Dock Tales 2012: Fail*

We installed the dock two weeks ago. Perfectly–level, the bottom of its frame just above the lake surface. The best installation ever. A few days later it rained–the same storm that  afflicted the Best Buddies ride, except it rained harder and longer in Maine. A foot of rain over the weekend, more rain in the following days, in some places up to 18″ of rain in ten days.

Which is havoc for the dock.

*Because for some of you the dock installation story is, like robins and black flies, a sign of spring.

Love Hurts

Dock removal last September was uneventful.  Dock removal yesterday was a bitch.  The lake bed’s clay refused to give up the dock posts. We couldn’t pull most of the posts through their brackets because when we drove them into the lake bed they mushroomed from hitting rocks, which required maneuvering the dock sections close enough to shore to cut off the damaged sections with a Sawz-All. Two of the sections pulled away from the Maine dock while still attached to their posts and we had to pull the posts out from the submerged sections.  I was wrestling with one post in chest-deep water when my ring finger was caught between the steel post and dock frame.  I couldn’t free it as the submerged dock section rose to the surface and I felt my wedding ring being crushed against my finger as the rising dock dragged the finger upward along the post, still stuck in the lake bed.  I was about to call for Nate’s help when the ring flattened enough to free my hand.  At first glance I thought the crushed ring cut off circulation to my finger, which was white and hurt like hell.  It hadn’t. With the help of dishwashing liquid I was able to squeeze the ring past my knuckle.  No permanent damage to finger or ring, which the jeweler said she can re-form. (The dock caused the ring to go from a circle to an oval, not changing the photo’s relative dimensions.)

Sign of Summer

Regular readers know that I measure the seasons by installation and removal of my Maine dock.  The dock cannot stay in the lake year-round because it’s the law (don’t ask for the citation) and because winter ice would crush and destroy it.  The dock consists of eight 4′ x 8′ sections of pressure-treated wood which are connected and sit on 2″ galvanized pipes of varying lengths.  Installation requires wrestling the heavy dock sections into the water, placing them on floats, moving them into position, lifting one end to rest on brackets attached to the previous installed section, gingerly attaching clamps to the opposite end and winching it out of the water, placing galvanized posts in the leg brackets and driving them into the lake bottom, leveling the section, tightening leg-bracket set-screws to secure the section, and then repeating all of the above with the next section.  Removal requires undoing all of these steps.  This is my twelfth installation since building the first, smaller iteration of the dock in 1998.   Do the same thing every year for almost 1/5th of your life and it becomes a ritual.  Most of those installations have been solo which, if everything goes well, I can complete in a day or day and a half.  I installed the dock this weekend because Nathan, just back from Italy, volunteered his young, strong self to the task.

Here is the result.


Summer has begun.  If only we could install summer weather.  June has been unusually cool and wet.  It is 59 degrees and raining, with rain forecast for most of the week.  The lake is so cold I’ve not begun my other summer ritual, the early-morning swim.  Last week some Scottish folks, from Glasgow, who Nathan met traveling this spring came to our house for dinner.  They were to spend this pask weekend in Kittery, Maine;  I’m sure the weather made them feel at home.

Water Water Everywhere

Hydrologists use a concept called a “100 year flood,” which describes an event with a recurrence interval of 1% per year, or an event with a probability of occuring once every 100 years.  One  could use other recurrence intervals, such as a “10 year flood,” with a ten percent probability of occurring each year.  I first encountered the terms as a real estate lawyer looking at survey plans.  Anytime a client bought or developed land anywhere near water the surveyors would note the location of the 100 year flood plain.

I’ve been thinking of these concepts because summer 2008 has brought more violent thunderstorms and more rain to the northeast than I can remember.  I’m not suggesting the rainfall approaches 100 year storm levels, only that rainfall since summer’s advent is notably above normal.  The Maine dock is my yardstick.  Using it to measure water levels is tricky because I install it each spring and remove it each fall.  Its elevation is always relative to the level of the lake.  Other fixed points, like the end of the dock installation ramp, tell me that the lake is unusually high for July 31.  The dock tells me that the lake is about nine inches higher than it was when I installed the dock in early June.  I install it with the bottom edge just touching the water.  In a normal summer by the end of July there would be 4-6″ of clearance between the bottom of the dock and lake–enough for the dogs to swim underneath.

Not this summer. 


We installed the dock in early June with about 6 inches of freeboard. I install it close to the spring water level, knowing the level will decline by summer’s end.  However what goes down sometimes goes up first.  June has seen a lot of rain.  Three days ago lake water lay about two inches below the dock surface.  It rained all weekend, at times heavily, and yesterday morning a thunderstorm raged close by and poured sheets of water on already-soaked earth.  I know exactly how hard it rained because I was out in the storm calling for a missing dog.  I turned home when lightning flash and one beat later thunder cracked almost directly overhead, deciding it was not a good day to die.  Just as I entered the house Chelsey tore up behind me, wildness in her eyes, and bolted in before me.  All safe.  I took this picture after the storm.  One more heavy rain will submerge the dock.  It’s happened before; everything returns to its level sooner or later.