1. When approaching a bridge always monitor the local bridge frequency on VHF, as well as channel 16. These change as you enter different states. For example, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia use channel 13, South Carolina and Florida use channel 09.
2. Believe it or not, many boaters don’t even know which bridge they’re approaching and call out the name for a wrong bridge when requesting an opening. Have an UP TO DATE guide book with bridge listings, including bridge names and schedules. Even schedule listings updated annually will sometimes be wrong because of late breaking changes.
3. Whenever the Coast Guard comes on with “Securitee” announcements, follow them to the designated working channel (usually 22A). These often contain announcements about unexpected bridge closings.
4. It is illegal to request unnecessary openings. Law requires that we not ask a bridge for an opening if, by lowering our outriggers and antennas (if practical), we can safely get under. Some jurisdictions are aggressive about fining operators of boats who break this rule.
5. Most bridges have tide boards on their fenders showing vertical clearance in the span through which you’re supposed to pass. (This is usually the highest span, it is protected by wood fender structures, usually with red lights at the ends, and there is usually a green light hanging down from the middle, overhead.) Some tide boards refer to the vertical clearance at the center of this span; some refer to the lowest part of this span. The lowest areas are usually toward the side. Sometimes the very middle will have more vertical clearance, but watch that light hanging down. Check it out carefully if there is a question.
6. Know bridge sound signals and light configurations. Assume that bridge lights might not always be operating.
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Copyright 2004-2010 Tom Neale