridgetender got it wrong.

Question is how much noise do you want to make to see that corrected? Life's complicated enough without overzealous employees hassling people for no good reason. Rain on his parade a bit, file a complaint. Might do nothing, but might be the one that tips the balance and gets him replaced.
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Old 10-30-2021, 07:23 PM   #7
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If he actually used the term "right of way" he was automatically wrong. There is no such thing as "right of way" except with a power driven vessel (which you both were) downbound with a following current on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, or waters specified by the Secretary (of Homeland Security.) Which you were not. All you were required to do was hold to the right side of the channel and pass port to port, which you did. As for monitoring Ch 9, maybe a good idea, but I don't think required. Ch 9 is designated by the FCC as an OPTIONAL recreational hailing channel. Sure the bridge tender would have preferred you to be on 9, but if he really wanted to talk to you he could have tried 16. His bad. As far as I know if you don't need the bridge opened you don't need to talk to it. I never have. But then I usually have my radio scanning 9, 16, and any others used by bridges, locks, or commercial vessels in the area. My commercial vessels have all had two radios one on 16 the other on 13 as required in my area of operation.
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Old 10-30-2021, 07:40 PM   #8
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The bridge tender went to MSU, "Make Stuff Up".


Monitor Ch 9 required? No. Prudent, Yes.

"Right of Way" term has been gone for decades.

CG Monitoring Ch 9? No.

Sailboat under power is a powerboat even if sails are up.

And in FL, the bridge tenders tell the requesting vessel to stay outside the fenders until the bridge reaches full up. At least they did in 2020.

Let it go. It seems the only person that had any issue was the bridge tender based on his own bad training.
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Old 10-30-2021, 07:50 PM   #9
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The bridge tender went to MSU, "Make Stuff Up".


Monitor Ch 9 required? No. Prudent, Yes.

"Right of Way" term has been gone for decades.

CG Monitoring Ch 9? No.

Sailboat under power is a powerboat even if sails are up.

Let it go.
Back when I was volunteering with the USCGAux, they didn't even have ch 9 available. Didn't even have real marine radios, they were custom built Motorola's with only 16, 22, 23, 81, 83 and a "secret" channel at ten times the cost. Your Government at work. May be different now though, that was 20 years ago.
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Old 10-30-2021, 07:57 PM   #10
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Concur with the above. I have never heard of a mandate to monitor Channel 09, but when operating in the ICW, especially around other traffic, and especially around a drawbridge, it's good practice. In congested waterways, especially on weekends, Channel 16 long ago became a hopeless cacophony. Best practice is to scan 09, 13 and 16, but I have to admit that in congested waters, I tune-out most of what I probably ought to be monitoring on 16.

Scrupulously correct VHF practice or not, it sounds as though your maneuvers were early and unambiguous enough to avoid misunderstanding or conflict. That bridgetender must have been having a slow / bad day.
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Old 10-30-2021, 08:11 PM   #11
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Right of way can be a local navigational rule. Other places besides western rivers use the term and for all I know it could be under that bridge too.

While I understand people who say it's not a term in the Navrules (which it is used), but I would be careful of those posts and read coast pilots for every new transit. There is no constrained by draft in Inland waters of the US.

I have never heard that you must monitor the bridge working channel, but it is bad seamanship not to. Lots of boats with no radios go through all the time.

The bridgetender I don't think has the same authority as a lock master, but again, local navrules may assign some authority to assign traffic flow.

If you weren't creating a wake, don't worry about it......as no one can prove you were unless video shows it or a LEO observes it.

Rule 2 would probably be more important here than the one saying a sailboat under power is just another powerboat.

Rule 2 discusses good seamanship and lack of or inapplicable rules for the situation. Good seamanship is dependent on the situation and without being there to see the bridge opening and sailboat placement....almost impossible for an internet guess. Doesn't matter what you thought, if the sailboat and the bridgetender thought the sailboat needed the center to clear and you made that uncomfortable.

Did you break a law? I don't think so and the bridgetender can't really be a judge either (heck they are always saying that they aren't the captain and can't give out nav advice).

PS....if that was the north bridge near Jupiter Inlet, Fl....there was a couple years ago a real walker of a bridge tender. He claimed he was going to get the USCG to fine me $25,000 for requesting an uneeded opening. He claimed I could make it easy though the middle, but when I said there was oncoming traffic under the bridge, could he assure me the middle....well of course you know that tuned into a passing contest. The south bromide just opened no questions asked and this guy obviously heard that radio exchange. Thus I agree about some bridgetenders with a power complex.
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Old 10-30-2021, 08:28 PM   #12
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I actually didn't interpret the tenders statement that sail had priority over power. But rather the vessel that requested an opening had priority. Sounds like the tender was cranky yjst day.

BTW - for Western Rivers, the vessel headed downstream has right of way, a term that is indeed used in the nav rules. Doesn't apply here, but as Psneeld states, RoW is not as much of an anachronism as I thought. .


https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=rightOfWay

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Old 10-30-2021, 08:56 PM   #13
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mild current at my stern
Heading downstream? If there is a consideration for right of way, a boat going with the current should have priority.
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Old 10-30-2021, 09:32 PM   #14
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If you had a mild current at your stern then you were heading downstream and you had the right of way. Apparently the sailboat agreed as he waited for you to pass through.

I have my handheld set to scan 9/13. If there's too much chatter I turn the volume way down, up as I approach a bridge.

If there is a white buoy marked No Wake then it is no wake. No wake is whatever a law enforcement officer decides it is. Bridge tender is not LEO. Ignore him. (A Hatteras si going to leave a huge wake while drifting :-)
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Old 10-30-2021, 11:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PAllen529 View Post
If this is too long just ignore... but I'd like some advice.

Let me describe the situation. South Florida, northbound on the ICW approaching a drawbridge with a 35' height and 90' width, big bridge. I'm operating a 52' MY and require 21' clearance so I don't need an opening. I'm in a slow zone with a mild current at my stern. I'm going only fast enough to maintain control of the boat, which is slightly above idle speed. I'm monitoring Ch 16 only. I see on the other side of the bridge a roughly 30' monohull sailboat with no sails and under power about 100 yds north of the bridge, facing west, which was into the wind and broadside to the bridge, but in a wide area. He was fine where he was. When I'm about 75 yds south of the bridge, heading north, it begins to open, presumably for the sailboat. However the sailboat does not begin to turn south and remains facing west until the bridge is fully opened. Seeing that, I continue north, hugging the right (east) side of the channel which would allow ample room for both of us to pass and as I am clearing the bridge he turns and begins south from about 100 yds away. We pass port to port about 75 yds north of the bridge and then the bridgetender hails me on 16 and tells me that this is a no wake zone, that I should be monitoring Ch 9 (the bridgetender channel in Florida) and that the sailboat has the right-of way. I reply that the sailboat had not even begun his approach when I passed under the bridge and that I had done nothing wrong. He advised that the USCG monitors this channel and that I could take it up with them. I followed this up with a phone call to the bridgetender when I was back in port. He maintained he was right, that I'm required to monitor Ch 9 when in the ICW and that once the sailboat received an opening they had the right-of-way.

So, my questions are:

1) Am I required to monitor Ch9 in the ICW in Florida. I understand that I hail the bridgetender on 9 but I did not need an opening.

2) I know that a sailboat under power is a powerboat but does a boat actually get special privilege because they have an opening? There was more than enough width for us to both pass safely under the bridge. I'm a good operator and in spite of having the current astern I was way over to my side, leaving more than 2/3 of the width for the sailboat.

3) Lastly, I was operating at the minimum speed required to maintain control of the boat, passing under a bridge. Regardless of the wake I left, which was minimal was I wrong? There were no marinas or docks near the bridge.

Thoughts? Opinions? Advice?

I want to be a good operator, and I believe I am. I received my 50 ton USCG License and ran Dive Charter boats here for about 5 years in the late 80's, early 90's and have had a boat in this area ever since. I'm not a novice but I'm beginning to wonder if I was in the right or in the wrong. I honestly wouldn't do anything differently, other than possibly monitoring Ch 9 when I approached the bridge, and that's a maybe.
1. Not required to even have a VHF. However, it's definitely good practice to monitor all channels used by bridge tenders and lockmasters wherever you are and you should have monitored Channel 9 as a matter of good practice, not law or rule.

2. The fact it was a sailboat had no importance although could have played a role in limited maneuverability even under power. The issue was a bridge opening for the sailboat. You didn't need the bridge opened, but they did. The bridge tenders are under pressure to minimize opening times and so providing free clearance to those needing it makes sense. You should have yielded to the sailboat needing the opening as you could pass with the bridge down.

3. I can't judge your wake and don't know the zone you were in as we have both "no wake" which is minimum speed to maintain control as you described and "slow speed, minimum wake" in Florida. As I believe you were making your best effort, I can't imagine your wake was a problem except to the Bridge Tender who was mad at you for other reasons.

So, were you wrong in anything, not really, but can you improve with monitoring channel 9 and monitoring other key channels in other locations, yes. We needed a map to monitor correctly the channels on the River Thames as it changed along the way and maps they publish make it clear-almost. Different systems in the US have different practices but anywhere there's a bridge or lock, there's likely a channel. Add marinas monitoring specific channels.

As to bridge tenders, let's mention lockmasters first. We've been amazed at the tolerance of lockmasters when we've seen boaters who really didn't deserve to be treated so nicely. On the whole, an A+ in being nice. We haven't seen the same overall from Bridge Tenders. The majority are cordial but some are just bitter sounding. I think part of it is they are given (in their minds) a hard time by road drivers and boaters. They show the stress. They also seem to show fear of their superiors whether they should or not. However, in South Florida, they're really sticklers for the timing and only open when scheduled and sticklers for opening if height doesn't require it and they try to judge from a distance. We know them well by now and they're decent always to us but we hear them with others. We've only had one incident and it was one tried to give a female captain a hard time and he regretted that after she was through with him.

So, I think you can improve but nothing you did to deserve chastising, just perhaps a little education on Channel 9 and clearance procedures which could have been done nicely.
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Old 10-31-2021, 03:02 PM   #16
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You said you cleared the bridge before the sailboat even made his approach, so it doesn't sound like you in anyway inhibited the sail boat. Not that it matters, because I don't know of anything that would give him priority over you anyway. If anything, good seamanship would give you priority if required since you are running down current.


The only thing I would suggest reading up on is the coast pilot for the area and the bridge to see if there are any location-specific rules.


As for Ch 9, I agree with others that there are no requirements, but good seamanship says to monitor so you are aware of what other bridge traffic is doing.
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Old 10-31-2021, 04:31 PM   #17
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Unless the tide was ripping, without a meeting agreement between vessels reached or confirmation by a bridgetender, thinking you have a following current can be deceiving.

I have been in situations where current back eddie's or near points where the tide is changing direction can cause vessels going in different directions to "assume" they have the following current. I know that sounds a bit unreasonable...but it has happened to me on more than one occasion.

Thus alway good to know who is going first with any special requirements. More than a few bridges I have been through the bridgetender does assign priority to one set of boats or the other.....which makes sense to me.
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Old 10-31-2021, 05:45 PM   #18
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Wow. Sounds like I should take a lawn chair, cigar and a scotch and watch the show!

Based on other comment, sounds like you did it correctly.
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Old 10-31-2021, 05:53 PM   #19
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There is a bridge entering Gloucester harbor and a local rule that the boats entering the harbor go first and the boats exiting the harbor go after. I am not sure who's authority created the rule or who would administer discipline for violating it, but everyone seems to understand it and act appropriately.

Perhaps there was a similar local rule that the OP was unaware of ??

It seems like a "Please monitor Ch 9" sign would do everyone some good at this bridge.
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Old 10-31-2021, 06:00 PM   #20
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We could have a new Y-Tube channel, Drawbridge Wars!
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