Dock Flippage

by Paige Talvi on February 24, 2011

(Originally published Aug. 24, 2009. Read original post here.)

Docks are an expensive luxury in remote Alaska. Buying and hauling the lumber and fabricating a dock is complex so buying a used dock made a lot of sense for us. Our dock is part of the salvage of the old Valdez Harbor dock…Russ, Randy and friends towed it from Valdez with the Wild Abandon and the Faith, Randy’s old boat, to Port Ashton in June, 2005.

All went well until in the LaTouche Passage they became concerned that gas was running low. They radioed a neighbor who brought gas. One friend fell through a dock hole as he attempted to tie up the neighbor’s boat to the floating dock so Russ jumped onto the dock to assist.

It was rough and there was no cleat to tie up to so Russ was weaving the line around the bull rail when the boat and the dock surged together breaking his wrist!

So when we decided to bring in another dock it was an easy decision to hire someone else to tow the 120′ dock.

“There’s a submarine in the bay,” radioed our neighbor. Our dock had arrived twisted at midpoint with half of the dock flipped upside down!

This predicament posed a whole new set of problems and Randy began ruminating about how to flip the dock back right side up. Caution is Randy’s constant companion…he spent almost a week considering how to flip the dock safely.

During the contemplation week, Boulder Bay, captained by John McLean, offered to help flip the dock. The plan was to submerge the front of the dock using the Boulder Bay thus flipping it as it was flipped on the way out from Valdez. In preparation, Randy disappeared one morning with Tristan, a chainsaw and the portable marine radio. He told Tristan if something went wrong to radio Port Ashton and then he cut the dock at the twist…so now there were two pieces, one upright and one upside down.

It was a sunny, warm day when Captain John had a break in fishing to assist. Randy, Russ and Boulder Bay crew tied and knotted the lines between the upside down dock piece and the seiner. Lia and I watched from the beach with some friends while the kids swam in the bay.

Full speed ahead, Captain John began pulling the dock. It looked as if the plan was working and then snap, snap, snap, a piece of the dock broke like match sticks. At this point, I dropped my camera and my mouth fell open, and I missed the shot. Come to find out Darren of the Boulder Bay caught the event on his video camera…I’m hoping to get a copy to include in the blog!

Everyone was so disappointed, probably Randy more than anyone. He knew there was more work ahead and we had lost more of the dock. This was not a project he wanted to revisit in the fall. So Randy returned to puzzling out a solution.

And, then it came to him. We could hang the dock from the old fuel dock pilings on high tide and let the tide do most of the work. Unfortunately, Randy had to return to Wasilla to teach school so it was up to us to prep the dock.

Captain John’s 16 year old son, Jake, helped Russ, Russ’ aunt and uncle and I run 6 lines under the dock to the outside “bull rail.” Jake tied all the knots and wove the line under the dock using a salvaged 2×4 and gaff.

Fortunately, Randy was able to talk his workmates, Justin and Mike, into coming out the following weekend to assist with the flip! Randy climbed up onto the creosote pilings and tied the lines to the piling header, completing the cradle.

Then we watched as the tide went out and the 15′ tidal change tightened the lines and the dock moved increasingly vertical. Just before the extreme low tide of -.09 feet at 9:39 PM on Saturday the dock was about 80 degrees of vertical so we put one more line on top of the dock and pulled it over with the Wild Abandon.

Cheering ensued, we retied the dock to the pilings, and started the campfire.

I ran up to the Creekside during the celebration and heard a distress call over the radio. A seiner was taking on water just a mile from Chenega Bay. We use a trash pump to fill our hot tub so we radioed that we had a pump available. Some neighbors were rushing out their pump and so they felt they had enough pumping power…until they discovered the neighbor’s pump did not work. Again, we radioed that we had a working pump…and eventually a tender arrived in front of our beach, launched their skiff and Randy and I floated the pump out to them on the kids styrofoam floats! It was dark and of course, the water went over our boots…about 52 degrees fahrenheit.

We listened to the action until 12:30 p.m. Around 11:30 p.m. the captain gave up the fight…even with three pumps they could not overcome the rushing, incoming tide. They abandon ship. We offered to host the crew at Port Ashton but they needed phone service and so they stayed at the hatchery.

It was an exciting day filled with ups and downs and we were proud to be part of the Sawmill Bay community who rallied to the rescue.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sergey June 10, 2011 at 9:02 am

Amaizing job!


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