19 November 2011

Nothing Bad Happened Today

…unless you count worrying about tomorrow.

100 down, many hundreds to go
It had been a good day, nothing (with the exception of the freezer door) broke.  We made our first hundred miles and we’d made such good time, we considered cruising right past our planned anchorage and going the 31 miles to the next one.  Jane read about the “road” up ahead in one of our three guidebooks.  This is what it said:

“At mile 125.9 you pass under the high-level Wilkerson Bridge, which has a 64-foot fixed vertical clearance, a foot less than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ authorized vertical clearance at mean high water.  Sailors with masts over 60 feet should know the exact their exact height mast with antennas and exercise extreme caution when passing under the bridge.  The slight tidal range here may or may not provide the extra clearance required for safe passage.  In April 2008 the tide boards were missing from this bridge so check locally for information.  Hurricane Isabel in 2003 indicated that the water had risen to the 60-foot vertical clearance line on the tide boards on the Wilkerson Bridge; use caution in the area.”

Our mast height is 64 feet—we thought, we’d heard our broker mention.  Why don’t we know that?  Probably because we believed that all the ICW bridges were at the required 65 feet and we knew we’d pass under those without a problem.  Now, we might have a problem.  Hmmm, was that 64 feet to the top of the mast, to the top of the anchor light, or to the top of the antenna?  Snapping off our VHF antenna would be bad.  Breaking our anchor light would be bad.  Dismasting our boat would put a quick and terrifying end to our adventure, not to mention the risk to our personal safety and to that of the cats should the mast and rigging come crashing back onto the cabin and cockpit. 
·         Contact the bridge tender for information.  Oops, fixed bridge; no tender.
·         Contact the Coast Guard to see if they had current information on the water level at the bridge.  But what if they told us it was 62 or 63 feet?  What then?  Maybe our mast was short enough to go through anyway.
·         Contact a marina near the bridge to see if they had updated information about the tide boards and knew what time high and low tide was for the area.  
·         Call Joy’s previous owners.  They would surely know.  It was, according to Tommy, our broker (and now friend, as well), they who had cut the mast down to 64 feet in order to be ICW friendly.  Good, but we would incur roaming charges.  Moot, because we didn’t have their number with us.
·         Email them.  Same deal with regard to roaming charges and no guarantee they’d see the email or respond right away.  We’d be stuck where were we until we heard from them.  Additionally, it would only solve the problem if the mast height was below the lowest possible height of the bridge, which we couldn’t know ahead of time..
·         Go back up to the nearest inlet to the Atlantic and cruise down to the coast to south of the damn bridge.  That would be backtracking.  Unacceptable.
·         Just go for it and hope for the best.  We only considered it for a minute.

Anchored off Tuckahoe Point (ICW Mile 104)
We opted for calling a local marina and emailing Steve and Rene’.  From the marina we learned that the tide boards had been replaced, but that there was no tide there.  A good blow could increase the height of the water in the canal by a foot or so, but other than that there was no way to predict what we’d have when we got there.  We could only hope that we’d get a response to our email without having to delay our journey.

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