Bookclub Sunday. December. Raining. Twenty women coming in small boats. Sal’s turn to host. She’s in full Chatelaine mode. “Sweetie. Please go down to the dock, move the boats around and help the women tie up their boats to the dock.”
“Sal! All those women are more competent in small boats than the coast guard. They don’t need me.”
“Fine! I am on my way.”
Guests tie up at our neighbour’s dock. The one we use all the time, too. It’s a typical non-permanent float tied to shore with heavy lines so as to remain relatively in one place and there is a ramp that slides up and down with the tide and as the currents dictate. The ramp is fixed at one end, the other end is free to move with the main float. It has served the owner well for over 25 years and it has also carried our added burden for the last 15. It’s a great dock.
But…well, everything needs maintenance and repairs and docks are exceptionally needy. They have to adjust to winds and tides, storms and freezing temperatures They plunge and strain when the seas are up and, of course, they rot and rust in the expected areas. Docks require attention. They just do.
That is why we always refer to it as ‘our neighbour’s dock’. It is RIGHT IN FRONT of his place so that seems fitting but it is also true that our great neighbour keeps it all afloat and we simply waltz up and down now and then and smile and say ‘hi’.
It’s a GREAT system!
But, he’s away for awhile and the storms coming through these past four days had their way with us. The first two times we were called to action the ramp had jumped it’s tracks and managed to half-escape the west end of the main float that it is supposed to sit on. Sal alerted me to it the first time when she was headed off to quilting. “Sweetie! The ramp is falling in the water! I won’t go to quilting. I’ll stay and help.”
“No, Biggy. You go. I can fix it.” And I did.
The next day Sal was headed to the post office and the winds were howling. She wasn’t sure whether to go so went over to check the boats. “Sweetie! The ramp jumped the tracks again. This time the wheels came off. It’s too rough to go to the post office. Let’s go fix it.” And so we did.
Last night must have blown even harder. As I got close to the dock it was obvious that we had a new and bigger problem. The ramp was now in the water having disconnected itself from the land! This time, the land side of the ramp had gone askew. The storm must have driven the floats hard against the shore as far as the lines would allow and that drove the ramp further along the dock than ever before. Half of it was on the main float when the hinges on the land side gave way and the ramp fell into the water but it did not sink to the bottom because it was held up by the float it had miraculously climbed along.
Still, the ramp was in the water but hanging in it with the broken end about three feet or more underwater. And the main float was now all askew with the all the new weight draped off the end. The main float was now twenty-five feet from shore and it was very, very deep there. Losing the ramp was a distinct possibility.
And twenty women were coming to bookclub.
It is at times like this, a man has to go to his strength.
I went to fetch Sal.
“Sal. We gotta problem. You gotta come. But first, call Doug, call Scott and call Steve. Tell them the ramp broke. It’s hangin’ in the water. We need help. Then, come with me. I can’t get over to the float side but you can.”
I grabbed a ladder. Sal grabbed a rope. When we got to the site of the calamity, Sal took off her shoes and socks, rolled up her pants and I put the ladder over the gap. But, of course, it only got her to the two foot deep mark of the hanging ramp. Off she went along the horizontal ladder like the yoga-monkey she is and got to the other side. Everything tipped! She quickly scampered along the barely balancing ramp and got to the main float.
We were about to tie ropes to the hanging ramp when the first of her guests arrived. “You ferry them in your little boat to the shore. I’ll receive them and send them up to the house. When they are all arrived, you go with them. In the meantime, can you use your boat to get a line on the end of the ramp?”
Sal got a line on, then ferried the women over to the shore. I sent them up to the house and Doug and Scott arrived just as that gracious operation was wrapping up. Barefoot Sal followed them up to the house, bookclub began and the three guys stood looking at the problem.
When working with women, one is obliged to discuss and explain everything and then plan for required breaks, what will be served for dinner that night and which tools we will need between then and now. At the very least. Consensus must be reached on at least two of the topics, however random, before work can commence. If anyone arrives on the scene, we are also supposed to down tools, chat politely for at least ten minutes and then beg our pardons because we have to continue our work. It is de rigeur. Even the women being ferried the twenty or so feet felt obliged to say, “Hi, Dave, how are you doing? You look busy. What about the weather, eh? When did the dock break?”
There were twenty of them!
The three men said little if anything. Doug finally said, “Scott, do you know where the tirfor is?” Scott spun his boat around and was gone. Doug turned to me. “You got any chain? And shackles?” I grunted in the same manner as Scott had, spun and ran to my shop. I picked up the shackles and 25 feet of 3/8 chain and ran back. A minute later, Scott was back with the tirfor (a type of winch that I now need more than anything). We worked for about an hour, maybe two. My guess: Maybe five minutes of that had conversation. Maybe 7.
At one point, feeling the ghost of Sally, I said something completely wrong. “Say, if you guys want a nice break, Sal and the club have tons of cookies and stuff for you. If you want?” Doug and Scott looked at me like I’d just spoken Swahili for “Wanna hear some show tunes?” Neither answered.
A hour later, the ramp had been lifted and was chained up. It will last the winter at least. It may be the fix that keeps on giving. Not everything has to look nice. It just has to work. This works. And, you know what they say, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
Five minutes after the ramp was secure, the guys were gone. They had both come at a moments notice. They had dropped everything. Their reward? More respect and admiration but they don’t need that. They have TONS of that! They NEED tons of cookies and stuff. My earlier Swahili-musical thought was right – the timing was just all wrong. The club will package up some goodies and drop them first with Doug and then over to Scott’s when they leave. Sal will deliver something extra tomorrow or the next day.
This was really an ordinary emergency – of sorts. Altho, there are no emergencies that are ordinary. Not really. NO lives in danger or anything like that but it was a problem that, if fixed, would then be seen as a medium challenge. If not fixed, it would get worse and it would have become a MAJOR challenge. Doug and Scott are two guys who have been out here a long time and have a lot of skills and a deep repertoire of tricks and ‘hacks’ to get things fixed. Plus they have tools and know how to use them. Give them a lever, a block and a length of rope and they can do just about anything.
I am grateful. I couldn’t have done it alone. OR even with Sal. This needed a tirfor at the very least and, by the time Sal and I had discussed it, planned dinner and reached consensus on myriad and sundry other topics, the ramp may have been twenty feet deeper. We are very lucky for great, skilled, quick, albeit somewhat monosyllabic, neighbours.