Wednesday, November 13, 2013

bridge games

Bridges and sailboats don't mix. Part of what makes the trip down the ICW so grueling is the 8 jillion bridges of every shape and size you need to pass under, through and around. When you sail the open ocean or the Chesapeake Bay, you never think about it. Head down a river though and all of the sudden you're faced with this.

Here on the lovely Severn River on the Chesapeake there are two bridges to pass under before really getting into the river. And passing under means making sure your mast can clear the center bridge span. Every year you read of some boat getting dismasted under a bridge. Either they tried for a side span, didn't check the charts, miscalculated their mast height, or literally fell asleep at the wheel.

A prudent sailor never, EVER passed under a bridge without consulting a chart to confirm the clearance height. And then you need to consider the tidal range as well depending on how many feet you might have to spare from the tip of your mast and the instruments that perch on top of her, to the steel and stone underside of a bridge.

But as you approach you begin to fall victim to the mind game of perception. Hmmmmmmm....

Everyone is watching carefully. Oooooo, a bridge. Hmmmm, is our mast growing or is that bridge shrinking?
"Mama, dat don't look right."

And then the big psyche out. We're gonna HIT!!!!!!!!!!!! (remember, boats don't have breaks...)

You open one eye and look up and wonder why you don't hear a crash and a scrape. Oh, wait we cleared. Yes of course we cleared. It's a 75 foot bridge and our mast is 63 feet. Exhale.

Even though I know, it gets me every time.

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