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Old 28-07-2019, 10:01   #1
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Beneteau 461 on ICW

This might be a dumb question but I'm new to the ICW (heading south from Norfolk to North Carolina). I have a Beneteau 461 - air draft 59'1". The mast itself should be fine (so long as I keep aware of current water levels), but I have two whip antennas on top. One might be as tall as 6 feet - I haven't been up the mast to measure. Do I need to get them lowered, or is it common for antennas to touch the ICW bridges?

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Old 14-08-2019, 05:41   #2
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

I wouldn't want to tap a bridge with my antennas. If it's not a huge problem, I'd advise you might as well go up and either relocate them lower or remove them for now and rig a temporary antenna set somewhere safely on deck. Is there anything else you've been wanting to do up at the top of the mast? Combine projects maybe?
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Old 14-08-2019, 05:55   #3
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

Your antennas stretch the limit for ICW bridges, they're usually in the 63-65 foot range. Beating antennas against concrete overheads is not recommended for future radio function or carbon-based life forms. If you have much in the way of ICW cruising ahead of you, relocating, as Melody recommends, is in order. You don't really need for your antennas to be that high for practical purposes. Get out the bosun's chair, and find a calm day where a small wave won't leave you tracing big circles in the sky.

I'm remembering replacing a topping lift while moored on the ICW. 56' up, working at it, and a barge came by. I no longer need roller coasters for adrenal gland dumps.
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Old 14-08-2019, 06:28   #4
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

I've tapped a number of bridges with antennae, but still aware my mast would clear. Your 59'1" and the possible 6' antenna will bring you to one inch over the designated clearance at mean high tide. If you're free enough with your schedule not to pass under the bridges at high tide you should do well. You can also bypass the lowest of the bridges in your path by choosing the Dismal Swamp Canal instead of the Virginia Cut. The white coated antennae, not the bare wire, are usually made with a tough polymer coating and as the "whip" implies they can easily bend without damage with a slow pass. Even on the Virginia Cut at high tide I doubt that you would have a problem.
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Old 14-08-2019, 07:24   #5
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

I once moved a boat from Washington down the ICW to Fort Lauderdale. As a UK yachtie, who has sailed in many places I can tell you, IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST CRUISES of my life. Enjoy.

Keep on your toes. Slight lack of concentration and you can easily go aground.
I touched the bottom once in the entire trip. I thought that was really poor but speaking to various Americans they thought it was impressive !
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Old 20-08-2019, 12:19   #6
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

You have such a boat, why ICW? I just (in July) went from Norfolk to Beaufort on ICW – it was strong N wind and I could not wait for weather (forecast was about a week) to pass cape Hatteras. So, all bridges, which have clearance mark, had water at 64’-65’, but I saw some signs of water at 59’.
Also the canal is very shallow and narrow. Huge barges (~ 40’ wide) several times pushed me out of the channel, twice I hit the ground (5.5’ draft). Especially unpleasant channels are in rivers: send is moving. Several places have less than 7’ depth in a middle of the channel. One place in Alligator River at high tide (+ 1’) had about my draft – I touched the ground. They put warning mark there, but I did not see any work around.
On sailboat do not go south from Beaufort on ICW. Go out and then, if you like, go back to ICW in Fernandina beach. The bridges almost up to Miami have clearance ~64’.
My advice: wait for weather window – go around Hatteras, rest is quite strait. I hate ICW.
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Old 20-08-2019, 12:57   #7
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

Also, you must know the name of the bridges you are approaching: you have to communicate with bridge musters (ch 13). Some would be open on your request, some have schedule: twice in an hour. I almost had an accident: I was passing a lift bridge 100’ behind a big commercial ship and bridge started to move down in front of me, so always communicate with bridge muster.
This should help:
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Old 20-08-2019, 13:07   #8
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

Rather than removing them why not just tie them back. That way you will still have functionality while having better clearance....... or just go outside.

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Old 20-08-2019, 13:07   #9
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

I would be surprised to see a 6' VHF whip on top of a mast. A good grade, 3' base loaded whip will work just as well.

If you do have a 6 footer I would be tempted to swap it out for a shorter version.
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Old 20-08-2019, 13:50   #10
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Re: Beneteau 461 on ICW

Don't worry about touching the bottom of the bridge with the antenna. As a delivery captain, I have made this trip countless times and have "twinged" the antennas of 64' clearance boats many times.
The lowest bridge that you will find is the Wilkerson Bridge at about mile 125. It is charted at 64"
Time it so there is no other "wake" traffic if you want to be extra cautious. Also note that the markers flip sides just past the bridge.
There is no real tidal change except wind driven events.
There are stretches and spots where you MUST stay in the markers and even then you may touch bottom. No shame if you are aware and slow so you can back off. Follow a boat that is at least as deep as you are and keep a handheld at the helm and communicate early and often(horn too). Be sure that your boat name is readable from behind so overtaking boats can call you by name.
Study the chart carefully in the Myrtle Beach stretch if you are going that far.
Make sure that you have long enough lines for the lock.
PM me if you want/need more.
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