Bridge Manners

If you are planing on cruising one of Canada's heritage canals this summer, there's a few things to plan - like good fenders, lines, charts, and a copy of the canal regulations. In addition to lock procedures, you should also learn a few bridge manners.

Can you Pass Under the Bridge?

First check your chart or a cruising guide to see what the vertical height is of the draw bridge to decide if you require it to open to safely a. Also look for information about opening times and schedules. Please note, you must lower antennas and other movable parts if that will allow you to safely pass under the bridge without an opening.

If your boat will have enough vertical clearance to pass under the center of the bridge without having it open, approach at slow speed and proceed through the center of the span where the height is greatest. If there are 2 equal openings, take the one on the right (starboard). There may be a day marker on the bridge support to indicate the proper side to pass under the bridge. You should look for a water level board to check the levels are not above normal. Most canals control water levels so this should not be a problem, but you can ask any lockmaster for current information.

Request a Bridge Opening

If your boat cannot pass under a draw bridge, you must request an opening on demand or approach on a bridge schedule. If there is a set schedule, you must arrive at the scheduled time or wait. To request an opening, some bridges can be contacted by VHF radio or phone, or you must use a horn signal. Call the tender when you can see the bridge, as he will not do anything until he confirms when you will arrive, to interrupt car traffic for the shortest possible time. He will also wait if there are several boats travelling together.

Bridge Opening Procedures

To open a bridge, the bridge tender will stop car traffic with a barrier, then lift the bridge span(s) so boats can pass underneath one at a time. Once all boats have passed, the spans are lowered and car barrier raised.  A swing bridge is similar but will swing the floating bridge sideways towards shore so boats can pass.

Once the bridge is open, proceed at a slow speed, one boat at a time, keeping a safe distance apart in case any boat has trouble manoevering or slows. Go slow until well clear of the bridge.  It is customary to thank the bridge tender by VHF or you may simply wave as you pass.