East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

Dominion Boulevard Bridge (AKA “Steel Bridge”), ICW Mile 8.8 in Chesapeake VA Proposed Restriction:
A year and a half ago new rush hour weekday restrictions were placed on all the bridges in the Norfolk/Portsmouth/Chesapeake, VA area. While the Jordan and Gilmerton Bridges continued “on request” during the remainder of the day, the Steel Bridge was placed on further restriction, opening once an hour on the half hour during the daytime, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Then there was a temporary test period of that same schedule a few months ago.

This is a busy bridge for both vehicles and boats. There is commercial tug and barge activity on both sides of the bridge. At least one local TV station has had several features about boats disrupting the flow of traffic, and recently proclaimed that they have now won a victory. The Coast Guard has proposed to change the morning rush hour closure period so that it starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 9 a.m. (this starts and ends a half hour later than the current restriction), and also allow the bridge to open every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. They say that the proposed change is necessary to relieve vehicular traffic congestion and reduce traffic delays between weekday rush hours while still providing for the reasonable needs of navigation.

You can send comments on this bridge proposal to:
Commander, Fifth Coast Guard District
431 Crawford Street
Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704-5004
Attention: obr

Send comments no later than June 24, 2005. A copy of Public Notice 5-1043, which describes the proposal in detail, can be obtained by writing to the address above or by calling (757) 398-6222.

Since we have been in the range of the local TV traffic reports (about two weeks now and last summer also), we have noticed that there are usually daily announcements of several rush hour openings of the four restricted bridges in the area. This would be due to commercial traffic passing through the Great Bridge Lock, or ships, tugs and barges going about their usual business in this busy port. If you are passing through and want to catch one of these bridge openings, watch the early morning news on TV (try Channel 10). It is sometimes not permitted for pleasure vessels to lock through Great Bridge with commercial traffic. Check with the lock before you make plans (VHF 13 or 757.547.3311).

Morehead City NC Railroad Bridge, Mile 203.8--Closed AGAIN:
The Coast Guard has informed us (5th District LNM 05/21, dated May 24, 2005) that the Morehead City Railroad Bridge at Mile 203.8 is closed for emergency repairs from May16 through June 15, 2005, Monday through Friday, from 7 p.m. through 6 a.m. This is the same bridge that was closed for routine maintenance between April 11 and May 16, 2005, again during the weekday nighttime hours. This bridge is adjacent to the Route 70 high level bridge at Morehead City.

The LNM advises that an alternate route is available through Gallants Channel in Beaufort. We have taken this route through Beaufort numerous times in the past, most recently in May 2004. While the conditions described next were in effect then, you should check with the Coast Guard at Fort Macon or one of the local towing companies (such as TowBoatUS) for the latest information before entering Beaufort, especially if it is your first time. There is a timed drawbridge along this route, the Beaufort Bridge, opening every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with no openings Monday through Friday between 6:30 and 8 a.m. and 4:30 and 6 p.m.; otherwise on signal. The correct exit channel from Beaufort back to the ICW northbound is a naturally deep channel recently marked and commonly called the “Russell Slough Channel.” The old dredged portion of the Gallants Channel which used to join the ICW in a straight line northwest from Town Creek to Marker “35” is no longer marked and is shoal (this is still shown as a viable channel on some charts). There is a “Danger” white and orange beacon indicating that shoal. Northbound, the Russell Slough Channel is entered after exiting Town Creek at Gallants Point, taking a turn to the northeast at Marker “7”. It is well marked and joins the ICW at Marker “29”.

Causton Bluff Bridge, GA, Mile 579.9 Still Closed:
Yes, it’s still closed and work continues. Today I spoke to the bridgetender on duty at the Causton Bluff Bridge. He said that the work would probably take about three more weeks, depending somewhat upon weather. With 21 ft of vertical clearance at the bridge combined with a tidal range of around 8 ft, most vessels are unaffected by the closure. The bridge tender reports that the boards showing vertical clearance can be seen from both sides of the bridge. Most sailboats still have to go out in the ocean to bypass. See East Coast Alerts, April 29, 2005 for further info on available routes.

Boca Raton Inlet, FL, Mile 1048: Shoaling
Most of us just cruising through Florida wouldn’t use Boca Raton Inlet anyway. We now have further incentive to not even think about it. The Coast Guard has cautioned (7th District LNM 07/21) that “severe shoaling has been reported at the entrance to Boca Raton Inlet. Passage without local knowledge is not recommended.”

Miami River, FL, Mile 1090 (Off the ICW), Dredging Operations:
While the following announcement sounds like just your normal dredging operation, anyone who has ever transited any part of the Miami River would know that it is a big deal. This is a very congested working waterfront, with a huge concentration of coastal freighters, commercial fishing boats, various pleasure vessels from kayaks to mega yachts, working tugs, and lots of Homeland Security. It is so narrow that the freighters cannot turn around. Small tugs maneuver them up the river and into their berths bow first, past rows of freighters berthed on either side, with only inches to spare. When the freighters have finished their business of unloading and loading, the tugs then maneuver them back out of the river, stern first. Numerous bridges must be negotiated, some opening on a schedule (my chart shows 10 bascule and 3 fixed in the total length of the river). There is no space for turning, and just barely enough for the small tugs to do their work.

The Coast Guard 7th District LNM 07/21 announced that the Weston/Bean Joint Venture will commence dredging operations on the Miami River beginning on or about May 20, 2005. The work will start between the 27th Avenue Bridge and the Salinity Dam and will continue downstream to the mouth of the river. The dredge BARREDOR DEL RIO will be moored on three (3) spuds and will be loading barges measuring 35’ X 195’. The barges will be transported by tug to an upland facility located at 3640 NW North River Drive. Towing will be performed by P&L Towing of Miami. This operation will be on going from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., May 20-27, 2005, and ongoing twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week until the year 2006. The dredge and all attendant plants will monitor VFH Channels 9, 13 and 16. All mariners are advised to use extreme caution and transit the area at their slowest safe speed to create minimum wake. For further information contact project manager Mr. Jeffrey B. McWilliams at (504) 259-6528.

This information is not to be used for navigation. Consult the latest charts and Local Notices to Mariners and use prudent seamanship. Any person or entity that uses this information in any way, as a condition of that use, agrees to waive and does waive any and all claims which may arise from that use.

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale