If you live up the coast and especially if you live ‘on the water’, you need a boat. If you have a boat, you pretty much need a dock. 70% of residents have docks, 20% use community docks and 5 or 10% use ‘lines’, anchors and floats and then they just make-do. Virtually no one has a boat totally exposed to the prevailing winds (SE) altho a few boats temporarily at anchor might make the mistake of anchoring in that direction and then, when there is a major storm, they either move the boat or just worry the whole time.
So, from that paragraph just written above, you’d think that most people can relax in a major storm. NOT SO!!
Of the aforementioned 70% barely 5% have so-called legal docks. Most folks have temporary docks (which makes them legal) but the definition of temporary is the lack of pilings, dolphins or other fixed elements that keep the docks in place securely. And safely. The vast majority have docks that are really just large floats. Those floats may be anchored and tied with lines-to-shore but they do not have fixed-point pilings or dolphins. When a major storm hits, these dock/floats move around. A lot!!!
Today, a lot of temporary docks all up and down the coast are leaping, jumping and dancing wildly.
Our neighbour’s dock (the one on which we rely for our boats) is leaping like Mikhail Baryshnikov on a mechanical bull. It is crazy wild over there. We should know – we just came back from checking on it. Holeeee!!!
Because the float is essentially just anchored, the lines get tight and get slack as the wind and seas change from minute to minute. The ramp which ties the float to the land is swinging fifteen feet to the North on a strong gust and then ‘bounces back’ an equal amount South when the wind abates. Our ramp was describing 30 foot plus arcs down there.
When the ramp is going left and right like a windshield wiper (albeit a lot slower), that means that the dock way out at the end is moving even more so. And, while everything is moving sideways, it is also leaping up and down. One minute you can see an anchor line get taught and the next you can see that line disappear under the water while the line on the opposite side is as tight as a bow string. What actually keeps all this ‘flotilla’ together is, of course, just wet wood, ropes and cables. Some ropes are new and strong (but small) and others are old and thick (salvaged hawsers) but they have weight and the weight dampens the shock.
If you want to dampen the shock on the lines properly, you put kellets half way down the line. A kellet is a weight and at least 30 pounds is ideal. Flat sheet steel is even better (heavy and with surface resistance). They make the line just that much heavier and, if used with a ‘bottom’ anchor, it also improves the pull-angle. Kellets are good and we have them on the critical lines.
The true weakness in the ‘temporary float’ system is that the dock-float is usually made of wood and the lines are tied to wooden cleats and/or frames. The ropes can take a lot more force than can the actual wooden float unless it is very well engineered and even then….
The advantage of temporary dock floats is that you do not need a permit (a bureaucratic process designed and administered by demons and cretins), it is cheaper to install and the property taxes don’t include them as an improvement. Why? Because in concept the float is just a different kind of flat-boat at anchor. And then smaller boats tie up to it. Boats are not considered improvements.
The disadvantage is that it is just not as safe. In fact, our dock comes apart every year at some point or another. At least once. The rope breaks, the wood comes away, the anchor moves, the lines somehow get tighter and looser. Temporary dock/floats are permanent work. But the upside is the demons and cretins are happy.
Today, we are experiencing a real test of our dock/float system but it seems to be holding. Rather well, actually. Sal and I, on the other hand, returned to the warmth of our wood stove after half an hour of being diligent about checking on it but we (poor babies) got kinda wet and cold. A half hour of that was enough!