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You are watching: What do you need to know when passing under a river bridge?

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On my recent trip down to the Chesapeake Bay from my home town north of Philadelphia, I had to go under a train bridge that I have requested an opening for several times in the past. The surprise this dreary 55 degree spring morning at high tide was that the response to the request for an opening from the Delair Train bridge was that the bridge was under repair and was not able to open. From the advertisement when I bought the boat, I was aware that the height above the water is 47 feet 2 inches on my boat. Could this really be trusted? The bridge operator said there was 49 feet showing but the tide was still coming in. It was another 45 minutes by the time I got to the bridge. It was showing 47 feet when we arrived. This was of course too close for comfort so I did a circle close to the bridge to see how close it actually was. For anyone who has ever done this it is very difficult to tell from the cockpit if you are going to hit or not, so we pulled away and headed back to the nearest Yacht Club up river from the bridge to wait for the tide to go down a few feet.Bridesburg Yacht Club was more than generous and accommodating to our plight and allowed us to stay on their dock for a few hours. In the mean time we sent a rope to the top of the mast and measured it. Next we added the length from the top of the deck to the water. The result was close to 47 feet when we added the wind vane and antenna. At about 11:00 we were ready for another try at the bridge. It showed 49 feet when we came up to it. Enough is as good as a feast of course but caution was called for just in case so I approached the bridge sideways and actually backed threw because of the strong current. My reasoning was that if we did hit, I would have better control moving forward into the current than if I had to pull back in reverse. My crew razed me for being too cautious and making a crazy maneuver under the bridge. What do you think? Should I have just gone for it?
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All U Get.
Oct 2, 20083,566Pearson/530Strafford, NH
May 13, 2016


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We have a mast of 63 feet and have lights, etc. on the masthead so we need 64+ to get under any bridge. The Atlantic ICW has accurate tide boards for nearly all the bridges and we routinely slow, stop, or turn around for any that don"t read above 64 feet. We"ve had other boats pass us while going under causing a wake which nearly caused damage to our boat on several occasions. We also call other boats on the radio to get tide board readings before getting close to a bridge so we can anchor or find a marina to wait for the tide to lower. You made a good choice of waiting. Your next choice is the crew members allowed back on the next trip.All U Get