Alex Blackwell uses mast-stepping and anchoring techniques to right an upturned pontoon
Hurricane-force storms during the winter of 2013/14 caused a lot of damage in the west of Ireland. Beaches were washed away, roads and bridges were destroyed and many piers, jetties and floating docks were severely damaged.
It was one such floating dock that we needed to repair. One of the big storms had lifted the pontoon in question up and over one of its pilings, flipping it over and twisting and breaking heavy timbers in the process.
In order to salvage this section and reunite it with the rest of the dock, it first had to be cleared, righted and then reattached.
Countless people stopped by to give advice. Tractors were offered, a digger was sourced,
cars were suggested.
However, sailors know that if you apply a lateral force to the tip of the mast, your boat will heel over and ultimately capsize – simple physics of using a lever to one’s advantage. So, we added a mast to one side of the upturned raft and tied several stays from its tip to the other.
The next question was applying enough force to accomplish the task at hand. This dock segment was heavy – really heavy. We started with a ratchet, but that didn’t have enough scope, so we progressed to a pair of double blocks and an old mainsheet from our boat. But what would we use
to anchor it? A spade anchor from our boat, of course! Like all the scoop-type anchors, it is known for its high holding power, so we set it as best we could, hooked
up the components, and pulled.
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