Monday, December 3, 2007

Bridges of the ICW

For some people they are a nightmare, because you have to estimate your time of arrival constantly and they slow you down. You could plan to get there in time thanks to all your electronics, and drive the boat accordingly. Or, you just get there whenever, burning the fuel necessary, and then wait there “in limbo”, and burn more fuel. Others don’t seem to care much about these obstacles. Maybe because they get lucky each time they have to deal with one. Maybe because they are never in a rush and obtained the right cruising mentality from the start. Mark, Darwin, Kali, and I are indifferent to them. Most of the time anyway, especially when they open on the half hour or on demand. When they only open on the hour, and we are running late, or darkness is hanging over our heads, or the current has already slowed us down so much, this becomes a little bit of an annoyance. Or, when there is a malfunction and you have to fight the strong current to stay put for an indefinite time, and try to not smack into the thing…

Each time we approach a bridge, we call the bridge tender with a request for an opening. Most of the time, we get what we want within five minutes. Sometimes, they want to wait until another boat (not too far away; they have good binoculars) shows up to make the stopping of traffic worthwhile. We always wave to each other and after we pass, we thank the person via VHF. We also noticed (sometimes they even ask over the radio) that they write down the name of the boat and the hauling port every time. Homeland Security is keeping track of every boat!

All kinds of bridges exist. From fixed concrete highway bridges (these are always high enough), to old railroad bridges (almost always open, because of the lack of trains), to swing bridges (they turn on a pivot), bascule bridges (they just open vertically), lift bridges (the whole bridge slides up) or pontoon bridges (a floating bridge moved with cables). Some of these look very interesting. Whether they are speed killers, picturesque or a pain, we still appreciate the fact that they all open at one time or another, stopping “the kings of the road” to let us through on our way south!

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