Notes from the Island
May 2006

I apologize if my article this month isn't up to par. The article was due on Wednesday and here it is Saturday morning and I'm just writing it now so I'm in a bit of a rush. I've been so busy for the last couple of days that I haven't been able to sit down long enough to write anything. I feel bad for keeping Norm, our great editor, waiting. Maybe next month I'll actually get it to him on time.

The problem started on Tuesday when I decided to pull the ferry out of the river. I knew that I had a busy week ahead. With two large parties coming to the island on Thursday and the Workfest on Sunday, I had to do something about my overweight and water-filled pontoons. It was very difficult to pull the ferry back and forth and it was frightening to see the pontoons completely submerged when the ferry was loaded with visitors.

You can probably imagine that pulling the ferry from the river is not an easy thing; but if the river rises high enough it is easy to float the ferry onto shore and that's what I did. Well, almost. The river crested at 6.2 feet on that Tuesday night but to get the ferry where I wanted I needed another six inches of water. It was a strange moment that night, for the first time I was hoping the flood-waters would get higher. Unfortunately I was stuck with a ferry that was only halfway out of the river. I wondered briefly about my sanity, but decided I had reached the point of no return so I pushed on, motivated by the thought of a sinking ferry. I grabbed a winch out of the shed and, with a chain around a big sycamore tree, I hoisted the ferry on to the bank. Half the ferry was on land and half was still sticking out over the river like a diving board.

Working from a canoe as the river slowly receded, I drained and patched the boat. In the past I've used a small pump to pump the water out of the pontoons but since I had so little time I couldn't be bothered with that and I simply drilled a hole into the bottom of each pontoon. One pontoon drained briefly but the other shot forth a stream that lasted over half an hour; there was at least twenty-five gallons in there! I sanded and patched the pontoons with epoxy, the kind that cures underwater, and fashioned some bumper extensions that I hope will protect the pontoons from further damage. With the help of Hilary Thomson I was able to slide the ferry back into the river. It turned out to be a good thing that the ferry was only halfway out as it made it easier to get it back in. I'm happy to report that the ferry is fixed. I hope it lasts.

Before I go I have to thank George Malusky, fishing guru and Island grill master, for taking the girls and me fishing. We were finally able to take him up on his generous offer to take us to Fletcher's for the annual shad run. He rented a boat, we caught huge fish, and even my reluctant teenage daughters said they had a lot of fun. Thanks George!

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker