Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bridge Weenie

I confess. I've been a full time cruiser for nearly two years now and I still hate bridges. Taking a boat on which is everything you own, with a large pointy stick on it, under a fixed barricade which may or may be accurately measured, which may or may not be marked at all or, even better, which may be openable and manned by someone who may or may not feel up to par that day? Sheer madness. There. I said it. But apart from the admittedly rare accidents involving bridges, I do have justifiable reasons to feel that way, even though Tim thinks I'm overly dramatic on the subject.

On our way down the ICW in 2013 we drew near a bascule bridge and made the requisite call to the operator who assured us she would open the span when we were a little closer. We had both wind and a 2 knot current behind us, neither of which impressed her. "Keep coming Captain and I'll open it when you get here". We kept creeping up. We were nearly to the bumpers and still the bridge was not opened. Full power reverse and some sweaty palms later and the bridge finally opened, accompanied by the expletives of The Captain. Most bridge tenders are efficient, polite, and easy to deal with. But the few who are not are the ones you remember.

Fast forward year and we were sitting in a restaurant on the New River in Ft. Lauderdale happily munching on a cheeseburger on their outside deck. Our table had a premeir view of one of the many railroad bridges that line that waterway, in front of which perched a large LED digital sign. The sign began a readout about an approaching train in 15 minutes. The warning repeated itself in bright red letters accompanied by an audible alarm as the countdown began. It reassured me some.

Fast forward again to Tuesday as we worked our way up the last several miles of the ICW. The last three bridges are two railroad bridges with a fixed highway bridge in between, all in the space of less than a mile. The railroad bridges are normally open, and only close when a train needs to cross. They are manned remotely from someone's desk in an office miles away. They have no sign, no lights, no bells, whistles, or other alarms. The only warning is an announcement on VHF channel 13. We had heard an announcement that the second railroad bridge was going to close in ten minutes so our plan was to go through the first railroad bridge and hold in the larger space before the highway fixed bridge rather than the smaller space before the closed railroad bridge. We crept under the first one and drew the Westerbeast down to idle as we coasted along. There was very little current and even less wind so we just drifted along waiting for the span to reopen. At some point Tim turned around and looked behind him to see the railroad bridge we had just come under lowering to closed position...absolutely silently. No bells, no sirens, no lights, no screeching metal, nothing. We somehow missed the announcement for that bridge closure in the clutter of transmissions for all of the bridges on the river. We missed the closing by mere minutes. It was enough to give me a shudder down my spine.

And if you think I'm being overly dramatic, I present this picture of one of the bridges we passed under. It had two temporary metal supports holding it up. Yeah. Doesn't that fill you with confidence?

Yes, I'm a bridge weenie. Bridges are an integral part of cruising, but I, for one, am completely happy to be done with them for at least the next several months.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

I wonder if you could double-check a bridge clearance as you approached with one of those electronic measuring devices(Laser maybe? I forget)that hardware stores sell. Of course, if it worked at all, it wouldn't give you more than a few seconds to change your mind, but it might be reassuring. I find I cannot judge my mast height against a bridge at all--and my boat is much much smaller.