Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Godzilla vs the Ferry

It's been great being back to running the ferry. Catching up with regulars, watching the birds, being bored as usual. Of course, the water's on the rise again. I suppose I'd deluded myself that the river would be low and stay that way. But I think it's been such an extraordinarily wet spring that even a light drizzle runs right off into the river. The ground is really saturated. I've heard that this week from farmers too. One of my favorite regulars, a guy who works on a berry farm, said they had ordered a truckload of strawberry starts a month ago, but haven't been able to work the soil yet, it's all pretty much mud.

Right now, the river level is at 12.71 feet. We usually close the ferry around 13.5 feet, sometimes less, sometimes more. I wouldn't be surprised if I go to work tomorrow morning, and we close the ferry right away. The main reason we close at 13.5 feet is rocks. The ferry is strong enough to muscle through the high, fast currents. But currently, there are rocks placed at both sides of the concrete ramp landings. The rocks are higher than the ramp. So when the water is high, even if I make a perfect landing, the hull of the ferry hits the rocks. And that's just not good for the boat. I started noticing that I was hitting rocks around 11.5 or 12 feet. And by 13.5 feet, I pretty much can't land at all, the rocks are so bad. It was getting rough as I closed tonight. I'm curious to see how it is in the morning.

The other big problem with high water is the trees coming downstream. There were some whoppers today. You had to keep your eyes peeled upstream for trees heading for you. Usually it's not a huge deal if you hit a tree. You hear it reverberate off the hull, then it rolls under the ferry and goes on it's way. Except sometimes when the tree gets stuck in the low water line--the underwater cable.

Which brings me to the title of this post. I was heading across the river to pick up a car, and looked up to see how close I was to shore. And I spot a tree coming downstream. Not just a tree, but this gigantic thing. It was the trunk and root ball of probably a 100 year (or more) fir tree. It was huge, and heavy, only a small part of it bobbed above the water. As soon as I saw it, I threw the boat in full reverse. I managed to not actually hit the tree with the ferry, but as soon as the tree passed, I felt a tug. The tree had hit the low water line. I ran across to that side of the boat and looked, as the tree pulled and yanked on the cable. I wasn't so much worried about the tree snapping the cable, though that was possible. But if I couldn't get the tree free, I couldn't land on that side of the river at all.

My best bet was to try to dislodge the tree with the ferry. First I inched up slowly to the tree, then put the boat in full speed. The tree just sat there and the cable moaned as it stretched. Next, I backed the ferry up, almost to the other side of the river, hoping that the cable would drop far enough underwater that the tree would float over. Didn't work. Finally, as a last resort, I threw the boat in full speed from quite a distance, and just rammed the damn tree. The boat writhed and twisted in the water, the cable moaned, and I could hear the tree fight with the water. Finally, suddenly, the tree heaved over onto it's side and rolled off the cable. I was free!

I finally made it to shore. The car that had been waiting had stayed, in awe of the tree that got stuck. When they rolled onto the boat, they said I'd done a great job. It was cute. I was pretty damn proud of myself, too.

Tomorrow is possibly my last Wednesday on the boat. The new operator, K, is taking the Wednesday boat shift, and I'll work a 10 hour day in the shops. I'm pleased with this. I'm usually very tired by Wednesday. This is a shorter day, a shorter commute, and I'm done in time to make it to knitting group. I'm not sure what the boss has in store for me, I'm not sure if he knows. But he's said he'll keep me off the crews. I hope.

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