Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Navigating the New River in Fort Lauderdale Florida

Navigating the New River


We’ve been navigating the New River for 4 years, I’m sharing our experience in the hope that others will avoid some of the pitfalls we have enjoyed in that time.

The New River:
As far as Sail boats with fixed masts are concerned: The New River extends from Sand Bar Park up to the New River Fork and then either the South Fork or the North Fork. The South Fork leads to the Fort Lauderdale Marine Center beyond Davie Blvd Bridge, the North Fork leads up to Broward Bvld. My discussion is in regard to transiting the North Fork of the New River From Sand Bar Park - Upstream (Inbound) to 5th Steet Canal just before Broward Blvd.

Bridges:
There are 5 Bridges on the North Fork of the New River, all are normally closed to sailboat traffic but will open on request.  I say upon ‘request’ because the tenders, understandably, get a bit grumpy when someone ‘demands’ an opening. Hailing the bridge tender on VHF Channel #9 normally gets a quick response. The procedure we use that seems to get an appreciative response is:



[Bridgename, Bridgename] Sailing Vessel Eximius [Inbound/Outbound] [location] Requesting an Opening, Over.

-Tender’s Response-

[Bridgename] Eximius – Roger, Standing by on 9




Because our boat has an unusual name, we have it spelled out phonetically at the helm, just in case the tender asks how to spell the boat name.
Echo - eXray - India - Mike - India - Uniform - Sierra



Upon clearing the bridge, we always thank the tender with a quick

[Bridgename] Eximius - We’re clear, thanks for the opening.



The 5 Bridges are:

  • 3rd Avenue Bridge
  • Andrews Avenue Bridge
  • FEC Railroad Bridge
  • 7th Avenue Bridge
  • 11th Avenue Swing Bridge


3rd Avenue Bridge:

3rd Avenue Bridge is a double span bridge and when transiting up the New River, it does not come into view until within about 300 yards of the bridge, so, we don’t wait until we can see the bridge before requesting an opening. We call the bridge as we cross over the ‘Tunnel’ and add our ‘location’ to our call. eg. 'Just passing The Tunnel'

Once the opening starts, it gets to fully open pretty quickly.



Andrews Avenue Bridge can be seen before passing 3rd Avenue, so we request the opening of Andrews bridge before we clear 3rd Ave. It’s a short run and Andrews Ave bridge is slow to open. It’s a single span bridge, the hinge is on the Southern, left side as going up river. We hug the North side fender, we’ve seen sailboats nearer to the hinge side, but it’s not so obvious if the mast will clear as the fully open bridge overhangs the river.

Caution: There is a Pumpout Outflow on the North side of the river just downstream of Andrews Avenue Bridge. That Outflow will push us across the river unless we have sufficient speed through the water. 

Caution: The FEC railroad bridge is about 200-300 yards from Andrews Avenue Bridge - If the FEC bridge is closed, Andrews will most likely not open, which means we will have to hold station between 3rd Avenue bridge and Andrews Avenue Bridge - that could be for just a few minutes to over half an hour if it's a Freight Train passing! Most  likely we will not be the only boat between the two bridges, and it gets to feel crowded really quickly - we do not have a bow thruster - holding station can be tricky, especially if there’s a current flowing - there normally is for us. (see dock note below) We have tied up alongside an empty dock several times, because our boat has prop walk to Port, we will ideally dock port side too between the two bridges. 



Florida East Coast Railway Bridge (FEC Bridge)

The FEC Bridge is a single span bridge and is not controlled at the bridge - it’s a remote control bridge, however, when Brightline (Now Virgin) trains started using the bridge, they were required to have a tender at the bridge. They respond on VHF #9 to ‘FEC Bridge’

Caution: There is a 2nd Pumpout Outflow on the North side of the river when approaching the FEC Bridge from Andrews Avenue Bridge.

The width of the channel at the FEC bridge is narrower than it seems due to the overhang of the bridge, ther have been several boats that have struck the bridge structure because they strayed too close to the hinge side of the bridge.

There is a Website that shows the status of the bridge at https://www.nrbinfo.com/

It is also available as an App for Iphone and Android (Search for New River Bridge Info)

3rd Ave bridge is a double span bridge seen quickly after passing the FEC Bridge, and rounding Sailboat Bend, the bridge generally opens very quickly, so be prepared to rev up to pass the bridge. There are floating docks at Sailboat Bend, but beware their docksides are not nice! Have fenders out and do not scrape the dock, those are not plastic dock bumpers, they are metal! We have tied up at the floating docks several times. If you plan on picking crew up, then they can park in the big lot opposite the Museum and take the 2 minute walk to the floating docks.

Just beyond the 3rd Avenue Bridge, on the North side of the river is ‘cooley's landing marina’. There are quite a few long term liveaboards in the slips at the landing, the current can be quite strong at that point in the river, and the tops of the ramps are frequently underwater during high tides. There’s a parking lot for boat trailers.

11th Avenue Swing Bridge is the least used bridge on the North fork of the New River, but the tender normally responds right away, traffic can delay the bridge opening for several minutes.

Caution: Stay clear of the shallow area on the North side of the river as approaching either side the bridge.

Caution: Do not try to pass on the North side of the swing bridge - it’s impassible to a sailboat.



Pumpout Options 
There are several pumpout options on the New River, we have only experience at those on the South Side of the river. The first is at Smokers Park. When approaching 3rd Avenue Bridge inbound, going up river, and passing The Tunnel, Smokders Park is on the left as passing the corner. (see map) The pumpout is a Free City Service, but it can be reserved, so either take the chance that it’s not reserved and risk being asked by a city employee to leave, - or - Call the New River Dockmaster and ask to use it.

The Pumpout is controlled by a time switch on an electrical box just past the exercise area to the North of Smokers Park, Have everything ready for pump out at the boat before walking the 150 yards to the timer and set it for about 30 minutes, then head back to the boat and connect the pump out hose. It’s polite to suck a few gallons of river water into the hose before stowing it at the pump out station upon completion.

The New River Dockmaster can be reached on VHF #16 but backup with a phone call if no response on VHF Call them at: 954-828-5423



Notes:We keep our boat well up the North Fork of the New River, the canal is subject to shoaling and we can only get out of the canal within 2 hours of high tide, this means that we are probably going to have current flowing in or out as we transit the New River. Ideally we would time our departure and arrival at the dock so that the current is on our bow, it’s easier to transit the New River against the current - holding station for a delayed opening bridge is a lot easier when against the current.



The New River is used by a lot of commercial traffic. There are probably a dozen or so of River Taxis, Tour boats (Jungle Queen, Go to Sea on the Carrie Be, etc.) and then there are the Tow Boats: Large vessels heading to and from the Fort Lauderdale Marine center are often towed as the turns on the South Fork of the New River are especially tricky for a 55’ to 150’ vessel! The good news is that if you are behind a tow boat, the bridges will open quickly for them. The bad news is that if they are delayed due to the bridges, they take up a lot of river.



All of the bridges on the New River close to river traffic during rush hours between 07:30 and 09:00 and again at 16:30 to 18:00 on weekdays - National Holidays excepted.

During the year there are several events which may close a bridge for the duration, such as Fun Runs etc.


See you on the Water.


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