Building the Pride of Buffalo – Day 5

I Never Built a Ladder Before.

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When your houseboat is towed to a place here you can’t get to it, you may have to build a ladder.  I used two 2” x 4” 12 footers with 14” steps, so I could get ten steps over the length.  It took more effort than I imagined.  I worked in the shade of a tanker truck parked adjacent to the sand dunes along the Buffalo Ship Canal. 
One of the steps came out ½” skewed, but the rest were ok.  Sunstroke?  Maybe.  When I’d arise from pounding stairs in, I felt nearly faint.  The fatigue is cumulative now, but Advil seems to help, a lot. 
After finishing the stairs, which fit really well between abandon, decayed railroad trusses next to the water.  There was almost no life, except for a puppy that came to play with me, who belonged to another boat refinisher.  Gary’s boat was going in the water at 1:30 pm.   I would be alone.  If I fell in the canal, broke my neck, nobody would know, at least for hours.  What a terrible way to die, among the floating debris, scores of industrial waste and who knows what.
I did see a three foot long carp though, moving between pylons with a slow and steady flow.  This was his kingdom of shadows, spiders, ants, tar and quiet. 
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I pre-nailed the 8 pound fasteners into the two sixteen foot pressure treated 2 x 4s that I bought to add lateral rigidity to the deck.  The ladder took up so many, I had to count them and carefully plan where to distribute them across the long stringers to make sure I didn’t stabilize half the hull.  I did not want to make the ten mile drive back to the store once I got started. 
I took steps onto the ladder very gingerly, imagining where my body would go if the steps broke.  They held!   I paused in quiet grateful reflection. “Thank, you, God!”
I paused a lot today.  I realized I was not breathing when I was working.  That’s why I was getting so out of breath.   I started breathing out when I’d nail a nail.  I started calming down.   I didn’t realize how nervous I was.  Being out on the decaying railroad trestles was cause for concern, but after hours, it became my workplace.  My shop.
Again, I am amazed at how much this is really about learning to relax.
It was just me and the grain elevators, the carp, the giant ants and the boat.  The wood was slippery, wet from the wake, only an inch above the waterline, but perfect for outfitting.
 I added the two 16 footers, one at a time, rotating the now massive deck, letting it tell me how fast it wanted to rotate.  The boat got big somewhere between day two and day 4!  It now weighs approximately 1,000 lbs.   I can tell because the storage box pontoons are drafting more than two inches of their 18” height.   I hope the boat, fully loaded will not draw more than 6” or so.
After adding the two outboard stringers, I used hiker’s rope to make two Portuguese vices.   I always wanted to work with rope under tension in a useful way.  It’s so low tech and strong.  I was amazed.  It pulled the four deck subassemblies together snuggly and it can be retightened as time goes by and the ropes stretch.  The technique connects my vessel and me with the past.  R Buckminster Fuller also developed a whole science called tensegrity around the constructive forces of tension and how tension creates all kinds of light, strong opportunities in construction.  He designed skyscrapers that used tension, requiring a tenth of the material, weighing a small fraction of the steel girder-supported contemporary buildings we are all too familiar with. Consider the slender pipes that distribute grain from one silo to the next, surrounded by tensioning wires.
It was joyful to climb out on the boat and not feel it flex, but respond in a more rigid, unified way to my mass. 
There were only two boats all day!   One was a slender, lovely yacht owned by my enemy, RCR Yachts, who kicked me into this adversity.  The other visitors were actually two kayakers, who were glad to take a photo of my work and send them to the Shanty Boat Living website, my online project home.  I invited them to the yet-to-be-scheduled grand opening someday very soon.
By the way, you are invited too!  Stay tuned.
Also, By the way, “Thank you, Bryan Lowe”, for taking the time to share my story, along with all those other really interesting global adventures, journeys, dreamers and builders.
I added three large hard wood cleats to the deck as well as an oar lock I found in the waste basket at the Buffalo Maritime Association shop to provide a future capability to row the houseboat, as if it were some kind of oversized Venetian canal barge. 
These oars are about 12 feet long and the paddle is rather skinny at 6” in width and four feet in length.   I got to row a replica Buffalo River Ferry boat using this type of propulsion and it was challenging but fun.
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Before I knew it, Tati was there, at about 4:00 pm with Gatorade to save me.  She said,” hello down there and I impolitely relied, Water?”  Why do we take the ones we love for granted in such a way.   I will make it up to her somehow.
I was tired, but not totally wiped out as I had been the first four days. 
In one week, I got the floating deck in the water and it’s strong enough to provide a large camp site for perhaps six to eight people, but I’ll just keep moving.  Tomorrow is forecast for sun in the early part of the day, so I’ll finish covering the deck with ½ thick plywood and begin installing the base plates of the 4’ high wall that will support the 4.5’ geodesic dome.  
I started to imagine two separate cupolas or tops, or perhaps one long top, to allow airflow and reduce heat above the dome, only one foot or so in additional height.  This should allow airflow, if there is a breeze on hot days and make for a fun way to peek out at the view in another way from the yet-to-be determined windows and doors.
 I have seen gazebos with this additional air space.  It reminds me of early trolley cars that seem to have the same feature.  If any of you have a design you’d like to recommend, please, share!
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I am bushed.  It has been a very challenging yet rewarding week.  Thank you for taking the time to enjoy my journey and I hope it encourages to design, develop and deploy your own dream, whatever it might be.  Tomorrow it’s hub and strut assembly time.
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Originally posted 2013-06-21 18:32:30.

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