Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dredging Operations

Our Marina is located on a salt water tidal river.   Because it is connected to and fed by the ocean, it ebbs and flows with the tide.  I share this with you so that you might understand the huge volume of water that rushes in from the ocean for six hours then rushes back out again.  Our tidal changes average out to be about seven feet.  Sometimes it’s higher than that and sometimes a little bit less.  The speed of this current flow is four and a half miles per hour at peak and dead calm at slack.


This movement of unbelievable quantities of water is a huge force to be reckoned with.  It moves things, particularly the silt and soil that the banks and bottom are made of.  This causes shoaling in certain areas and washouts in others.  The banks of these tidal rivers shift continually.


Our marina is subject to this shoaling and we have to dredge out the bottom about every ten years to keep the depth in and around the marina deep enough.  To do this effectively is a huge engineering feat and takes careful measurements, planning, and execution.


The first problem is where does one put all the mud and silt that we are going to suck up off the bottom to make the river deeper?  There are very rigid regulations concerning an operation like this and the permitting process is a long and drawn out affair involving the Corps of Engineers and the department of Natural Resources.  The process usually takes about two years just to obtain the proper permits.  The permit is not granted without a detailed account of how you are going to dispose of the spoil material.


There are three means of disposing spoil material legally.  One, you have a piece of land designated as a spoil area where you pump the material onto.  Two, you haul the material away by trucks to an approved spoil area.  Three, you pile the material onto a barge and ship it out to sea to an approved spoil area and dump it in the ocean.  In our case, we own the island across the creek from the marina and have kept it for many, many years as a designated spoil area.


Two months before the dredging operation began, a huge barge was brought to the shore of the island and heavy equipment was unloaded to plow and shape the area to receive the spoil material.  The area is surrounded by a tall dyke and shaped so the spoil material settles on one side and the water drains to the other and is filtered, clean, back into the river or creek.


Here are two aerial views of our spoil area.  The dredging had already begun when these were taken and you can see the solid material accumulating on the one side as the water settles to the other and drains.




The challenge for me, as Dock Master, during the dredging project is to clear the boats out of sections of the marina to allow the dredge to operate in the marina safely without the risk of damaging the boats. Moving the boats also allows the dredge to dig out areas where the boats would normally dock. Here is a picture of the dredging equipment tied up in an area where I had just moved out all the boats.  Notice the boats still left in the marina.



Here is another shot from a different angle.



The way the manager of the dredging operations and I worked out the plan, each section we cleared out would take about one week to complete.  So, each week, I had to clear out a section of the marina and park the boats in other parts of the marina.  Then, a week later, I had to move those boats back to their spots and clear out the next section to be dredged.  Here is a shot of the next section to be dredged after the section shown above.  Notice the boats have been moved back to the right side of the right hand dock and the lack of boats in the area between these two docks.



The equipment for this kind of operation can be just as interesting as the operation itself.  The company we hired for the job had a small little tugboat custom made for them to use with their dredging barge.  Here is a shot of “The Mighty Mouse” tug.  The tug was aptly named!



This next photo is a shot of the dredging barge shot from the rear.  The little skiff and the Mighty Mouse are docked in front of the barge.  The dredging barge has no engine for propulsion.  It is moved around by the tug and the little skiff.  The tall things that look like legs are called spuds.  Each spud is dropped down and digs into the bottom to hold the dredging barge in place to allow it to dig up a particular area.



The barge has an arm that moves up and down and can be manipulated to the right and to the left.  On the end of that arm is a rotating drill head with a pipe in the center of the drill head.  The drill head digs up the bottom and the pipe sucks up the material much the same as a vacuum cleaner would suck up dirt.



Here is a close up shot of the drilling head.  I’ve seen steel pipe that was laying on the bottom that was cut clean in two when hit with this drill head.  It is driven with awesome power and really did a great job in our marina.



Marina operations had to continue all during the dredging operations and I was continually radioing instructions to boats who were trying to get past the dredge while dredging was taking place.  The dredging in the creek, where all the above pictures were taken, is completed and they are now dredging out front in the river portion of the marina.  The entire project should be wrapped up in another two weeks, just in time for our summer boating season.


The dredging operation progressed through our marina in a very calm and orderly fashion.  This was due to great planning and good execution on the part of the marina staff as well as the dredging staff.  I am very pleased with the outcome and am already receiving congratulations from my boss on a job well done.  I have to say, though, that I am very glad this has to be done only once every ten years.


I’m going to leave you with one more aerial shot of the spoil island only because I think it’s pretty and I wanted to squeeze it in.



Today is my lovely wife's birthday and she has taken the day off.  I have plied Paulette with cards and gifts and will escort her later to the restaurant of her choice.  I think we're going to have a nice meal and a great time.  I hope you all have a great week!

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

A Bit Of A Bug!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I wish I could say that I have just been very busy and only now have had time to sit down and write.  That actually is true, but there is more to the story.  We have been sick here, very sick.  I came down with it first, only a couple of days after my last post.  Paulette got it about five days later and Sandy had a brush with it, too, although she never had the cough and congestion that Paulette and I contracted.


This bug has been going around.  My doctor says it’s a virus but did not call it the flu.  Many who have had it that I know have referred to it as the flu.  First you start aching and get a fever.  These symptoms are soon joined by diarrhea, upset stomach and then the most massive cold type symptoms I’ve experienced in years.  Your chest is filled with congestion and it’s hard to breath.  The first several days of this and you can’t lie down to sleep at night because of the sensation of a very heavy weight on your chest and the wheezing.  It feels as though you will suffocate if you lie down.  The recliner was my salvation and later helped Paulette, too.


Paulette ended up going to the doctor twice and the emergency room once.  I got off with just two trips to the doctor.  Thank God it’s over for me and Paulette is on the tail end of it.


Of course, it could not have come at a worse time for me.  I mentioned in my last post that this is always a busy time of year for me at the marina.  I generally lose my assistant every year just before the marina goes into the longer hours of operation that stretches through summer and beyond.  It’s usually not because they are unhappy; they just realize that there is little room for promotion.  I plan on keeping this job for some time to come and they want to move on to a position somewhere that offers more room for growth.  This year was no exception.


I cannot tell you how much fun it was interviewing applicants while I sat there sweating with fever and working seven day work weeks a couple of weeks in a row.  I was able to take two days off at the beginning of the illness, but then I had to work straight through this past Sunday.  I am well now and recovered.  I have a newly hired, but quickly trained, assistant with two more new hires starting mid week this week. 


Yesterday was a day filled with three weeks worth of errands and chores.  Today I get to rest and finally post a new entry in this journal.  Oh, don’t bother suggesting I take a flu shot next year.  I already plan to.  I hate shots, but if it will prevent what I just went through, sign me up!


Under the very best of circumstances, I don’t do sick well.  To have to work expanded hours while I was sick and seven days a week, to boot, really put me off my game.  I have not been online longer than it takes to do a quick check of Email over the past few weeks.  I have not been able to concentrate on this small screen long enough to read journals so I have not even tried.  I hope to remedy that now that I’m felling better and I hope to be around soon to visit all my friends’ journals and, of course I’ll try to leave comments again.


During all of this the dredging project at the marina has been under way.  I’ll do a post very soon and share some interesting pictures I’ve been able to put together to show you how it’s been going.  By the way, the manager of the dredging project came down with the same bug I had. He is recovering now but had to work through most of the illness, too. 


Look for another post from me either later today or, if not, by Friday night, for sure.  I’ve got some aerial shots of the dredging project that are really cool and I think you’ll enjoy seeing them.  In the meantime, take care and watch out for this bug that’s going around.  It’s a killer!