Sunday, April 26, 2015

2015 Spring De-Winterizations


By the number of phone calls I have been receiving, it can only mean one thing. Spring is here.

We began installing ramps and floats on the high tides the week of April 15th and are currently in the big push to get everyone installed in a safe and efficient way.

As usual we started in the more protected areas (Quahog, Gun Point Creek, and Bethel Point) and are just now beginning to branch out (currently doing some work in the New Meadows River). In the coming weeks as the weather continues to improve we will expand to Gun Point Cove and also start making our runs across town to Orr's and Bailey Island.

Winter Damage

It was a tough winter. For those of you who were not around, you really lucked out. We had long stretches of very cold weather which resulted in the build up of sea ice the likes we have not seen in a long time. We also had a number of significant storms. Wind and ice combine to create a damaging force on the coast.

In best case situations moorings were dragged off location by the ice flows, in much worse situations they have been lost entirely, wharves have been toppled, and floats ripped free and lost at sea. I lost two of my own junk floats this winter (junk because both because they are retired floats in poor condition and because we store our garbage materials on them until we have a junk yard load).

With this in mind, I have been warning folks not to have too high of expectations for their equipment. If you expect the worse and your gear turns out to be fine, then everyone will be a winner. But the truth is no one is safe and I know of at least 4 wharves that have sustained catastrophic damage (2 belonging to SOS customers) and another two on which we have had to complete minor repairs.


Prioritizing our work schedule is extremely critical this time of year. Everyone wants to be out on the water as soon as possible. We appreciate that, but as I've said many times, our schedules are driven by tides and weather. Our plans are always changing and we don't usually know what we are actually doing for the day until we are pulling away from the dock and have had an opportunity to judge the wind. But here is a general idea of our order of priorities:

1. Ramp and Float De-Winterization (no repairs)
2. Mooring De-Winterizations
3. Ramp and Float De-Winterizations (emergent/temp repairs)
4. New Mooring Installations
5. Seasonal Mooring Inspections
6. Major Repairs

1 and 2 are our top priorities, being low hanging fruit and the easiest to get accomplished and get out of the way. If a system has only minor damage then we will do repair work on an off tide and get you worked back into the schedule as quickly as possible.

2 and 4 happen on off tides, so there is a lot more flexibility in getting them accomplished.

There should be no big rush on moorings that are regularly inspected, so 5 usually begins in June.

We do repair and construction work, but it is not our primary business. Any major repairs or constructions will be done during the summer, after we have accomplished our regularly scheduled work.

An SOS dock tipped over by the ice

Minor repair required for this cracked piling

A non-SOS wharf collapsed

Minor repair required to fix a gantry ripped apart by a dragged mooring.

Launching a new float built over the winter

Another new float installed

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Billing Address

Soper Ocean Services has a new billing address: 

Soper Ocean Services
10 Alexander Ave.
Harpswell, ME 04079

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Ways System

Last week we installed a new fiberglass ways that will be used to store a float out of the water during the winter.

This week we took advantage of the king tides made even higher by storm surge to push the float onto the ways and get it winterized for the season.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ramp and Floats 2014

The winterization of ramps and floats will begin October 6th. If you need your system left in longer make sure you contact me at and provide me with a "no-earlier-than" date. I will do my best to accommodate your needs.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Why has my mooring moved?

"Why has my mooring moved?" is one of the most common questions we receive from new mooring owners. In 99% of all cases the short answer is "it hasn't."

On some situations a mooring will move. If it is undersized, improperly set, or there is a very bad storm it might get dragged across the ocean floor. But in most cases it is the mooring ball, and not the mooring itself, that has shifted. 

The position of a  mooring ball can vary greatly depending on wind, tide, current, and whether or not there is a boat on the mooring. The image below shows 4 different possible positions of a mooring ball in relation to the actual anchor. 

In all 4 examples the chain is the same length (minus slight artistic variations). 

A. represents a mooring that has all the chain piled up close to the mushroom, with no wind current or boat affecting the mooring. This is the only situation that will result in the ball accurately marking the location of the anchor. This is incredibly rare.

B. represents a mooring that has been stretched out but does not currently have any wind, tide, or boat forces being applied. This is the ideal "at rest" example. The chain has been stretched out but only the minimum amount of chain is being lifted out of the mud.

C. represents a mooring that is completely stretched out and being pulled on hard by wind, current, a boat, or a combination of all three. This is an undesirable situation because the chain is lifted out of the mud which leaves it susceptible to corrosion and reduces the mooring's holding power.

D. represents is the same example as C. only it is at low tide.

The moral of this story is that a mooring ball does not usually accurately mark the location of the anchor. It will move in a large circle depending on wind, current, tides, and boat weight. The greater the forces applied, the greater the movement will be. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mooring Recovery Attempt

We will dive for lost equipment, but prefer to avoid it. The visibility is terrible to start, then add a little disruption to the mud and you have blackout conditions in no time flat. We tend to say if you can't throw an anchor overboard and have it land on the lost mooring, I'm not going to be able to find it. And finding it is only the first challenge. Retrieval can be just as difficult.

This video shows well all the best things about diving on a lost mooring. 

On Monday we were performing a routine mooring inspection. We were supposed to pick it up, clean the growth off the lines and then put it back down. It was a relatively new mooring so we did not expect to have to perform any work on it. 

We hooked onto the mooring's halters and started winding it up on the net reel. Right off we knew something was not right, it had tightened up much too quickly. With the scope tight and the barge directly over the mooring we dropped our own anchor in the water. Dropping an anchor serves three purposes.

1. Once we have picked the mooring up and inspected it, it will be much easier to put it back in the same spot. 

2. If we have to do any repairs on the mooring, the anchor will hold us in place while we work.

3. If the line parts, we will have a better chance of finding the lost mooring. Theoretically, we should be within a few yards of the missing mooring. 

It was a good thing we were following our standard operating procedures on Monday, because shortly after dropping our anchor in the water, the mooring line parted. I donned my dive gear and hopped in the water with a marker line. I descended to about 35 ft and was thrilled when I saw that the mooring was visible from the anchor. Don't you just love when a plan works the way it is supposed to? We were very lucky our anchor was in the right spot, because the visibility was poor (less than 5 ft) and I didn't have enough air to do a full search (I had not planned on diving that day and I had two tanks on the boat, each with less than 1000 psi). 

I opted to skip the marker line and head back to the surface for a lifting line. Back on the bottom I tied a bowline into a link of chain. 

Once I was aboard the barge, David began to pull on the lifting line. Just when I thought we were in the clear, the lifting line parted. I cursed loudly, put my gear back on, and entered the water. We parted two more lines trying to pick up that mooring before we gave up for the day. We have a plan to proceed but this is an excellent example of how even if we know where the mooring is, bringing it to the surface can be difficult. 


Friday, May 30, 2014

SOS Call

On Wednesday, we had just finished up what was going to be the last job of the day when we received a frantic phone call from one of our customers. His 15' keelboat was sinking in Harpswell, Maine and he was stuck in Chesapeake. His wife had called him when she noticed the stern sitting low in the water. She, nor any of their neighbors, did not have a dinghy in the water and could not get out to the boat.

We turned the barge around and headed back up in the river. It took us about 15 minutes to get on site and by the time we arrive the cockpit had filled and water was up over the seats. We set to bailing with a five gallon bucket and a hand held bilge pump. It was a tenuous task. We do not like to bring the barge along such pretty vessels. We are big, ugly, covered in mud, and awkward; we can break stuff without even trying. We tried to put David on board so I could get the barge away, but she threatened to swamp and go down. So we had to hold her carefully alongside the barge and bail. Luckily, the wind had died down and it was fairly calm.

30 minutes later she was bailed out, her plug was in place, and the only traces of a near catastrophe were our muddy boot prints.

We earned our acronym on Wednesday. Keep that in mind, SOS doesn't just install dock systems and inspect moorings. We do whatever needs to be done to take care of our people.