dock recommissioning, 2023
Saturday, April 15 2023
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
This morning at the cabin was typical of one in mid-summer. I got up early and made some coffee and then multiplexed between Spelling Bee and my usual web haunts. The morning was warm enough that there was no need for a fire.
Eventually I walked down to the dock see how it had survived the winter. The hinged section of dock was still hovering above the lake surface, its one floater occasionally licked by a wave on the choppy surface. The fully-floating section that I'd pulled ashore was still fully out of the water and appeared undamaged. On closer inspection of the sixteen-foot fixed section of dock, it looked like some massive force had managed to pull the whole dock about 3/8 inch towards the center of the lake but then it had sprung back. This had left a void in the concrete that I'd poured around the feet of the east-most support pillars, suggesting that concrete must've been cracked apart in the process, though the water was too cold for me to investigate further. I'd been wondering how well that concrete would survive winter forces, and it's looking like pouring concrete around those feet had been a bad idea. The main reason the dock hadn't been pulled further towards the middle of the lake probably had something to do with a couple other support pillars that I hadn't poured concrete around. Instead I'd driven them down directly shore-side of a massive boulder or piece of fractured bedrock. These pillars now seemed slightly curved, suggesting they hadn't fully rebounded after the forces withdrew.
And what were those forces? The lake usually freezes to a depth of one to three feet, embedding everything in it in that mass. What can happen then is that a massive amount of new water to be added to the lake, which will cause that mass of ice to rise upward, applying huge vertical forces on things like support pillars. Then, if water levels drop, the force will be downward and towards the center of the lake as the mass of ice settles downward. (Since it's unsupported in the middle, that will be the part that will sink the lowest, and as it does so, it will pull horizontally on ice from the margins of the lake. I'd tried to distrupt that second force by making a ridge of rocks on the line defined by the two outermost pillars, hoping that this would create a line of weakness at that point, causing the ice to facture along that line. That may well have happened, reducing the damage to just the minor things that I could see. I'll be taking all of this into account this summer as I prepare the dock to survive next winter.
I would've started recommissioning the dock, but I didn't have a winch at the dock and hadn't brought one.
Back at the cabin, I'd managed to get the solar panels working again, meaning that I had electricity working so long as the sun was out. The battery, though, was in deep shutdown and couldn't be revived, and nothing I could find online gave me a definitive answer as to how to get it working again. I managed to find something about "charging" the battery, but the photos explaining this process were too bad for me to rely on. I was forced to open a trouble ticket at the battery's manufacturer's website.
I returned to the dock with both the smallest of my two winches and quickly managed to drop the hinged dock down into the water. When I lifted the support pole up out of the water, I noticed that the custom base I'd made (which included two crossed two by fours and a toilet seat) had been broken by the forced it had endured. The pole's base had rested on the bottom of the lake at an angle, and increased pressure (perhaps from a snow load) had caused one of the two crossed two by fours to split lengthwise.
That went so well that I was eager to somehow get the big twelve by ten foot section of floating dock off the beach near the tree dock and out into the water. So I walked back to the cabin and retrieved the five foot Harbor Freight farm jack from the Forester. That sucker is heavy and a little unweildy and it would've been more fun to drop it off at the public dock and retrieve it by canoe.
The initial plan I had for using the farm jack was to somehow embed the base sideways into the sloped ground and have the jack push the dock horizontally. But I couldn't get this method to work at all; the jack just plowed the based along the ground no matter what kind of notch I dug out for it to push against the side of. So then on a whim I tried just jacking the uphill side of the dock up vertically. What I found was that when it was like this, it tended to want to slide down the slope (which was a very gentle slope) towards the lake. In just one jacking, I was able to move the whole thing a foot along the ground, which was much more rapid progress than I'd had last November when trying to get the dock up onto the beach with a winch. Within about twenty minutes of jacking vertically and then sliding downhill, I was able to scoot enough of the dock out into the lake that I could push it the rest of the way with my own brute strength. I went and fetched a paddle and a rope (the latter so I could temporarily secure it to the end of the hinged dock once I got there) and then launched the dock out in the lake. Reattaching it to the hinged section of dock required nothing more than the insertion of a pipe (a large-scale hinge pin) and two cotter pins to keep that pipe in place. With that, I had the dock recommissioned. Though it'll probably be a couple months before the lake is warm enough to swim in, I also installed the swimming ladder. Then I took a kayak out for a paddle into the outlet bay, drinking a Burly Beard stout I'd begun over an hour before. In that bay, I saw a pair of mallards (of both sexes). I'd also seen one or two bufflehead ducks from the dock. Neither species of duck stays in lake Woodworth for long; typically the only waterfowl one sees on the lake in the summer is a solitary loon.
Later, back at the cabin, I managed to get the dogs to come with me for a short walk to Woodworth Lake Road, which we crossed and then walked up to some old tanks that may have once served as a water tower for the Boy Scout buildings down the road at the east end of the lake. We then walked to the bottom of the valley behind those tanks, where a small brook babbled. Not wanting to push the dogs too hard (what with their arthritis), all I did after that was return to the cabin. I'd brought the hand truck, which allowed me to retrieve a large granite rock to further improve the stone steps down to the lake trail behind the cabin.
Mostly all I ate today was some sort of vegan hot dog fried on the stove with mushrooms and onions, served on white bread buns. The only real condiments we have are mustard and peanut butter. Fortunately, Grey Poupon mustard seems to do okay even when not refrigerated. The house has been cold for much of the past four months, though the temperature in the refrigerator (which has been off all this time) was probably in the 50s and 60s for at least a week.
Yesterday when I'd wanted to turn on the generator, I'd found its lead-acid starter battery dead (as expected). This mean I'd had to jumpstart the generator using jumper cables attached to the Forester. Then, to get to the generator's battery, I'd had to use a hex wrench to take a panel off the side of the generator housing. I didn't want to ever have to gp through so much trouble again for such a routine operation. So this evening I added two thick 6-gauge wires to the positive terminal of the start battery and routed one of them through existing conduit into the basement (to possibly put a starter battery down there) and routed the other into the space in the generator that is accessible with just opening the generator's hinged hood. This will allow me to hook up a jumper wire from a car to this easier-to-get-to wire. As for the ground, that's been easy to get to, since there is a metal grounding rod just outside the generator housing (and it's the same ground as the household electrical system uses).
What looks like a regurgitated "pellet" from a blue heron on the floating dock where it overwintered. It's full of scales and tiny sharp bones (one of which I accidentally stepped on).
The dock pieces where they overwintered. The hinged dock is seen in the background, still supported by a temporary pole I installed to hold it up above the lake's surface. You can see the support chains connecting the dock to the top of the pole. The fully-floating section of dock is visible on the beach in the foreground.
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The damaged base of the winter support pole for the hinged section of dock.
The dock with the hinged section lower and the pole removed but not yet connected to the fully-floating section of dock.
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The dock pieces all put back together again.
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The view of the recommissioned dock from the south, now with the swim ladder in place.
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Sunset viewed from the woods just west of the cabin.
Sunset with Peck Lake from the woods west of the cabin.
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