Bridge Clearance

August 25, 2009

On the Wednesday that we were in Maine, our gracious hosts decided that they had had just about enough of little kids and drunk adults, so they headed back to urban Massachusetts for a day of office work rather than continue the adventure with the Linkins and theskinnyonbenny family.

We went to a town down the road, which appeared to be a little bigger than our local version of Redbud, and which had boat rental places and at least one restaurant on their lakefront. We were on a mission. We were to rent a party barge.

A 4-hour rental was about $120, an absurdly reasonable entertainment for four adults and four children. We got a 60-second briefing on the boat and about the lake. The only notable item from our briefing was that we could cross under the bridge from the small side of the lake to the larger side, but that we would need to lower the bimini in order to get across.

Passing under the too-low bridge. You can still see the antenna trying to recover from its bending.

At first, we thought we would save ourselves the hassle, and we stayed on the small side of the lake. But after a while, our inner Lewis and Clark called for us to explore the water beyond the bridge.

There were a line of motorboats puttering slowly through the channel. We fell into the queue, set an appropriate speed, and watched the bridge approach.

The bridge looked awfully low. Ladies started to get nervous about whether we would fit.

I know that it always looks for a second like the sailboat mast won't fit under a bridge, even when there's a good 10 feet of clearance, so I assured everyone that we were just witnessing an unsettling illusion. But as we got closer and closer, it appeared that it would be extremely close.

We couldn't turn back, as other boats had fallen into line behind us, and the channel didn't really allow enough space to make a u-turn in a pontoon boat. We were committed.

We made the kids duck down low, and started through.

It couldn't have been closer. If I had sat up straight, the steel beams of the bridge would have bashed me in the nose. We all ran our hands against the metal just overhead. A few feet above it, cars zoomed across.

I looked back, and Brent -- our pilot at the time of the crossing -- was in a mad scramble, trying to unscrew the radio antenna, which was the lone extension of the boat that was absolutely not going to fit under the bridge. Between the two of us, we ended up pulling the radio antenna in a backward curve, so it wouldn't be snapped against the metal of the bridge.

About ten minutes later, as we were stopped and swimming on the larger lake, I noticed that it was an old-fashioned telescoping antenna. All we had to do was shove it down. Who would have thought?

Coming back was less nerve-racking, because we knew we would fit, albiet barely. We did go through a little more quickly, so it's good that none of the kids suddenly decided to stand.

In retrospect, the boat rental guy should have told us that the water was too high for safe passage under the bridge. If you hear of a bridge decapitating a boater in inland Maine, I can fathom a good guess about where it happened.

By the way, if you haven't seen the link on the home page, I posted a ton of pictures from the trip in the photo galleries.