Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Closing down

When I got to work, I had to get wet to get onto the boat. The way my boss had me set the boat for the night meant that it was able to drift a bit. And drift it did. I had to step into the water with one foot, then make a flying leap forward and up onto the boat. The water rose over 2 feet overnight.

Around 11, the boss called and said that the river was going up 3/10 of a foot per hour, and that he was going to come down to close the boat at 3. I was stoked. I knew there was a very good chance we'd close today, and if so, I wanted to close during daylight, and also early enough so I could take the afternoon off. It worked out perfectly.

All day, K (who was training again, and getting good experience with crazy river conditions) and I listened to the dispatch radio. Yesterday it was all about snow and the snow plow guys. Today, it was clogged storm drains and water across roadways. Also, there were some humongous trees heading downstream past the boat. Every single time I took off from one shore or the other, I had to scan upstream, looking for trees that I needed to avoid. Several times, I had to stop the boat in the river, or reverse, to try to avoid trees. And we're not talking saplings here. I'm talking full grown oaks, pines and cottonwoods. They were huge.

Around 2:30 or 3, M, a guy from the bridge crew, came down and grabbed K, and they went to flip ferry signs to closed on the west side of the river. There are four or five signs on each side, usually they're in the "ferry open" position, but we flip them down to "closed" during high water. Even though all the signs were flipped, cars kept coming down to the river, expecting a ride. People are oblivious.

When that was done and the boss showed up, we started setting up the boat. We released the low water line, then drove across the river. I landed, and it was a screwy landing. Without that line to hold me in place, plus with the high water, I sort of hit the rocks...hard. oops. The boss was decidedly not pleased.

We attached the low water line, which is a 5/8 inch thick heavy duty cable and about 1,000 feet long, to the tow hitch on a pickup, and the boss and I drove down the road, so the cable came out of the river and laid down the road. Then, I hopped into the bed of the truck, and the boss slowly reversed down towards the ferry. It was my job to pull the cable into the bed and coil it up. Holy crap that was hard work! My arms and wrists are exhausted. I made him stop a couple times so I could just breathe. And all the while, the rain was pouring down. I was so wet after that, my pants got so heavy from the water it felt like they were just going to fall off.

Once the cable was coiled into the truck, we tied the boat to a tree in two spots. I was at the back spot, and the boss had just said to hold onto the rope, letting it in and out so it wouldn't get caught in the propeller. Finally the front line was tied, and he hollered at me to secure the rope, tie it up. And I hollered back that I didn't know how. I don't know knots! My luck, I'd tie it wrong and the boat would get free and something bad would happen. He walked over, but before he could show me what to do, the ferry started shifting, the rope started pulling, and my hand was caught hard between the railing and a huge knot in the rope. I yanked it free while the boss held the rope, but not before I squished it pretty hard. One knuckle is really sore and a bit swollen. That was dumb of me. I'm always talking up the whole "my body is more important than this boat" aspect. I don't put myself in dangerous situations. Yet when one presented itself, pride took over. I didn't want to drop the rope, which would have been a hassle (and I would have felt like the dumb girl), and instead put myself in harms way. I told the boss I was fine, then walked into the cabin and cried from the pain. :(

Finally we were done. I took the rest of the afternoon off, and was home before 4. There was a lot of standing water all over the back roads, and I hydroplaned a few times on the interstate. I got home and took a scorching hot shower, trying to stave off the shivers. My legs were blocks of ice.

The ferry is probably going to be closed for at least two weeks. For those weeks, I'm not going to take vacation. I'll do shop days. I'll have an 8-4:30 schedule, Monday through Friday. What a novelty!

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