Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ramp and Floats 2014

The end of March heralds the mad dash to June. Those of you who don't live in Maine might not be aware that April is the month in which people start to release all their crazy. After being pent up inside after a long, cold, snowy winter everyone is just itching to get outside. The first sign of the sun and the lengthening of days comes with a fanaticism.

To be completely honest, April is a terrible month in Maine. It's cold, it rains a lot, the wind blows, and we usually end up with at least one bad snow storm. But Mother Nature likes to tease us with one or two days of glorious sun and 60 degree temperatures. There is something primal in us that is triggered by those day. You start seeing cyclists braving the gritty roads, gardeners cleaning the dead leaves from their beds, and boaters scrambling to get their boats cleaned up and ready for launch.

Boaters prepping their boats, means it is time for Soper Ocean Services to go back to work. It means the beginning of our busiest season: Ramp and Floats. Outside the state of Maine it is very common to see people trailering their boats; few people have waterfront property and many only take on the expense of storing in a marina if they have a boat too large to launch with their own vehicle and trailer. In coastal Maine, however, things are a little different. We have a huge amount of coastline, meaning many residents live waterfront or have access to the water via a deeded right of way, a public landing, or an association. Mainer's tend to launch their boats and leave them in all season on moorings, accessed by a dock. Maine's coast is covered with thousands of privately owned dock systems that all need to be uninstalled in the fall and re-installed in the spring.

The Ramp and Float season is brutal and short, driven by the tides and weather. Up until 2007, my dad started the season early in April, but then the Patriot's Day Storm hit and ripped out a number of systems that had already been installed. NO INSTALLS BEFORE PATRIOT'S DAY has been one of Soper Ocean Services's few rules to live by ever since. On the opposite end of the season we are bound by our customer's itch to get their boats in the water. Our target is to have all of our systems installed by June 1st.  So, what starts off as 6 weeks to install over 120 systems is quickly shorted by wind, torrential down pours, PM high tides, and mechanical difficulties.

Yesterday marked the end of our first Ramp and Float tidal cycle. While the sun was shining for many of the 8 days, the wind was a constant fight. People who live and work on land have a little different view of "good weather" than those who work on the water.

Last Sunday, a friend declared "Monday is going to be beautiful."
I rolled my eyes and answered "No, it's going blow 20-30 mph."

This is what Monday yielded.

Despite the rough weather and wind we still managed to get four systems installed and get the barge staged for a week of work.

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