We're having signal problems here, and with a recent snowfall may have more. I get my Internet signal from a single telecom tower up on a mountain, and deep snow often interferes with it. This is just to warn everyone that during these winter months I may not be able to post as often as I have in the past. The app my blog is on hates my poor signal normally--I usually have to post up to four times before it will go through intact--but now it simply refuses to comply. I'm going to keep trying to post this with a single photograph and hope that it eventually goes through.
In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying the last moments of 2015, and that you're all keeping safe and warm.
We had a light snowfall that stuck to the decks so we knew it was past time to get my nephew's Man Cave floating again--and floating level. (For the whole story, see parts one and two of this epic, stirring and muddy project.) A big, heavy snowfall on a floating cabin, with that kind of list, didn't bear thinking about.
A couple days before, when the tide was at the right height--unfortunately a little after 4 pm when it was dark here--I towed, by hand, the big plank we needed to support the foam we'd be using to refloat this side of the Man Cave.
With a headlamp to light the scene, I had to guide the long, thick plank, with rope and a pike pole, around firewood logs, float logs, skiffs, the dock and the floating generator shed. The generator was on, thundering away, and working around the exhaust pipe was not fun. Especially while I was balancing on the outside sliver of a float log with the cold water lapping a few scant inches from my boots. The diesel exhaust buffeting me made me cough as I fought to get the plank around the shed. My dad came out and helped me, thankfully, and we finally got the plank to the back of my parents' floathouse, where the Man Cave is moored.
Two days later, after it snowed, we buckled down to finish this project that had been hanging over us for centuries--I mean, months.
I compiled everything we'd need--the chainsaw, rope, and blocks of foam my dad was sacrificing from his own floathouse needs to be able to refloat the Man Cave.
My cat, Katya, saw me struggling with the foam blocks from her vantage point on my floathouse's back deck, about twenty feet from where I was working. She obviously didn't have any faith in my ability to get the job done right without her input, so she meowed and then meowed louder. When that didn't get her the attention she required, she looked at the six foot space of sinking mud between where she was and the next float over, sank down on her haunches and sprang!
She landed neatly, no big deal, and sauntered over to where I was. Why does she do these things only when I don't have a camera on her? She had plenty to say about everything I was doing, and, rather deflatingly, made it clear that I should give up this whole slogging in the mud thing and go home where I could better employ my energy by petting her, brushing her, feeding her and generally devoting myself to her pleasure.
I was tempted.
Instead, I arranged boards to stand on in the mud, and then handed the small chainsaw to my dad. We'd discovered that a wormeaten float log that had been forced out from under the Man Cave's float was in the way of where we needed to put the plank and foam. We couldn't cut it completely out of the way because the entire building rested partly on it when the tide was out.
My dad carefully shaved along the side of it with his chainsaw, getting rid of protruding knots and carving out a bench for the foam to rest on. I've always thought he could have had a career as a chainsaw artist, if he'd wanted. By this point in his life, a chainsaw was like an extension of his arms, and he used it when other men might need finer tools to get a job done.
Next we dragged the heavy plank to where we were working. Then we positioned the heavy plank under the ends of the poles we'd pushed through under the cabin previously.
Why, one might ask, do I keep mentioning that the plank was heavy? Because, as it happened, it fell to my lot to lift it up to the bottoms of the poles and hold it in place while my dad roped it and tied it to the poles, all the way down it's length.
Through this activity I am able to verify that the plank was heavy.
Once the heavy plank was tied to the poles it was time to wrestle the foam blocks into place beneath it. We had to determine which piece of foam went where, depending on length, weaknesses in the floam and plank, and the fact that one end of the plank hadn't reached the last pole, so it was without support on that end.
After figuring that out, shifting the foam in and out, we found that my dad had to saw more wood off the deteriorated float log that was still in the way.
At least it was a sunny day, though cold, with clear blue skies overhead. As we worked, pulling our boots out of the mud with a loud sucking noise, the sun soon headed for the horizon, slanting farewell rays through the darknening forest. The sky was already showing sunset color and it was only 2 pm.
We focused on tying the foam to the plank as tightly as possible, the rope cutting slightly into the foam so that the blocks wouldn't shift and move and pop out of alignment. Because of the foam's extreme bouancy, it's a hassle keeping the blocks corralled, especially when dealing with constant tides and storm surges.
But finally...we were done. The job we'd been dreading, the worry about the cabin flipping over, or sinking in a heavy snowfall, was over.
When the tide came in, for the first time in a long time, the Man Cave floated level, it's decks clear of the water.
It desperately needs a paint job and a new roof, but I think we can leave that to my nephews to accomplish. It is, after all, their Man Cave.
Paul Bunyan came to our aid, after Sterling had to leave, in refloating the Man Cave.
Paul Bunyan, otherwise known as my 6'4", 300+ pound oldest brother, Jamie (also Sterling's and Ethan's father), has a soft spot for floating Man Caves.
He's always had one around, including one when he was in his late teens, early twenties. It was in this floating Man Cave that he spent a lot of not-so-quality time with our cousin Shawn: playing poker, subsisting on a liquid diet, periodically blasting off a gun, and hanging upside down from the rafters. Good times, I'm sure. Good times....
The truth is, there aren't too many places in the bush geared toward young people, for them to hang out. I remember that when we first moved up here, the few teens in the area had staked out abandoned cabins rotting into the undergrowth, or they built tree forts that few were given directions to and there was a secret password for entry.
The innovation of having a floating hangout was, actually, Jamie's invention, and it was an inspired one. When the tide was in the youths carousing inside, with raucous music blasting at ear drum piercing decibels, were kings in their castle, with a seawater moat to keep the dreaded responsible adults away.
So Jamie understood the importance of preserving a floating Man Cave.
On the appointed hour, ahead of the ever encroaching tide, Jamie arrived in sweats and a commercial fisherman's sweatshirts, it's pockets bulging with scorned gloves. My dad and I were bundled up against the low temperatures, but Jamie rarely, if ever, bothered to layer up. He was known for wearing shorts all year around as the whim struck him.
At first glance at the job that needed to be done, my dad and I were stumped. The poles that we needed to put under the cabin and across the top of the new float log that Sterling had towed back there, had gotten shifted around by the tide. some had gotten completely in the way, on top of the log and wedged into the sheer rock shoreline.
There was no way my dad and I could move them and there was no way to work around them. We were ready to call off the job for the day. We'd have to wait for the next high tide to move them and then do the work on the next low tide after that, that coincided with our short daylight hours.
Jamie took one look and casually picked up the twenty-two foot long poles and set them aside for when they would be needed. I'm sure he could have marched at the head of a logger's parade, twirling them above his head.
They looked tiny in his hands.
I laid down the boards to work on so we wouldn't sink in the mud. My dad then notched the log where the big center pole would need to sit level.
First he chainsawed the top of the log in narrow strips several inches deep into the log, making each cut the same depth by feel. Next he chipped them out with the axe, twisting the handle as he chopped to break the strips free. This takes considerable experience with the saw and axe to get the notch remarkably flat and level. I've seen my dad do this a hundred times.
A past master with chainsaw and axe, he was done in no time at all.
Jamie then exercised some more of his mad Paul Bunyan skillz and slid the poles into place. Every now and then an obstruction under the cabin got in the way and I'd get on the other side of the cabin and guide the poles around protruding knots by tying a rope around the end of the pole and pulling as Jamie pushed.
At one point I fetched the smaller chainsaw and he sawed off the obstruction while I pounded on the opposite end of the pole with the back of the axe head. This didn't work too well so I went and got the big sledgehammer.
Nothing withstands the 12-pounder.
(Here it is appropriate to make the Tim "Home Improvement" Allen grunting noise--which Jamie duly did.)
Before long we had all the poles under the cabin.
While my dad was busy chopping up a badly deteriorated chunk of foam that had gotten wedged between the float and the new log, forcing it away from the side of the cabin on one end, Jamie and I moved to the other side of the cabin.
We laid (and by "we" I mean I stood and watched, cheering as needed) another of the poles lengthways down the butt ends of the old float logs the cabin sat on. We then tied the ends of the poles we'd just slid under the cabin to this cross-pole, which would provide the resistance the new log needed to push against and re-float the severely listing side of the Man Cave.
I held the poles up, resting them on my knee to keep them pressed up tight while Jamie tied them in place, one after the other.
And that was it.
With Jamie there to do almost all the labor, in the casualest manner possible, we accomplished in little over an hour what it would have taken my dad and me days--weather and tide permitting--to get done.
Jamie could rest assured that he'd saved at least one Man Cave from sinking. Or had he...?
When the tide came in we found that the new log was working all too well and it was the other side which now had a severe list, with the water coming within an inch of flooding in through the door.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)