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Old 02-04-2011, 11:12   #1
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Intercoastal Height Restrictions

I plan to buy a sailboat in Maine and will bring it down to Florida. I would like to know if there are height restrictions on the Intercoastal Waterway. Is there a website with that info?

Thanks, Andy
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Old 02-04-2011, 11:15   #2
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

the restrictions ar ecalled bridges--look up the height of each one and there is your answer-- should be on the charts you are using to navigate your course. i understand most of them are 50 ft height.
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Old 02-04-2011, 11:27   #3
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

Most of them are 65' with the exception of julia tuttle in maimi wich is 56' i believe
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Old 02-04-2011, 12:03   #4
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

you can go here: Cruiser's Net and pull down the "bridges" menu to see every bridge on the ICW. For the most part, the fixed bridges are supposed to be 65', but there is one in No Carolina (Wilkerson Creek Bridge) that ended up a foot short at 64' - and the previous one mentioned in FLA near Miami.

In addition, there are many draw bridges of varying clearances you will find.

Also, extreme high tides can reduce the clearance. Be sure you know your exact air draft.
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Old 02-04-2011, 18:54   #5
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

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Originally Posted by doug86 View Post
Be sure you know your exact air draft.
Sorry for a short hijack . . . but I am curious how people determine their 'exact air height'? I can imagine all sorts of ways . . . like working off a sail plan or sending someone up the rig with a tape measure or measuring the height with a sextant . . . but what do people really do?
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Old 02-04-2011, 19:10   #6
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Re: Intercoastal Height Restrictions

there are 2 60' bridges in Cape May portion of the ICW and the New Jersey portion I believe has several fixed bridges that can't be cleared by a sail boat. I always go outside due to draft, so I'm not sure.
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Old 02-04-2011, 19:10   #7
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Re: Intercoastal Height Restrictions

tape measure is my method
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Old 02-04-2011, 19:20   #8
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Re: Intercoastal Height Restrictions

I took a 6 ft long 1"x1" stick and duct taped one end of a 100 ft steel tape measure to a spot one foot above its lower end. I tied the two ends of the main halyard together and duct taped the lower 1 ft of the stick to the looped halyard so that the stick extended vertically upwards along the halyard. I raised the assembly to the top of the mast with the stick rising above the mast. My wife stood at a distance on the dock and coached me as I adjusted the top end of the stick to match the top of the highest thing on the mast - the VHF antenna. I placed a board abeam across the boat deck and with the steel tape measured down to the top of the board. I then measured up from the water at the side of the boat to the top of the board. Add it all up and I had the distance from the water surface to the top of the highest thing on the mast.

I got lots of advice from on lookers.

Bill Murdoch
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Old 02-04-2011, 19:38   #9
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Re: Intercoastal Height Restrictions

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Originally Posted by wsmurdoch View Post
I took a 6 ft long 1"x1" stick and duct taped one end of a 100 ft steel tape measure to a spot one foot above its lower end. I tied the two ends of the main halyard together and duct taped the lower 1 ft of the stick to the looped halyard so that the stick extended vertically upwards along the halyard. I raised the assembly to the top of the mast with the stick rising above the mast. My wife stood at a distance on the dock and coached me as I adjusted the top end of the stick to match the top of the highest thing on the mast - the VHF antenna. I placed a board abeam across the boat deck and with the steel tape measured down to the top of the board. I then measured up from the water at the side of the boat to the top of the board. Add it all up and I had the distance from the water surface to the top of the highest thing on the mast.

I got lots of advice from on lookers.

Bill Murdoch
Nice idea except for generating the advice.

I also used a tape measure but didn't get quite so exact. Hoisted the tape as high as it would reach without fouling the masthead sheave. Then stood on the dock with a pair of binoculars and guestimated the rest of the distance to the top of the masthead antennae. I could read the foot marks on the tape so gave me a good scale for the estimation. Then measured the height of the cabin top to the water and added the three plus a few inches for fudge factor.
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Old 02-04-2011, 19:44   #10
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Re: Intercoastal Height Restrictions

Above is all correct. I suggest you get SEACLEAR open source software for your PC and go to NOAA's site and download all east coast raster charts - also free. You can work you way along the ICW charts and find out most anything you need to know about bridges and draft. These are digitized versions of the NOAA paper charts. If you add a BU353 USB GPS antenna you will have a cheap chart plotter. I think its a great back-up in case of disasterous system failure (lightning). Its also great for planning.

If you plan to head through the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee there is a 49 ft bridge. If you are close on height there is a service there that loads 55 gallon drums on your deck, pump full of water to tilt so you can get under. Honest.

We pull 80 feet so there is not much the ICW can offer but storm shelter.

Most manufacturers have a number for you but the methods above are great advice. - just do it - its a number you need to know. 65 feet is a good number for most ICW bridges. There are some that are under construction that require extended waits. You might want to go outside for these. There are areas north & south of Charlseton where the ICW is "crooked as a dog's hind leg". You can make much better time outside unless you are touring and don't care.
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Old 02-04-2011, 20:16   #11
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

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Most of them are 65' with the exception of julia tuttle in maimi wich is 56' i believe
They must have gotten mixed up with the English/Metric conversion.
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:16   #12
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
I am curious how people determine their 'exact air height'?
One of my early trips up the mast I measured the height of "stuff" above the masthead. I dropped a tape (I have a 300' tape from a previous life) to the lifelines. On deck I measured the offset of the lifeline from the mast and measured the distance from the lifeline to the waterline. A small amount of trig later I had a number for masthead and masthead+"expensive bits" over the water.

I did those measures with no water in the tanks and pretty low fuel. Demonstrating my ability to be obsessive I also measured my real draft with a metal bar under the keel and lines up to the deck edge. I remeasured draft after pressing up water and fuel and going food shopping. *grin*

Over the edge? Yep. That's me.
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:21   #13
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

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Over the edge? Yep. That's me.
I don't think it's over the edge at all. In fact, I think it demonstrates superb seamanship. .... ....

....wait!

Did you measure the draft in salt of fresh water?

Seriously, I think you collected important information with little effort, and now you know what those numbers are, rather than hope some third party data is correct. Good job.
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:27   #14
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Re: Intercoastal height restrictions

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Did you measure the draft in salt of fresh water?
Brackish. Good question. Now I'm going to have to do the calcs and put a Plimsoll mark on the boat.
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:43   #15
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Re: Intercoastal Height Restrictions

The above information is correct except for the Cape May Canal, which is only 55 feet. Don't even think of going inside in NJ unless you draw less than 4 feet. Also, there are some short bridges inside in NJ. How high is your mast? From Norfolk to Miami, the official charted clearance is 65 feet until you get to the Julia Tuttle Bridge in Miami, at 56 feet. In addition, the Wilkerson Bridge in NC is probably 64 feet at best and is now charted as such, but often offers less. I've seen it down around 62 feet a few times. I recommend everyone measure their actual clearance using a tape measure and then be very, very careful at any bridge if you need more than 62 feet. For example, someone on this forum reported recently seeing a boat being towed hit the Riviera Beach Bridge down in Palm Beach due to an unusual tide. I believe they determined that the sailboat needed 62 feet and didn't find it. If you need more than 65 feet you can do some in and out sailing between Norfolk and Florida, as there are quite a few good inlets spaced apart along the coast.
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