The Travels of Tug 44

Dock Construction - Tug 44 Marina
Fort Edward, NY

Recently my dock was wrecked by extreme currents and wake caused by the Hudson River Dredging Project. Huge barges being pushed past my dock routinely ignore the no-wake laws. This causes the entire water in the narrow Champlain Canal to be pushed ahead of the barges and then released to flow backwards. This constant 24/7 back-and-forth stress pulled my dock pilings right out of the mud and turned my old dock into a pretzel.

In February 2012, I began my dock reconstruction project:

The crane arrives, and County Route 179 is closed while they unload. Here she comes off the flatbed. This is a Link-Belt 308 Crane, a lattice boom crawler crane weighing 110 tons, owned & operated by D.A. Collins Construction. Click for more info on the Link-Belt Crane.

The view from my couch: 10 tons of giant red iron weights have arrived on another flatbed and are about to be installed on the back of the crane. This is to counter-balance the load the crane picks up.

Several more flatbed trucks have arrived, bringing a smaller crane used to assemble the big one, and 150 feet of boom. Here the crane is mostly assembled, and the only thing left is to string the wire rope thru the boom and attach the hook.

The view from the street, the crane is ready to start working. It towers over the neighborhood with the 150 foot boom. Tug 44 is seen, laying on the mud of the drained canal for winter storage.

The work begins! Here, the crane is lifting a 30 foot long wooden pile to the dock site. I must admit it made me nervous watching a 30 foot long sharpened telephone pole being lifted directly over my boat. Notice that little yellow gadget sitting on the dock on the far right. That's a spinning laser beam, used to exactly level the heights of the piles.

Once the piles are in place, they are grabbed by the 6-ton vibration hammer, and driven down into the muck. The big yellow box on the left is the diesel-driven air compressor that operates the shaker inside the hammer. The long brown thing is a 3 foot wide steel I-beam being used as a jig to exactly locate the piles. The piles are being driven as far as 25 feet into the bottom. Hopefully this will prevent the dredgers from wrecking the new dock. The pile driving goes very fast, it takes only 5 or 10 minutes to buzz them all the way down.

This is a video showing the crane and vibrator hammer at work. When the wooden pile hits a rock, they buzz it back up again, shift it slightly and drive it down again. This generally knocks the rock out of the way.

The weather cooperated only until the last hour and the thaw began. The flatbeds have come and taken away the boom and counterweights etc, and have totally destroyed my back yard with 2 foot deep ruts. Amazing what happens when a tractor-trailer gets completely stuck in the lawn. Lucky for me, the D.A. Collins folks are good people and after the thaw is complete, they will bring me a load of topsoil, a couple of guys with shovels and a Bobcat to spread it around and fix the lawn. It'll look nice by summer. Until then ... my cats have fallen in love with the mud and are tracking it everywhere.

The folks from D.A. Collins have completed the pilings and removed their equipment and now the rest of the construction is up to me. I chain-sawed the piles to the exact height they marked for me with the laser leveler (wonderful gadget). I bolted on the left set of stringers myself with great difficulty, but then my friend Larry arrived and helped me put in the right set. With 2 of us working together, handling the long boards were no problem. The stringers are treated 2x8s doubled, and bolted to the piles with 18" hot-dipped galvanized bolts. The next thing to do is bolt on 5 cross pieces to hold 2 additional sets of stringers to provide a sturdy base to hold the 5/4 treated decking planks. The 2 sets of center stringers will be held to the cross pieces with more 1/2" bolts, thru 1/4" heavy duty angle brackets, also hot-dipped galvanized for resistance to corrosion. The new dock will be about 45 feet long and 6 feet wide.

Today's progress was installing and bolting the 2x8 cross-pieces to the piles. Each one is bolted directly to the piles, and each has a pair of heavy angle irons on both sides, so we can now hang additional stringers to properly support the decking. Today, Mother Nature added some extra fun: It started snowing while we were sinking in the mud, the fun never stops. Mud has become a major factor in my life. Tomorrow's forecast is for several inches of snow, but we will press on.

The center stringers are installed and it's starting to look like a dock! Still need to add some cross braces to hold the stringers steady. Meanwhile, Bear the Cat walks the planks, inspecting his new domain. The stringers are held to the cross pieces by 1/4" thick galvanized angle brackets and 1/2" bolts. I'm building permanent here.

Today we cut the decking to rough length and dumped some of it on the dock. Now we can walk on it and not have to plow thru the mud anymore. The rest of the work can be done from above. The heavy wooden 4x4s in the right corner will be used to reinforce the cleats.

The dock is pretty much completed. The decking edges are all sawn to even length, and corner bumpers and rub rail are installed. The cleats are bolted thru the decking and through 4x4 lumber. The electrical post is a pair of 2x8s sandwiched onto one of the below deck stringers with four ½" bolts. The post will be shortened later when parts arrive. The cables are already run. The construction is extremely solid, jumping up and down doesn't move it.

A side view of the new dock, showing my little cove, with the Champlain Canal visible in the upper right corner. On the far left, Tug 44 lays in the mud for winter storage. Water is expected in the next week or two. "Just add water!"

There, the electric post is done, with a 30 amp and a duplex 20 amp, and a solar light on top. I'm using the original breaker box nearby. The number plate on the back is how Canal Corp keeps track of annual dock fees. Still need water in the canal. (Not in the electrics though)

And here we are on April 25, 2013, the canal water has been refilled, and Tug 44 sits at her new berth!

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