Bridge tender faces busy days ahead

in Voices by

By Lee Scott

You may not be aware of the green house sitting above you as you drive over the Wood’s Memorial Bridge.  

In that office sits Natasha, one of our bridge tenders. We drivers below are oblivious of her most of the time; only vaguely aware that someone must open that bridge.  

However, for Natasha, spring is an especially busy season as the snowbird migration has begun. 

Beaufort is a great stopover for boat owners as they travel up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. They can buy provisions, visit our town and then spend the night at anchor or at the marina. 

But in the morning, about 8:30 or so, the boats start to stir and the boat tender’s VHF radio starts to crackle.

“Lady’s Island Swing Bridge, Lady’s Island Swing Bridge, sailboat approaching from the south requesting an opening.” 

Now you might ask, “Why not the Wood’s Bridge?” 

Well, in the nautical world, our bridge is identified as the Lady’s Island Swing Bridge.  

The bridge tender will acknowledge the boater and provide them the time she will open. She will also ask the name of the boat and the hailing port. Evidently, they keep a log of the boats that go through, along with the name of the boat’s hailing port.  

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to Natasha. She is one of those friendly people with a smile in her voice. It must be a job requisite because I have found it in numerous other bridge tenders I have encountered through the years. She gave me insight to her job, but the most important to us on land is the times of the openings and closings.

Up in the green house, a boat will call her.  

At the scheduled time, Natasha she will turn on the traffic signals, set the alarms, lower the gates and open the bridge. She records the boats and when they are all clear, will close the bridge again. Most boaters will say something like, “Thanks for the opening.” and the bridge tender will respond. “Safe travels, captain.” 

It is a little different with commercial traffic. They can request an opening at any time. So, don’t get mad at Natasha and the other bridge tenders. They are just following the rules. 

As it turns out, these bridges are slowly going away. They are being replaced with 65-foot high bridges to accommodate auto traffic and allow boats to go under without disrupting a whole community. 

But for the time being, we boaters rely on Natasha and her co-workers to open our bridge when needed. “Thank you, Lady’s Island Swing Bridge.”