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.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)