As others have said, it's a matter of timing.
Many Chesapeake Bay
sailors will have little to no experience with opening bridges (top of my head
I can only recall
the one opening bridge at Knapps Narrows) and it can be intimidating the first few times. As you get a couple successful openings under your belt they become easier.
In many locations you will have adequate room to maneuver and if you arrive early for the opening you can motor
back and forth as needed. In several spots however (Wrightsville Beach southbound for example), such actions will leave you aground. This is particularly true in areas with strong currents. In such cases, use the current to maintain station by either bow into the current, or, if your vessel steers well in reverse, simply using reverse at idle speed to control the boat. Practice develops skills.
Bridge operators vary in their cooperation, courtesy, skill, and degree of car traffic. Which means some will hold the bridge for you for a minute or two, while others will shut you down if you are not exactly in place when they decide to open. Direct your complaints to the Coast Guard.
We missed the opening on the Ben Sawyer Bridge at Charleston (northbound) one year and simply dropped the hook while we waited 59 minutes for the next opening. Made lunch to pass the time.
If still a bit unsure, see if you can tag along with another boat for your first opening. Bridge tenders seem more apt to be helpful for several boats trying to gain an opening than for just one.
Check the latest info for the hailing channel as at least one state has changed the channel. Some bridges also monitor
16 but they are the exception. Having your VHF radio
in the cockpit
is extremely helpful, particularly if you need to coordinate with other vessels.
Be aware the the current in states like South Carolina, Georgia
and northern Florida can be considerable, and that current may accelerate and/or change direction once you enter the area of the bridge abutments or fenders. Stay alert. In a few cases, current can approach 4-5 knots. Best to have the flow with you. This also entitles you to pass through first if there is traffic waiting on the other side of the bridge
Traveling the ICW we find fewer opening bridges each year. Even the old pontoon bridge near Camp Lejeune has been removed. Your charts
or Guides may indicate opening bridges where none now exist. Same is true for ranges - many have disappeared.
Have fun on your trip. Schedule your travels in accordance with the tides (Georgia in particular), and enjoy the experience of the ICW.