If the wind is right, you can sail under the Coleman Bridge. While proceeding out Sarah Creek into the York River, a fellow asked if we could do just that. I was puzzled since the bridge was barely in view. Then he explained.
“I was the chief bridge inspector on the job 15 years ago when they replaced the old bridge,” said Jeff Crowe of Chesapeake. “The contract called for taking two weeks to take down the old bridge and insert the new one. We did it in ten days.
“The bridge was built at NIT [Norfolk International Terminal] in sections and shipped up by barge. The original bridge of 1952 was also built in sections, but without the decking. Ours came fully complete. There were parties on both sides of the river to watch it.
“Tidewater Construction was the prime contractor, now and then. They had to build up the piers with extended concrete slabs on top of the pilings.” He pointed to them as we transited the bridge. “The two big concrete caissons didn’t need much work. We did have to redo the bathroom on the bridge since it emptied into one of the caissons originally.
“One time a chief engineer out of New York showed up in his three-piece suit to check out the progress. He was a little guy, five feet tall. Well, he jumped down to the catwalk and slid his way down one of the beams. We were impressed.
“Thousands of bolts are in the bridge. The threads stretch when torqued, so you can’t just tighten them indefinitely or they’ll burst. I had an Indian up there tightening them too much and I warned him it could take him right off the bridge. Sure enough, he went sailing off 90 feet but his rope saved him.”
Meanwhile, we got to fly the spinnaker. Two boys were learning the ropes of sailing because one of them was headed to a three-month voyage from Cape Town to the Caribbean this winter. People lead fascinating lives.
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