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Navigating the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Discussion in 'Marinas & Waypoints' started by CapLady, May 18, 2009.

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  1. CapLady

    CapLady Senior Member

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    The New River in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is very popular with boats and yachts. There are several boat yards up the river which cater to large yachts as well as many restaurants and entertainment venues.

    I thought I’d offer a little information for yacht and boat operators who may not be familiar with navigating the New River. This information is directed mainly towards the boat and yacht owner operators who may not be quite as knowledgeable with the communication between other vessels and bridges as the professional skippers who operate on a daily or near daily basis. I am not going in to detail all the way up the river. I just thought the following information might help make traveling on the New River a little bit safer and more enjoyable for everyone if they were a little familiar with some basics. This is not trying to tell anyone what to do and I take no responsibility in any kind of mishaps or accidents which might occur if following this information. The operator of the vessel must always use their own best judgment.

    The river is rather narrow for larger vessels and when the current is moving it makes navigation a bit more challenging. The current does usually run a bit faster on an outgoing tide. On weekends and holidays boat traffic is heavier which adds to the sport.
    The tow boats quite often tow 100 foot yachts and larger up and down the New River to and from the yards. Sometimes even yachts in the 140’ range. So you can imagine it can get a bit tight sometimes.

    All of the commercial vessels, such as the tour boats, tow boats and fuel barge boats monitor vhf channel 9 as do the bridges. Most larger yachts who know the area monitor channel 9 as well.

    I will be referring to the New River going inbound or up river starting at markers 5 and 6. The river is very straight forward from there to marker 11 where you enter what is known as Tarpon Bend where there is the first “S” turn to maker 12. It is customary and appreciated if you are operating a vessel over about 40 feet in length or with more than about a 14 foot beam that you give a security call on vhf channel 9 giving your boat name, location and size as you are entering the river. Your first security call should be given before you approach marker 11 or in other words before you enter Tarpon Bend. Then again once you pass marker 12. I used the boat sizes only as a rule of thumb. If you happen to be quite new to boating and you are running a 30 footer that you tend to get sideways quite often, it would be nice if you gave a call as well. You might keep in mind that an 80 or 100 plus foot yacht can not stop and get out of the way nearly as easy as a 35 footer. Also keep in mind that the vessel that is going with the current has the right of way. As you go up or down the river, the best places to give at least a brief security call is as you approach the turns where you can’t see other boats coming. You will hear boats calling out nicknames as to their locations such as, “The Girls School” or “Little Florida”. These are spots where rather narrow turns are located. If you are new to the area you won’t know these areas by the nicknames. The best bet is to be aware of your location with a chart and listen to the radio and when approaching a turn, give a quick call on channel 9. You will know areas on the chart where US1 goes under the river. This is quite obviously referred to as The Tunnel.

    From marker 12 it is a rather easy straight shot for about a quarter mile to the next bend. Please keep in mind when meeting an oncoming vessel, normally it is expected that you will pass port to port which is known as a one whistle pass or each boat keeping to their right. There are times, because of any number of circumstances, where you might pass on the other side or starboard to starboard a two whistle pass. In these cases it is good to make these situations clear between each boat over the radio before you meet.

    The first bridge you come to is Third Ave. Bridge. Call the bridge tender on channel 9 if you need the bridge to open for you. The bridges usually have a marker or gauge that indicates its lowest point. If you ask the bridge to open and you don’t need it, the bridge tenders are not happy and it could result in a hefty fine. The next bridge is Andrews Ave. Just after Andrews Bridge there is a train bridge. This is always open unless a train is coming. This train bridge is automatic and no one stands by a radio for it. There is an electric sign that indicates if the bridge is coming down. If it is, you just have to wait. After this train bridge is the Seventh Ave. Bridge, and then on to Davie Blvd. Bridge. After this you will come to the train bridge immediately after the tall I95 bridge. This train bridge does have a bridge tender and stands by channel 9.

    Please keep in mind that I gave an indication as to the size of boat that should give a security call. I am not giving any official rules of the road here. You should keep up with that on your own. If you think you are too small it is still a good idea that you listen to channel 9 so you know if a big boat is on its way toward you and you can take appropriate action.

    Attached Files:

  2. YachtForums

    YachtForums Administrator

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    Another helpful, informative post CapLady! I have edited it slightly for legibility. :)
  3. SeaEric

    SeaEric YF Historian

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    EXCELLENT post! I am a yacht broker and have transited the New River on many occasions, always with a professional Captain at the helm. I try to pay attention to what goes on. This is a very good narrative.

    I spend 3 months or so per year in Ft Lauderdale and hope to have a boat of my own here sometime soon. I look forward to familiarizing myself with running the river.

    Thanks for this info.
  4. rocdiver

    rocdiver Senior Member

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    Jungle Queen

    Nicely done CapLady!

    One thing I might add is to always listen to where the Jungle Queen is on the river. They have some very brave and qualified Captains but she is pretty flat on the bottom and tends to slide around the turns. Always give her a wide berth and especially at turns. They update their position regularly.

    With all of the recreational traffic on the river, I must say that Captaining the Jungle Queen is one job I would not be interested in. My admiration goes out to those great Captains who run her. I've seen recreational boaters do some pretty crazy things around her. :rolleyes:

    ROCKY
  5. Great post! you mentioned "The Girls School". When I first lived on a big Trumpy on the new River in the early 1970's there was a "finishing" secreterial school on the river. I believed it closed sometime in the mid 1980s and is now a private home. However all the regulars on the river mention when they are near "The Girls School" making it very tough for those travelling the river to know what they are talking about. As you head up river, after passing by Tarpon Bend there is a fairly straight stretch of river. "The Girls School" is located on the north side just after an open public area thet is a water taxi stop. It is a yellow two story house built in the 30's. Often there is a blue hulled express style boat, maybe 45 feet, tied up at a dock at the house, "SEA PORSCHE" might be the name of it.
  6. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Very good information. I really wish they put the New River bridges on another VHF channel like Channel 13. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with the radio traffic on a weekend when everyone else is calling other bridges on the ICW.
  7. Norseman

    Norseman Senior Member

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    Good point..

    Perhaps another 30 years and a few more accidents will fix that...:rolleyes:

    Caplady: Excellent RiverGuide you put together.

    I live on the Citrus Isles up the River and have done more than 100 river-runs and learn something every day, including reading your stuff right here.

    If I was to add anything to your excellent post it would be about going down-hill in a single screw vessel with no bow thruster:

    A natural current from the swamps adds to the tidal current and down the river with a following current can be quite interesting if the bridges don't open when you approach..Then traffic behind you starts piling up and being single screw you have a hard time maneuver with bursts of power and full rudder...Pushing you faster and faster to the bridge that won't open...

    Unless you are Chuck Yeager, the only choice is to turn 180 degrees into the current while waiting for some numb-nut on a bicycle doing a slow sight-seeing across the bridge to clear so the operator can push the UP-button.

    Then as the bridge opens you have to make room and turn 180 degrees again without hitting the Sea-Rays and mega yachts piling up on top of you...:rolleyes:

    Based on the above, I never go down the river with the current anymore: Been there, done that and survived numerous times, but from now on, incoming tide only, and 0600 or dark-of-thirty when the traffic is non-existent.

    That being said, the railroad bridge is always the wild card and can stay down for 2 hours if broken or if being "tested" or whatever.

    The New River can be a pain in the arse, but it can also be a beatiful journey..Depends on the current, and the number of engines and bow-thrusters you have.. ;)

    As somebody else said above:

    My hat of to the Jungle Queen drivers..Either they are the ultimate operators, or they are smoking some strong stuff, and I want to try it too...:D
  8. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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    It should also be mentioned that the New River bridges are "locked down" to all but commercial river traffic during rush hour. It's been a while since I was a regular on the river so I can't recall the exact hours.
  9. CapLady

    CapLady Senior Member

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    Thanks for your input everybody!

    I run one of the tour boats on the New River part time; it has a 24’ beam. With the boat traffic on the weekends and holidays it can get very sporty. Many boats are not on the radio at all. There are also the new boaters who can get a little confused at times. That is one of the reasons I decided to do this post.

    Capt J, I agree with you on your point of a different vhf radio channel. I had thought of that myself.

    There are a lot of details as to the names of tricky locations, boat names, etc. I tried to keep it a bit simpler. If I included every detail, the post would have been very long.

    I guess my main goal was to try to get more people to get on the radio. All the boat operators on the river appreciate it very much when they know who’s coming.

    Ken made a very good point as to the bridge lock downs. I should have included the fact that the bridges are closed at certain times. The operating schedule for the bridges on the New River is published in the Coast Guard 33 CFR 117.351(a) and requires the bridge to open on signal, except that from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The bridges will open on signal 24 hours a day on weekends and Federal holidays. The bridges do open for commercial vessels during these times. Keep in mind that a bridge may also be closed due to a malfunction.

    The easiest time to navigate the river is at slack tide and during weekdays, early mornings and evenings when there is a lot less boat traffic.

    Have fun!
  10. ftldm

    ftldm New Member

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    Great info on navigating the river, I will have customers use this as a guide as they enter our docks downtown. The only thing is, unfortunately, the New River is not considered a western river in the rules of navigation, although many captains do follow the practice of giving way to others going with the current out of courtesy. I agree that more people need to monitor the radio and practice giving security calls.

    For those that need to lift the bridges, it is a great help knowing when to call to avoid waiting for an opening. As you are inbound and approach SE 3rd Ave, make your request once you can see "Lady Lucille", which she is on the starboard side of the river in pic 2 and they will usually have the bridge up by the time you get there. The downtown tenders are on the ball and once you clear 3rd Ave, Andrews will be awaiting your call and you can call 7th Ave at the Performing Arts center just past the train bridge. CapLady did a great job on explaining the landmarks and locations to make security calls, you must have traveled the river a lot.
  11. Norseman

    Norseman Senior Member

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    Your welcome and I enjoyed having lunch with you a few years ago...

    Lets do it again.I am buying now that I have a job..:D


    (Guys: This is a very experienced and very charming and pleasant Lady, but don't cross her bow on purpose. :) )

    Going down the River this coming Saturday @ 0900, you working then?

    Wave at the boat in my Avatar: Single screw sailboat named "Rhapsody".

    Headed over to the Exumas, too far for stink-potters of course...;)
  12. Bamboo

    Bamboo Senior Member

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    Great guide for those that do not transit the new river often. I'd remind everyone of rule 9(b) that vessels over 20 meters have right of way over vessels less than 20 meters in a narrow channel or fairway regardless of water flow direction, if you interpret the rule as most do. A 40 footer single screw would not have right of way over a 68 footer even if the 68 footer was headed up current. Communication is key.
  13. CapLady

    CapLady Senior Member

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    Hi Norseman,

    I'm up for a free lunch any time! Ha Ha!

    I will be on the river Saturday but not till around 1000, if you are running late and I see "Rhapsody" I'll be sure to wave to ya!

    Too far for stink-potters? I've been all through the Exumas on powerboats!

    I wouldn't mind joining you on my sailboat, but, I need to work.

    Have a great trip!
  14. Norseman

    Norseman Senior Member

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    Aye, but in general, Joe Sea-Ray does not go far beyond Bimini with his loud music.

    (Although it has been quiet lately, Bimini is dead as per the other thread)

    Aye, free lunch, anytime...Will fix ya up..You name the place and time..;)

    Change in plans, going down the river 0730 now..Need that incoming current and read the time table wrong the other day. Also, less traffic at O-dark 30..

    Aye, me too..
    Would be in them islands all the time if it was not for the pesky thing called work.

    That being said, my sailboat is paid for..So is all the gear and the booze.

    In theory, I could sell the house and car and go for a loooong time sailing into the sunset.

    In reality wifey says no...:(

    Back mid June..See you then...;)
  15. jbk4001

    jbk4001 New Member

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    That was great! Thank You....
  16. Henning

    Henning Senior Member

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    Well done, one little addition, if you are running with the current in the section inbound from Davie Blvd Bridge through "the wiggles"before Summerfield's (or where Summerfield's was), it pays to be early into the turns and ready to put on some throttle because you can tend to get pushed to the outside, especially on the spring tides. Out bound can give you even stronger currents as mentioned. Everybody dreads Little Florida with a big boat, but it's "the wiggles" I find that can put you into a real bind quickly.
  17. Henning

    Henning Senior Member

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    Always fun, which one? I used to run Anticipation IV & V.