Thursday, February 26, 2015


One of the more interesting, exciting, sometimes frustrating aspects of travel on the ICW are bridges, specifically bridges that need to open or lift in order for us to pass. We have encountered bascule bridges, swing bridges, lift bridges and even a pontoon bridge. Some bridges will open for you "on demand", some open only on a strict hourly schedule, some won't open at all during rush hours!
Every evening we plan the next leg of our trip by reviewing charts (maps), tide and weather. Bridge information is included on the chart with specifications of clearance so can plan accordingly ahead of time.

The Gilmerton Bridge (pictured below) south of Norfolk was our first "opening required" bridge. We had to delay our morning departure from Norfolk to get there after 9:30 rush hour when the bridge would open. 

Newer built bridges have a vertical clearance of 65 ft! We love these newer "fixed" bridges that accommodate our 55 ft mast nicely. I read that as bridges are replaced on the ICW they will build fixed spans that do not require opening.

 If you want a bridge to open you need to use the right language on the right channel of the VHF radio. The "right" channel changes from state to state.

"Ladies Island Bridge, Ladies Island Bridge this is southbound sailing vessel Sirene."
"Ladies Island Bridge go ahead cap'n."
"Good morning, this is sailing vessel Sirene S-I-R-E-N-E, hailing port Newport, RI requesting an opening please."
"Sirene I have you in sight. When you are closer I'll open up."

The getting closer part can be tricky. We try to time our approach to opening bridges with a little bit of current against us to give more control to our approach, if we get too close too soon we just go to idle and let the current push us back a bit. We've waited at some bridges perilously close to getting swept down into them while we watch cars crossing the bridge and knowing it will be at least a few minutes from cars being stopped to bridge opening. The bridge-tender's definition of "close" is often very different from ours. Once the bridge opens, we sigh with relief, and motor through the opening.

"Ladies Island Bridge, Sirene clear, thank you very much."
"You're welcome cap'n. Y'all have a good day now."

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