How to get a 48 foot mast under a 47 foot bridge

I thought you would enjoy this video, “How to get a boat with a 48 foot mast under a 47 foot bridge.”  Our cast of characters include Billy the Tipper, his assistant, and my friend Bob. Continue reading below.


Back in October 2017, I brought the sailboat home from Indiantown marina on the east side of Lake Okeechobee. Unfortunately, at the time the water level was extremely high in the lake. To release water from the lake, the Army Corp of Engineers had the Port Myaca lock wide open causing the water level of the canal to rise considerably. This meant the Port Myaca Railroad bridge was now too low to the water to cross beneath. The bridge opens vertically. When open, it normally clears forty nine feet from the water line. Now, with the extra water, it was at forty seven. My mast tops out forty eight feet from the waterline. One foot too tall. What to do? I called Indiantown marina and they immediately said, “Call Billy the Tipper.”

Billy the Tipper is a living legend in the area. Yes, you cannot make this stuff up. Billy the Tipper met us at the bridge at 9:00 AM. He tied his boat to our port side and placed empty plastic fifty five gallon drums on our port deck. We secured the barrels to the deck with ropes. Then Billy started a portable pump and filled each of the drums with water from the canal. The weight of the water filled barrels tipped the boat to its port side, lowering the level of the mast to the water.

Slowly we approached the bridge and confirmed we were low enough to pass. Once through, we reversed the process, emptying the water, and the boat returned to upright position. We settled up for his services and were on our way into Lake O.

That, my friends, is how you get a 48 foot mast under a 47 foot bridge.

As always, I enjoy reading your comments. Feel free to post your thoughts below.