How to Avoid Getting ‘Bridged’ By a Ship When Crossing the Aerial Lift Bridge
If you enjoy visiting Park Point, but don't like being held up by a ship that has the bridge raised up; here are some handy tools to avoid being "bridged".The key is to be aware of incoming or outgoing traffic and to plan your trip accordingly to avoid it. These tools will help you do just that. To be fair, these same tools can also be pretty handy if you live on Park Point or if you just want to catch a ship coming in or heading out.
On your phone or tablet:
Here are a couple of the best apps I've been able to find for mobile devices. Both of them will show you ship locations, identifying information, travel speed, and a number of other great pieces of information. One isn't particularly any better than the other, but I have found that occasionally one will be more accurate than the other; and it varies which one is better in that regard. Both of them are available on either iOS or Android.
The Both the Apple iOS and Android versions come in a free and paid variety. The free version will let you spot and identify ships around the world, using a map showing ship positions. The paid version can be grabbed via an in-app purchase for $4.99 plus tax. If you decide to drop the extra cash, you'll get some fun tools, but nothing completely necessary if you're just looking to see if a ship is coming in or heading out. One potential benefit of buying the one-time add-on is that the map will automatically show position changes of ships, rather than having to refresh it. Handy, but not necessary.
Other paid benefits are that you'll get full boat information (picture, speed, course, country, etc.), you can set multiple favorite boats to find them easily, and set up alerts when a tracked boat arrives or departs.
MarineTraffic doesn't offer a free version ($3.99 + tax on iOS, $4.59 + tax on Android), but offers a solid (and less expensive) alternative to Boat Watch. MarineTraffic displays what they call "near real-time positions of ships and yachts worldwide." The app relies on AIS positioning data, which feeds the app's live-updating shipping traffic map. Like Boat Watch, the app can also be used to identify ships and offers a lot of other data for avid ship-followers.
On your computer:
You can also go the old-fashioned way of using approximate ship arrival and departure data from DuluthBoats.com and by taking a look at the high-definition webcams at the Lake Superior Maritime Museum, which are also just fun to take a look at in general to see what's going on in Canal Park. You can check out both of the webcams here.
Will these tools guarantee you'll never get 'bridged'? No. Not all boat traffic that requires the bridge to go up (some fishing vessels, for example) show up on these apps or maps. That said, these tools can still be very useful to help you avoid the dreaded sit-and-wait of being bridged this shipping season!