Sunday, September 13, 2009


Well, let's be honest. We weren't always feelin' groovy when navigating the hundreds of bridges along the Intracoastal Waterway (the ICW). But there was just no fighting it. The bridges with their varied and sometimes confusing restrictions, and the bridge masters with their varied and sometimes crusty personalities, were just part of the journey. Smile and relax - just "slow down, you move too fast”. All those bridges were definitely going to "make the morning last".

There are two main types of bridges along the ICW, fixed bridges and opening bridges. The fixed bridges are built 65 feet off the water, but tides, wind, and rainfall affect the actual clearance.

As we approached a fixed bridge, we used the binoculars to check the water height boards, which told us how the water variables affected the bridge clearance.

In this case, the water level was up a bit, but we still had 64 feet of clearance - plenty of room for our 62 foot mast. But we discovered an important rule.

DO NOT LOOK UP. Geoff saw our VHF antenna at the top of the mast bobble as we passed under one of the bridges. I was otherwise occupied. Intentionally.

The other type of bridge on the ICW is the opening bridge. The most common is the bascule bridge, which consists of one or more spans hinged at one end while the other end rises vertically. This was our approach to the single bascule bridge at New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

So plenty of open sky, but check out the right to left clearance. And there are boats in front of you and boats behind you, all jockeying for position and fighting the currents that make passage interesting around the bridges.

The opening bridges offered a whole new exercise in math and patience. I quite enjoyed playing with the mileages and bridge restrictions to plot our day’s progress. But the restrictions varied from one bridge to the next.

- opens on request
- opens on request, except for am/pm traffic rush hours
- opens every hour on the hour
- opens every half hour, top and bottom
- opens every half hour, quarter to and quarter after
- opens every fifteen minutes

Our favourite restriction was for railroad bridges – “open unless train coming”. How very good to know.
Especially for the train.

1 comment:

  1. Pat, we're truly enjoying your writing. Geoff, great pics. Great fun to re-live the ICW bridges. Do we have the division of labour correct or do you switch about? Wondering if you've been watching that Simon & Garfunkel DVD at CCB. Trish & Robert