Gephyrophobia (pronounced Jeff-ee-ro-pho-bia) – or more simply put…a fear of bridges. I have this. I am afraid of driving across bridges. I am afraid of going under bridges. I have this irrational (maybe…maybe not!) fear that the bridge will fall as I’m crossing over or under it, leading to my untimely demise. And now, in addition to my fear of bridges, I’ve also acquired a very strong distaste for them. (I would use the word hate here, but I’m really trying to eliminate that word from my vocabulary.)
In the span of approximately 128 nautical miles from Indiantown, Florida to Biscayne Bay near Miami, Florida, we had a total of 55 bridges to deal with in one manner or another over a period of five days (total travel time of approximately 33.5 hours). That was about 55 bridges too many for me! The first day as we headed from Indiantown back to the ICW and our first anchorage on Peck Lake wasn’t tooooo bad….only 12 bridges in total and of those, nine were fixed height bridges with plenty of clearance for us to breeze right under, two were railway bridges which are left open unless a train is going through (and we hit them both when they were open), which meant we only had one bascule bridge which we had to call on the VHF radio and ask for an opening. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a somewhat stressful situation. We’d called the bridge tender when we were eight minutes away and she assured us she’d open the bridge when we approached. And then she didn’t. We finally called her again after dealing with current and having to turn around to avoid running into the bridge and apparently she forgot about us. Short-term memory loss? Not a good problem for a bridge tender to have!
So here’s what the next four days of travel down the ICW looked like, as far as bridges which we needed to call on the VHF for an opening goes. Some bridges open on request while others (most!) have scheduled openings once or twice an hour. Even though there are scheduled openings, we still need to call ahead of our arrival and request an opening, because if no one calls, then they will not open.
Day 1 – Peck Lake to Lake Worth (20.56 nautical miles/5 hrs 2 min/7 bridges we need opened)
Day 2 – Lake Worth to Boca Raton (30.5 nautical miles/7 hrs 39 min/12 bridges we need opened and one 65′ fixed height bridge)
Phew! Tired yet? Can’t stop now…we’re still two days away from Biscayne Bay!
Day 3 – Boca Raton to Lake Maule (27.3 nautical miles/8 hrs 5 min/13 bridges we need opened and one 65′ fixed height bridge)
Day 4 – Lake Maule to Biscayne Bay (20.2 nautical miles/6 hrs 35 min/4 bridges we need opened, two 65′ fixed height bridges, one typically open railway bridge and one more fixed height bridge with some uncertainty regarding its clearance)
The Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge threw us for a loop. It’s a fixed height bridge and we had read conflicting reports regarding it’s height, and therefore the clearance under it, so we approached it cautiously. This is the lowest bridge on the entire ICW and charts say there’s either 55 or 56 feet of clearance (depending on which chart you look at) and comments on Active Captain suggest that these heights are at mean low water (normally bridge clearances are listed on charts at mean high water), and we happened to reach it at high tide. Our intent was to read the signs, which all bridges have on their fender boards, showing what the clearance is (depending on the current tide situation). However, there were no signs! So, we turned around. Radio Waves needs 53.5 feet of clearance, which is the height to the top of the antennas we have installed on top of our mast. We tried hailing the barge which was under the bridge doing work on it on the VHF radio, but got to reply. He also seemed to be blocking the slightly higher side of the span over the channel. We called SeaTow, but they had no idea. We called the bridge tender at the next bridge to the south, but she had no idea either. Next we put out a general call for local knowledge on channel 16. Crickets. We figured for sure there must be a clearance sign on the fender boards on the other side of the bridge, so Jim deployed the dinghy and went over to check. Nope. Nada. In the meantime, I just kept circling back and forth on the north side of the bridge and when Jim got back to the boat he continued searching the interwebs and finally found a cruisers’ forum where a frequent (and it sounded like reliable) poster said that he goes through one span to the west of the main span with his 54′ mast and that there is plenty of deep water there as well. So, we waited a couple of hours for the tide to drop a bit more and finally went through a couple of hours after we’d first arrived. So stressful!
FINALLY – we made it to Biscayne Bay! One more 78′ fixed height bridge to go under in the morning and then we’d be on our way to the Bahamas! No more bridges til we return to Florida in a few months!
So….please tell me I’m not alone in my fear of bridges. Anyone else? Come on….don’t everyone raise their hand at once!