Pictured here are 3 bridges, the large Roosevelt Bridge, the RR Bridge, and the “Old Roosevelt Bridge” (the one that needs to open for boats like ours.)
Free advice… (worth every bit you paid for it) :
1) Monitor VHF-09 at opening bridges in FL! ((Note: Most other states use VHF-13 for bridges.))
2) Do not assume all the other boats are monitoring VHF-09.
3) If possible, know which way the tide’s current will be going when you go, (with you or against you.) Keeping in mind, of course, that the direction of flow will change with the tide, and at times there will be NO flow i.e. at “slack tide!” (i.e. when the current is changing its direction in that spot.)
4) Know which [sometimes complex] opening schedule will be in-place before you get there.
5) Different bridge tenders take different amounts of control over the “situation”.
If you are anchoring or staying nearby, it is also a good idea to monitor 09 for a few hours before you set out … at least on this one bridge.
There may be a few local ‘conventions’ that you might hear about in the chatter that are not found in any of the cruising guides.
For example, as boats “pile up” on both sides of the bridge, the boats going WITH the current generally go though first. (This relates to USCG Inland Rule # 9).
For us (noon opening on a Thursday)… the sched: every 30 minutes on the hour and 30-minute mark. East bound tide with us… (We were leaving Sunset Bay Marina for Vero Beach.)
It seemed that the boats in both directions greeted the bridge tender as they arrived and got courteous acknowledgements.
It seemed like we were in for a well-coordinated opening at the top of the hour.
Several smaller boats kept simply passing without having to wait for the opening.
About 11:55 a large west-bound shrimp trawler (whom none of us east-bounders could see) asked the bridge tender if he could pass through first.
There was some “concern” in his voice about his ability to maintain control of his vessel without making headway near these narrow bridges.
(I thought, “Why don’t old shrimp trawlers have bow thrusters, like we have!”) <grin>
The bridge tender first said, “That is usually worked out between the boaters.” But then she added, “Usually those going against the current wait for those going WITH.”
She then asked the east-bound vessels if we minded if the shrimper and a few west bounders went first. Several of us agreed to the request.
The bridge opened.
A cruiser, who obviously did not have VHF-09 on, put his arms in the air looking at me as if to say, “Why aren’t you going?!?”
I “projected my voice” back to him to turn on channel 9 so he’d know what is going on and there was a large shrimper passing west first. “OK!” He replied, “Thank you.”
Meantime, a large east bound sport fisherman was in-gear heading swiftly for the opened bridge from the rear of the east-bound pack!
The shrimper, in a panic, on his radio shouted, “There isn’t enough room in here for both of us!” Once the large sport fisherman saw a shrimp trawler coming right at him, he quickly put it in reverse and got the hell out of the way… returning to his place in the back if the line!
The shrimper passed, two other larger pleasure craft passed west bound behind him. I asked the bridge tender if there were any other west-bound vessels. She said “No, it is clear to go.”
Shellerina was first in line though most of this ordeal, (except when the sport fisherman decided that he’d try to go first). So we then passed through the small opened bascule bridge, then through the normally open RR bridge, then under the large Roosevelt bridge… now leading a “parade” of a half dozen larger boats east.
While I was calm through it all, now that it was all behind us, my body was telling me, “Now that was stressful!” It took 20-30 minutes to simply feel normal again underway.
One challenge here is not everyone had VHF-09 on!
We all assumed everyone was informed of “The Plan”.
Another challenge, which you can see in the pics, is one cannot see what is happening on the other side of these two small bridge openings.
Lastly, the bridge tenders cannot “take charge” of the situation if everyone isn’t on the same frequency. (And there are limitations as to what we can expect of them.)
Honestly￼ friends, I wouldn’t avoid this bridge, per se; just be as prepared as possible… and, expect the unexpected!
Final note, the (normally open) RR bridge is an active RR bridge with large freight trains passing, including some double high freight cars. (It seems they are more active at night.). But the [complex] bridge opening schedule for the Old Roosevelt Bridge is related to and impacted by the RR bridge’s activity.
Honestly, I could not try to understand ALL the opening rules published for this bridge. (There is also the issue of trusting the source and revision date!) i.e. “I read it on the Internet!!!” <wink>
For me, I just focused on the schedule in-play when we were going to pass. And we generally avoided “rush hour” on week days, as it seemed the opening schedule got more squirrelly at those times.