The winter took its toll on the lighthouse dock. River ice bent and tore the steel pilings. After spring thaw, the dock was sagging at one end and off-kilter at the other. The pilings for the ramp were bent like pretzels. I attached some temporary supports to shore up the sagging portions and waited for warmer temperatures to make the necessary repairs. It’s more pleasant to work near the water when its warm and sunny. Once the water temperature reached 60 degrees, it was tolerable working conditions.
Putting in new pilings required some heavy lifting, so I rented a hoist for the job. I also had a makeshift winch for lifting the dock into position, something my ingenious neighbor devised out of a trailer hitch. Using the hoist to lift a piling into place, I drove the first one into the mud and felt like the work was going to progress smoothly for the other five pilings. Shortly thereafter, a large work barge moored at the mouth of the creek. Pushed by the red tug “Crow”, the barge was equipped with a crane that towered over the lighthouse. The barge belonged to an outfit contracted by the Coast Guard to repair the end of the dike where channel marker #93 is stationed.
The hoist I rented for dock repairs was like an ant to an elephant compared to this crane. I figured that the crane could finish in five hours the work that was going to take me five days. The contractor added rip-rap to reinforce the concrete base of the channel marker. Using an iron claw, the crane lifted massive boulders a handful at a time and dropped them into place at the end of the dike.
The dike was originally built in the late 1880s to define the navigation channel in Esopus Creek leading to the Saugerties wharf. At that time, a beacon was established at the end of the dike to mark the mouth of the creek. It became the responsibility of the lighthouse keeper to not only maintain the beacon in the lighthouse tower but also to row across creek to light the lantern on the dike. This kerosene lantern on a post was the predecessor to what is now designated at channel marker #93, a solar-powered flashing green LED atop a steel frame structure. The ice and waves had started to undermine the base of the marker, causing the whole structure to lean to one side. Over the course of several days, the crane operator added rip-rap until it was piled high and completely surrounded the concrete base of the marker. Yesterday, after the work was completed, the red tug “Cheyenne” arrived and pushed the work barge back north. Meanwhile, I put away my tools, having finished repairing the dock, satisfied that the pilings were sturdy enough to withstand winter’s onslaught for awhile, but wishing that I had a crane-load of boulders to make certain.