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Laila Elise

Laila Elise is a former fashion model, writer, actress and entrepreneur, with an affinity for a life on the water. She has a Masters in Finance and a Bachelor's in Business Education, and has traveled extensively around the world working with top agencies and designers. She writes regularly about her passion for the sea on her blog:
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Passing Under Bridges Onboard A Boat Can Be A Tricky Process Passing Under Bridges Onboard A Boat Can Be A Tricky Process. Photo: Ryan McVinney/Boat Trader.[/caption] If you’ve ever been out on a boat bigger than a canoe, chances are you’ve had some experience managing the wonderfully complex bridge system on America’s Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The more experience you’ve had with regards to bridges, the more likely it is that you’ve developed some nagging frustrations in this area. It’s no secret that navigating through rivers, canals, human-made waterways and natural marshes takes a certain amount of patience, skill, planning and etiquette - some of us more equipped and adept than others. Some prefer to take their chances with uncertain weather, wind, and eight foot rollers out in the ocean than spend their days stuck in boat traffic trying to figure out the puzzle of bridges that unfortunately goes along with traversing the inside waterways. While there will inevitably be some waiting around involved no matter how prepared you are, here are some great tips for managing #bridgelife in order to help save you some time - and possibly preserve your sanity.

Know Your Boat’s Measurements

This might seem like a no-brainer, but do you actually know the exact height of your vessel? Including the radar tower? It might not be the same as quoted in your user manual. This is especially important to ask for upfront if you are just renting the boat for the day, or if you are unfamiliar with the area you’re cruising around in because you never know when a low bridge might surprise you around the corner while you’re flying across the water at, to quote one of my favorite captains, “mach10.” Bridges will usually (almost always) have a clearance height sign (hopefully visible), and if you’re lucky, a tide marker in the water indicating the appropriate changes in clearance to aid you in deciding whether or not you need to wait for the next opening. Experienced boaters will attest - it can be kind of tricky to eyeball on the spot, especially if there are other vessels behind you on a busy Saturday, or your able bodied “crew” has had a few beers, so it’s best to give yourself a nice buffer here just in case.

Research Your Route Ahead Of Time

In theory, we all should do this - though reality is indeed always another story - we might as well strive for success. If you know you’ll be traveling up a stretch of the ICW to see some friends up North on a Saturday, it’s definitely worth it to check out the bridges along your trip - particularly the first few - before embarking on your journey. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 7am, firing up the engines, hurrying to shuffle everyone aboard only to have your 25kph cruise come to an abrupt halt after the first 5 minutes when you realize you have to wait until 9am for the next bridge opening. Bummer. You could have slept in!

Use Online Resources On The Day Of Travel

There are some great online guides and sites for those of us that don’t really like to plan (or think, for that matter) ahead. This can save you major time and gas money - as well as heartache on your much deserved boat day. Although they seem poorly planned, (like pretty much everything else in infrastructure) bridges are somewhat on a purposeful timing schedule. Ever see a couple of dudes blow by you in their center console with quad 450s after a bridge opening, only to find them waiting like a couple of dummies for 40 minutes at the next low bridge? Slowing your speed between bridges will not only psychologically be easier to handle, but you’ll save precious dollars on gas or diesel and look like a boss who knows the waterways better than Captain Quint in Jaws.

Follow Basic Right-Of-Way Rules

Most states will have a no wake or slow speed requirement when passing under bridges, regardless of whether or not it’s a fixed, swing, or drawbridge, or if it’s open or closed. You’ll get a lot of dirty looks from your fellow caps if you breeze on through, especially in the case of two way traffic. Small boats should generally yield to bigger boats...we know that doesn’t seem fair but things rarely are. Fast moving vessels and power boats can use a bridge opening as a time to get in front of slower moving vessels, barges, or sailboats on trolling motors - it’s a safe opportunity to pass, rather than waiting until getting out into a busy narrow channel where mayhem typically ensues.

Be Nice On The Radio

You don’t necessarily have to sweet talk the bridge operator, but it wouldn’t hurt to at least be polite - and, if you possess the talent, make ‘em laugh a little! Think about it: sitting up in that little locktender pilot house all day must be incredibly boring, and they're much more likely to hold that slowly closing bridge if you ask politely than by screaming frantically on channels 9 and 13, asserting your importance and embarrassing yourself in front of everyone else within range. Remember - other boaters are listening, too. In fact, this goes for boat-to-boat communications too. Keeping it friendly and professional on the radio, despite what crazy shenanigans may be ensuing around you will earn you respect and keep you grounded in your duties as captain or first mate.

Relax And Enjoy Your Downtime

So you have to wait 25 minutes for a bridge opening - it’s not like the world is going to end in the meantime (though it may seem so with the year we’re having). Use the time however you’d like - whether it be retying all your lines in a neat and orderly fashion (that your father still won’t approve of), enjoying the company of your passengers, making a quick snack, admiring the view, or even possibly looking up your next bridge crossing online - ahead of time.

Don’t Forget - Lower The Antennae!

You’re so thrilled about being able to clear the bridge without having to wait for the next opening, grinning from ear to ear until you hear the slow grind of your antennae snapping off. Don’t try and act like you haven’t done it. We all have, at least once. And once is enough!/>
Laila Elise provides tips for managing #bridgelife in order to save time and run smoothly.
Ventura 150c and 200c watermakers Ventura 150c and 200c watermakers. Photo by Ventura and Katadyn Group. Perhaps you are planning to stay close to docks, water lines, and shore power throughout your journey, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the added security of knowing you can make your own freshwater if necessary? Especially if you are interested in exploring areas that are a little more off the grid. Luckily, recent advancements in ever-evolving technology give you plenty of affordable options to outfit your boat with a watermaker that best suits your level of adventure. Here we’ll review the basics of how these systems work and take a look at some of the best products on the market right now.

The Basics of Marine Watermakers

Marine watermakers use the process of reverse osmosis to intake seawater and output clean, potable water suitable for any of your live-aboard needs. The newly made freshwater is then pumped into your vessel’s current water tank, while the leftover “brine” is thrown overboard. Most marine watermakers differ with regards to the method in which the water is pumped. Typically, the water can be either electrically driven (either AC or DC) or powered by your boat’s engine. Note that the colder and saltier the initial seawater is, the slower the purification process will be - so you hardy nor’east sailors may need to invest in a more high-powered system than those of us trawling down in the Carribean. Watermakers also come in all shapes and sizes, with modular options best suited for smaller boats, as the parts can be “stashed” in whatever precious extra cargo space is available.

Best Marine Watermakers

Let's take a look at a roundup of some of the best boat watermakers on the market right now for your vessel.

The Ultra Whisper

The Ultra Whisper by Sea Recovery is best for small boats and sailboats, this super low power machine is specifically engineered for boaters with limited electrical options and can run on either AC or DC power, boasting a 75% reduction in power consumption over other models. It’s also very quiet (hence its name)so it won’t compete with your epic sound system, and operation is completely automatic with it’s simple start and stop controls. Sea Recovery also has another line with a wide variety of size and capacity options called Aqua Whisper - including a miniature version that measures only a mere 2-3 cubic feet, perfect for your day tripper vessel.

Village Marine - Little Wonder series

Village Marine also has a great line of watermakers targeted especially for trawlers and small sailboats, some with very impressive capacity, as well as considerable options for the mega-est of the mega yachts. The Little Wonder series weighs only 69 pounds yet has the ability to manufacture up to 180 gallons of freshwater per day. It also has a low RPM high pressure pump which is both economical and efficient, with the convenient modular design so you can store it in separate compartments if necessary - no “wonder” it’s so popular, right? We actually had the pleasure of adding one of these to our 38 foot family yacht on a journey down the ICW for the winter and it made such a difference for us because we had 5 people aboard and a limited freshwater supply. The installation was quick and painless, much to the relief of my father. Also, as it was peak tourist season over the holidays, there were definitely some times when it was difficult to find (or too expensive to stomach) an open slip for the night, and having the Little Wonder aboard enabled us to anchor where we pleased without having to worry.

Village Marine - LW Watermaker Series

Village Marine also has something for the big dogs - the LW Watermaker Series can accommodate boats up to 100 feet in length. A practical and reliable source for long fishing voyages or ocean charters, this feat of engineering can provide you with absolute water independence. Would you believe this series possess the capability to produce up to 1800 gallons of freshwater per day? It has a manual operating system that is both durable and fail safe, and also has a modular design which still gives you some flexibility in terms of installation options. This line is perfect for that person we know that always seems to be island hopping in Greece on their 96 foot super yacht yet never seems to invite us.

Spectra Katadyn PowerSurvivor

Titan of the industry Spectra Watermakers has a variety of great options ranging from a small hand powered pump, to commercial grade hi tech gear. The Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E/12 V is one of the smallest marine watermakers out there. It runs on a mere 4 amps at 12 volts DC, and is the only machine of its kind that can revert to manual power if necessary - making this one a great model to have aboard in case of emergencies. The PowerSurvivor pumps 1.5 gallons an hour, weighs in at only 25 pounds, and with it’s space saving design, can fit in even the tiniest of compartments.

Ventura 150 Watermaker

The Ventura 150 is one of the most versatile and popular watermakers on the market. Not only is it rigged for low power consumption, but it can also run on solar or wind power if you have the capability on your vessel. Like it’s name, this system can deliver up to 150 gallons of purified water per day, and possesses analog controls with an instrument panel containing a feed water pressure gauge and a product flow meter. This watermaker runs quiet, and is surprisingly compact and modular given it’s capacity. There’s also the Ventura 200T, which is the same size and configuration as the Ventura 150, but uses a higher displacement Clark Pump to produce more water, allowing it to operate in warm waters above 50F (wimps).


With all of the recent trends in boating leaning toward self sufficiency and sustainability, it’s easy to see why adding a marine watermaker is an intelligent investment for your vessel. Modern advancements in technology and modular parts have made these systems easy to install and incorporate into any on board setup - it’s all about deciding what is right for you and your particular boat. Consider how much time you spend on your live-aboard, where you spend your time, and where you wish you spent more time. Working to create a completely independent boat system will ultimately give you more freedom. Additionally, when coupled with solar panels or power, you have the ability to not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also to remain off the grid indefinitely - no longer having to rely on shore power or water. Imagine the possibilities./>
A detailed look at onboard watermaking, water filtration and desalination systems for live-aboard boats and yachts.
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