Saturday, July 23, 2011


On Tuesday, I worked from 8 am until 10:30 pm. Holy overtime pay, batman! We were setting up to dredge the river at the BV, since the ferry was closed. It was a pretty interesting day, actually. We did a lot.

Between 8 and noon, I helped get the barges onto the trailers. The barges are 10.5x25 feet metal boxes. There are 4 of them, and they lock in place together. For some reason, it took about 7 hours to get two barges onto trailers. I think it can be much quicker, and it was the next day, but man, it took awhile. We attached one end of the barge to a huge tractor called a Gradall, lifted up that end, and backed the trailer under it. Then used the gradall to drag it further up the trailer. Before that was done for two barges, my boss told me to get down to the BV. Two coworkers had taken the dredging boat, the Sir Charles, down that morning, but evidently there wasn't any antifreeze in it. So I grabbed a few gallons of antifreeze and headed down.

Once I got down there, we filled up the boat and drove it around the river a bit. I'd driven the usual work boats, which are just basic flat bottomed boats with outboard motors. the Sir Charles is bigger, has a covered cabin area, and you drive it with a steering wheel. And holy hell is it awkward to drive. It's both overly squirrely and sluggish at the same time. Just challenging. We motored around in the area that everyone had been complaining that the BV was hitting bottom, and used a spike pole (long pole with a spike on the end, it also has measurement lines) to check the water level. There were plenty of spots where there was only 3 feet of water--an empty boat needs 2 feet of water. Add cars, and it sits lower. The area we determined that needed to be dredged was about the size of the boat. Having no idea, I asked, and yes, that's a huge area to have to dredge. About twice the size of the area they usually dredge at the WL.

Finally around 3, the first truck and trailer showed up with a barge. Because of how they laid out the road and BV ramp, a dump truck with oversized, very heavy trailer, has to back up 1/3 of a mile. Once the trailer with the barge is partially in the water, the Gradall (which was also brought down) basically shoves it into the water. A few of us on land were hanging onto the rope so the barge wouldn't float away until we staked it to shore.

I can't remember the exact reason, but we only had one barge down at the river by about 5 pm. I drove back to the shops (in a dump truck) with X (breaker of the BV), then drove the pilot car for the second barge. Anything over 9 feet wide needs a pilot car. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available couldn't go faster than 45 mph, even on the interstate. It was a long slow trip. We got both barges into the water by dark, then convoy'd back to the shops. I think by the end of the day, we had something like 11 vehicles down there.

The following day, Wednesday, went much more smoothly. By 9:30, both barges were loaded and ready to go. I hopped in a different truck and drove around to the far side of the boat ramp, which was a longer drive. I was towing the work boat, just so we'd have another boat down there. By the time the boat was in the water, they were backing the barge down to the water. Pretty soon, all four barges were in the water, and they began the dance to turn the barges so they could be connected properly. It was fascinating. At one point, there was a guy on each of two barges, and they each hung onto one end of a rope. Simply by pulling on the rope, walking to a different end of the barge and pulling again, they spun one barge around and pulled them together in exactly the right location. It was almost like a dance. In this picture, the excavator is pushing down on the center, so two pieces will level out and can be locked together.

I was hoping to stick around to see how they drive the excavator onto the barges, but instead, several of us went across the river to where the ferry was tied up. Our job was to disconnect the baloney and load it onto the truck. that thing is massively heavy! It was also pretty fascinating to see the actual damage done. I took this picture at the end of the day, when we wound it on a pallet. Note the size of the pallet for scale, and remember that the baloney is at least as big around as your wrist, probably bigger.
We've been calling that "the spaghetti end" of the baloney. The cables inside the black rubber wrapping are solid copper. Imagine the force it took to rip solid copper in half.

Late thursday afternoon, we got word that the new baloney had arrived. I was surprised, I'd heard rumors that it'd take 2 weeks to get a new one. I'm guessing the guys were down there for hours, hanging the new baloney. Regardless, the ferry reopened for cars on Saturday morning. Which is great, since it means the damage done wasn't as extensive as I thought. They had to weld some new parts, check out the entire electrical system, some of the structure, and make sure nothing else was harmed. I'm glad it's back up and running. I'm sure X is, too...

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