Notes from the Island
March 1990


I often write about the beauty of Sycamore Island, but life here also has its frustrations - the plumbing, for example. In October the toilet in our quarters backed up. Plumbing supervisor Joe O'Boyle came down, pulled the commode off the floor and snaked out the line. The problem reappeared a month later. I cleared the pipes temporarily by plunging vigorously while standing on the shower drain, but that solution only lasted two days. I brought the chemical john down from upstairs.

Joe said the problem was in the sewer line and asked me to dig it up where it went through the men's locker room. So I pulled the bricks up off the floor and dug a long trench that went deeper and deeper and deeper, but I didn't find any pipes. Finally I contacted Ken, the former caretaker, who didn't know the location of the sewage line, but suggested looking outside the back of the house.

Sure enough, a cast iron clean-out jutted out of the earth about two feet from the northeast corner of the house. I then exposed twelve feet of pipe parallel to the clubhouse, before I discovered that the connection to the bathroom ran directly from the clean-out. Joe came down, broke the outside line, snaked out the pipes and determined that the blockage was under our quarters.

Joe thought the problem might be where the newer plastic pvc pipe from the toilet and the shower joined the older cast iron pipe below the bathroom floor. So I dug a tunnel under our quarters from the trench in the men's locker room. Unfortunately, there was no problem with the connection.

Then we proceeded to have the coldest December on record. The ground froze preventing further excavation. And Joe's business was swamped with burst pipes all over town. Of course, the now-exposed sewer line also froze, stopping up the shower and the kitchen sink. Eventually the weather got warmer, the ground thawed, Joe's business slowed down, both of us recovered from illnesses and we got back to work.

I shoveled out a large crawl space under the house and Joe went in and pulled out all the old cast iron pipe which was clogged with roots and replaced it with plastic pvc pipe. I am happy to report that the sewer works and the porta-potti is back up in the women's locker room.

Up until a week ago the weather was unseasonably warm. The crocuses, forsythia and spring beauties were all blooming. Then the temperature dropped below freezing and the flowers wilted. However, the bluebells and the daffodils will be out soon and the Island will be gorgeous.

There are always some pleasant surprises on Sycamore. This morning there were twenty-two whistling swans floating out on Broadwater. Spring must be on its way.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker