"We've got a problem," my dad said over the radio to me first thing in the morning. He sounded a lot like Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 saying pretty much the same thing. I got a distinct sinking feeling. "Have you seen the boys' cabin?"
"Hold on." I went to my back porch and looked past the floating garden and floating greenhouse--which were on solid ground at the moment because the tide was out--and saw my nephews' "Man Cave." This is a small floathouse that has been passed down from one family member to the next until it came to belong to my nephews when they were in their teens. They're now in their twenties and far away, one in the Army, the other raising a family, so maintenance for the hard-used cabin falls to my dad and me.
It only took a glance to see what the problem was. An old snag that barefly floated had gotten under the back left side of the cabin's float and when the tide went out the floathouse sat down on it. One of the cross poles that we'd put in last winter to add more flotation with an outside log was bent at a very bad angle. I was sure it was broken.
Instead, when I went and looked at it close up I saw that one of the original brow logs under the cabin, that helps tie the entire raft of logs together, had broken. In fact, it was rotten and would need to be replaced--which would be an enormous job.
But first things first. We had to somehow get the "deadhead" (as sinking logs/snags are called here) out from under the float log. Deadheads are the bane of SE Alaskans' lives. They're dangerous to boats when they hide beneath and between waves, only a tiny part sticking up ready to impale a hull and sink a vessel. Whenever my two young cousins, who grew up on their parents' fishing boat, drew pictures of their boat they always drew sinister deadheads bobbing in the water nearby. The dread of deadheads starts young and goes deep! And we were seeing first hand some of the trouble they can cause in a world where everything floats.
My dad first of all sawed all the limbs off the deadhead to make sure it wouldn't get hung up on rocks or lines later when the tide came in and we pushed the snag out of the way. He had to wade into mud that clutched at his boots, up to his ankles, wielding the saw as he did it...a tiring job.
Next he went and inspected where the log was pinced between the rocks and the outside float log. The entire float was being lifted off the ground on that side. Which meant there was a tremendous amount of pressure involved. What would happen when he sawed into it, the deadhead gave, and the pressure was released?
I'd seen my dad in this situation a hundred times before and knew he had it figured out, but I get anxious every time since there's no help readily available out here if something goes disastrously wrong.
I was on the back of the cabin's float, checking to see if the cross log was broken or not (incredibly, it wasn't) and felt the drop when the deadhead broke as my dad sawed through it. The house came down and shook. Fortunately, the deadhead didn't kick up or roll on my dad, one of the catastrophes I hadn't been able to help picturing in graphic detail.
On the other hand, it did pinch the saw. My dad tried pulling it out, but it was locked in place.
"What do you need?" I asked. "The peavey?"
After inspecting the situation, he agreed. I crossed over the various floats in our system to where we did our firewood chopping and found the logging tool, a heavy steel pipe pointed at one end with a hinged hook. When I was a kid I had my first encounter with that heavy steel hook. My dad had asked me to fetch it for him when he was working on his mobile sawmill. I picked it up casually near the point and instantly the hinged hook swung down and smashed my fingers.
That was a rookie mistake that you never make again. I remember it every single time I pick up the peavey and always check to make sure where my hand is in relation to that swinging hook.
When my dad hooked into the deadhead and pulled nothing happened. The waterlogged snag was too heavy to budge, especially since it was still stuck down in the rocks. He had me hold onto the saw so it wouldn't fall when it came out--if it came out--and put the point into the broken section where the saw was pinched and tried jerking the log apart there, but again nothing happened.
"Wait," I said when he tried to think of something else. "I think that will work. If I pull on the saw while you jerk the peavey--"
We tried that. While he gave powerful jerks on the peavey, I steadily pulled on the saw. The bar barely moved, only a tiny bit at a time, but eventually we got the entire bar out.
My dad sawed the deadhead into segments and I used the peavey to break them apart and roll them out of the rocks.
Everything is back where it's supposed to be...but the Man Cave still needs major work.
For more Man Cave maintenance projects look under "Chores" in the categories, and then hit the previous button at the bottom of the page three times. And please overlook the messed up photos. The app my blog is on arbitrarily shuffles and repeats photos and because of my poor signal I can't go in and fix them. Sorry!
Tara Neilson (ADOW)