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Old 11-05-2019, 19:02   #1
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Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

Ok So for the past several weeks on Wednesday and Saturday I've gone down to the Chicago river to watch the boat runs/bridge lifts. Some questions I have are has anyone ever done one of these before? If so how was it? I bring my handheld scanner with me to monitor the chatter on VHF CH 12 FYI, and I noticed that when a bridge is in the air they announce it on the radio, any one have any good ideas as to why?
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Old 11-05-2019, 20:22   #2
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

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Ok So for the past several weeks on Wednesday and Saturday I've gone down to the Chicago river to watch the boat runs/bridge lifts. Some questions I have are has anyone ever done one of these before? If so how was it? I bring my handheld scanner with me to monitor the chatter on VHF CH 12 FYI, and I noticed that when a bridge is in the air they announce it on the radio, any one have any good ideas as to why?
Not quite sure what you're asking about. Are you watching boats going down the river and bridges have to open to give the boats clearance to go under?

If so, then yes this happens all the time and just about every boater in a large boat has done it. Depending on the location and bridge schedule as you approach you may call the bridge on the radio to request opening. The bridge tender will reply to let you know he heard and is opening the bridge.

Some place (like cities with a lot of traffic) only open the bridges at certain times and in this case the bridge tender doesn't wait for a call but usually sees boats waiting to pass and announces that the bridge is now opening.
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Old 12-05-2019, 00:48   #3
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

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Not quite sure what you're asking about. Are you watching boats going down the river and bridges have to open to give the boats clearance to go under?

If so, then yes this happens all the time and just about every boater in a large boat has done it. Depending on the location and bridge schedule as you approach you may call the bridge on the radio to request opening. The bridge tender will reply to let you know he heard and is opening the bridge.

Some place (like cities with a lot of traffic) only open the bridges at certain times and in this case the bridge tender doesn't wait for a call but usually sees boats waiting to pass and announces that the bridge is now opening.
So for Chicago on the Chicago river they have two Boat storage yards on the river one at South Ashland and another on Canal Street just west of Chinatown. For the one by Ashland you have to go through 29 draw bridges and the one on Canal Street it's 24. The bridges operate on a fixed schedule starting at either Ashland or 18'th Street. From there each bridge lifts in order until Lake Shore Drive which is the last one until before Lake Michigan. That's in the spring when they come out of dry dock in the fall it's reversed. For Wednesday's the Bridge lift starts at 9:30 AM, Saturday's it's 8:00 AM. The bridge operators/tenders leap frog each other from bridge to bridge in order to keep things moving. My questions is why would your opinions would they need to announce over the radio when a bridge is in the air? I'm sure someone familiar with the Chicago area will second me on this. Thanks.
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Old 12-05-2019, 04:19   #4
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Chicago.
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Old 12-05-2019, 04:47   #5
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

So the question is why to they announce on the radio that the bridges are open when it is a set schedule and happens in sequence in a standard pattern?

I would assume for a couple of reasons. One to alert the boats and the other bridge tender that the bridge is really open. They do fail occasionally and either don't open all the way or even reverse so thisis the confirmatino to all that the bridge has opened correctly and it is safe to proceed.

It also lets the other tender know when the bridge is open and allows him/her to time the opening of the next bridge in the sequence. Don't want to delay the opening too long and cause the boats to mill around waiting but don't want to open too soon and hold up traffic any longer than necessary.

Finally I'm sure there's bit of CYA legal stuff going on. If a boater proceeds and hits the bridge for some reason the tender can claim immunity if the boater wasn't following radio procedures.
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Old 12-05-2019, 11:01   #6
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

I used to do this trip regularly. I left Chicago in 1992 but for about 10 years I had a boat at the old Crowley's yacht yard location. They have since moved to the Calumet river.

The bridge tenders announce bridge openings and delays. There are often delays due to electrical problems. The bridge tenders are not allowed to reset circuit breakers - they must call an electrician. Probably union rules. As said before, they start at one branch and bring them to where the branches join, then they bring up the boats from the other branch. So many boats are left to tie up as best they can or just to mill around 'til the other boats join them. The radio announcements help the first group of boaters know how soon they are getting under way.

In the old days, before Crowley's relocation far more boats came up from the south branch and they always started the south branch flotilla first. Also, the south branch has a lot more bridges to get through that the north branch so it takes longer.

Those bridges are very old and there are often delays due to problems.

A bit of trivia: There used to be a cement ship named the Medusa Challenger that made regular deliveries to Chicago. Very often the bridges got stuck in the open position during it's transits messing up the heavy Chicago automobile traffic. This situation was called the curse of the Medusa.
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Old 12-05-2019, 11:01   #7
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

Ive been to Lake Michigan a couple of times via Chicago River. I never saw a bridge tender or talked with one on the vhf. Some use cameras to watch river traffic and some open during certain hours. They dont open during morning or afternoon rush hours. I would approach a bridge and wait a few minutes and it would be opened. 1st time through I tried hailing and never received a reply, pretty soon the bridge would open.
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Old 12-05-2019, 11:10   #8
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

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Ive been to Lake Michigan a couple of times via Chicago River. I never saw a bridge tender or talked with one on the vhf. Some use cameras to watch river traffic and some open during certain hours. They dont open during morning or afternoon rush hours. I would approach a bridge and wait a few minutes and it would be opened. 1st time through I tried hailing and never received a reply, pretty soon the bridge would open.
Interesting. That is the exact opposite of east coast rivers, harbors and the ICW. If you don't call on the radio or give the horn signal (one long, one short) the bridge won't open. The only exception I recall was transiting some of the canals in Ft Lauderdale where some of the bridges are quite close together and if you signal one to open the other follows.
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Old 12-05-2019, 11:30   #9
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

The coast pilot and CFR regs say that the downtown Chicago bridges should open throughout the season. However, the city and local boating community say the bridges only open during the scheduled runs in the spring and fall. I wonder what would happen if a boater tried to get them to open outside of a scheduled run.
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Old 12-05-2019, 11:50   #10
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

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I used to do this trip regularly. I left Chicago in 1992 but for about 10 years I had a boat at the old Crowley's yacht yard location. They have since moved to the Calumet river.

The bridge tenders announce bridge openings and delays. There are often delays due to electrical problems. The bridge tenders are not allowed to reset circuit breakers - they must call an electrician. Probably union rules. As said before, they start at one branch and bring them to where the branches join, then they bring up the boats from the other branch. So many boats are left to tie up as best they can or just to mill around 'til the other boats join them. The radio announcements help the first group of boaters know how soon they are getting under way.

In the old days, before Crowley's relocation far more boats came up from the south branch and they always started the south branch flotilla first. Also, the south branch has a lot more bridges to get through that the north branch so it takes longer.

Those bridges are very old and there are often delays due to problems.

A bit of trivia: There used to be a cement ship named the Medusa Challenger that made regular deliveries to Chicago. Very often the bridges got stuck in the open position during it's transits messing up the heavy Chicago automobile traffic. This situation was called the curse of the Medusa.
They have two yacht yards on the south branch still, Chicago Yacht works at South Ashland and Canal Street Marina just west of China town. The Flotilla for the spring typically begins at Chicago Yacht Works and they pick up more at Canal Street. Sometimes the Flotilla starts at Canal Street Marina, I get my information from this site http://chicagoloopbridges.com/tour12/Tips.html. Thanks
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Old 12-05-2019, 12:51   #11
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

There is a lot of traffic on the Chicago River, tour boats and water taxis. I cant remember who or where I read about the cameras but evidently its true probably way cheaper having 1 or 2 people watch video and remotely open the bridges.
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Old 12-05-2019, 14:19   #12
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

As I have mentioned above The Chicago river drawbridges do not operate on demand. They only operate during Spring and fall boat migrations to and from dry dock on Wednesdays and Saturdays. What they have are 14 operators that leap frog each other from bridge to bridge. If a sailboat is operating anytime outside of the above mentioned they would have to take the mast down. If you want you can check out this web site http://chicagoloopbridges.com/ he even did a spring migration on a sailboat. On the Calumet river the bridges are operated on demand 24/7/365.
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Old 03-06-2019, 23:09   #13
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Re: Chicago River boat runs and bridge lifts

Ok so when I've fallowed allot of the Saturday runs out to Lake Shore Drive, and I have noticed that as the boats transit the LSD bridge, allot of them thank the bridge crew and say they will see them in the fall. One even said, "and if your every by the Corinthian Yacht Club I'll buy you a drink."
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