Archive for the ‘Boathouse’ Category

Boathouse in Early 1990s

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm
Rosslyn Boathouse, by Bill Amadon

Rosslyn Boathouse, by Bill Amadon

I’ve just concluded a Champlain Area Trails (CATS) board meeting on a high note. Or, to be more precise, a fellow board member finished the meeting on a high note by handing me this handsome painting of our boathouse during drier times.

Bill Amadon, master gardener, trail builder and painter, has created several other romantic images that adorn Rosslyn’s walls, but the timing for this image couldn’t have better. After a difficult week of record-breaking Lake Champlain water levels flooding Rosslyn’s boathouse, Amadon’s painting reminds us of the structures past and future. Soggy today, this weather-worn icon will endure long into the future.

Today I noticed Amadon photographing the flooded boathouse before our meeting. I wonder if he’ll memorialize the flood with another beautiful painting. And if so, hopefully we’ll be able to look back on the history making floods of 2011 with nostalgia. But for now, we’re still struggling to get through the high water risks. This morning my bride and Doug Decker, the carpenter-turned-jack-of-all-trades-handyman who caretakes Rosslyn removed about 2,000 pounds of waterlogged driftwood, tree trunks and miscellaneous debris floating from our waterfront.

As we pack our bags for four days in the Utah desert, our feelings have been mixed. On the one hand, we welcome the escape from rain and flooding. On the other, we depart with heavy hearts, anxious with the knowledge that we won’t be here to intervene if the wind picks up and the waves begin to batter the submerged boathouse and shoreline. A 40-50 food tree with a trunk almost 18″ thick lurks just south of the boathouse, too heavy and too entangled in shoreline brush to be removed. Heavy winds out of the south could dislodge the tree and heave it repeatedly against the boathouse. The damage would be grave. Or a heavy wind out of the east could further erode the banks that are already badly undermined and failing. Large trees are at risk of collapsing into the lake, and the pavement of Route 22 which runs above the bank is already cracking as the lakeside begins to collapse.

These are the worries. These are the anxieties. And yet we are leaving. Our trip had been scheduled long before the floods, and we’re unable to change or cancel them. And so we throw ourselves upon the mercy of nature and our friends to preserve our property. Doug will spend the days until we return on Monday evening working upstairs in the boathouse, finishing trim woodwork and oiling the fir beadboard. He’ll be able to keep a close watch on the wind and waves and debris. If circumstances threaten, he will attempt to remedy the problem by redirecting or removing logs. Or by resecuring materials that are loosened by the waves. If conditions worsen further, several friends have offered to come and help out. In short, our friends and neighbors are lending a hand. So we can depart tomorrow morning confident that those who care about us, those who care about the boathouse and property will intervene if needed.

Amadon’s painting provided just the confidence boost I needed to board the plane, a memory rekindled for what the boathouse looked like in the past and what it will hopefully look like again this summer. Thanks to all who’ve helped us through this experience!


Need a Hand?

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 1, 2011 at 11:09 am
Rosslyn boathouse and dock section

Rosslyn boathouse in distance, upended 16' dock section in foreground

“Hey!” I looked up toward Route 22 and saw C.G. Stephens climbing over the guardrail. “Need a hand?”

It was the first time since our boathouse and waterfront had been submerged that anyone had offered assistance.

“Thanks. I really appreciate it,” I answered. I wanted to run up the hill and hug him, tell him how good it felt to be asked. But I didn’t. I was waist deep in thirty eight degree lake water, propping a portable dock up on the stone terrace to keep it from floating away. “Actually, I’m pretty good now. But thanks.”

Two sections of aluminum docking had gotten twisted and battered by waves and floating logs, and this morning the larger of the two had been knocked over the lowest stone retaining wall and lay upended on the submerged beach. Because the water’s now over my head on the beach and my waders only reach up to my chest, I had to work carefully from the terrace above the beach, slowly hauling the dock back up, waves and gravity working against me.

Doorless and flooded Rosslyn boathouse

Can't fight nature! Doorless, flooded Rosslyn boathouse.

Before recovering the docks I waded through the boathouse. We’re no longer able to shut the main door because the water has swollen the bottom half too much to fit in the doorjamb. The water’s now thirteen inches deep inside, covering the first step and part of the second step leading up to the second floor. The two louvered doors leading out to the pier on the lake side had been battered all night by the waves, and the hinges were ripping. The temporary fastener we’d used to secure the doors was gauging the waterlogged wood. I released the doors and opened them wide, holding one side back with a rope and the other side back with a large stone. Now the water is surging through the inside of the boathouse, still tugging the doors against their restraints, but hopefully the damage will be less severe with them open.

C.G. and I stood on the bank for a few minutes, talking about the water level, the flooding and the beautiful morning. He said goodbye and headed back up to his big pickup truck idling on the shoulder of the road.

“Thanks for stopping,” I said as he left.

I took a few photos and headed back up to the house to find my bride.

“I’ve just had one of those Ah-ha! moments,” I explained. I told her about C.G. stopping and offering to help. “I finally realize what’s been bugging me; nobody’s offered a hand.”

I’ve been practically morose for the last few days as Lake Champlain water levels climbed and climbed and climbed. I assumed it was just an emotional reaction to watching our dreams and hard work getting swallowed up by floodwaters. An investment under water. After all, it was the boathouse that had pulled my imagination ever since I was a boy. It was the boathouse that had seduced us and won our hearts each time we visited the house with our realtor. It was the boathouse which had provoked a disproportionate amount of anxiety during renovation, which had posed three years of permitting and engineering and construction challenges, which had drained our coffers and strained relationships with contractors. It was the boathouse that most represented the lifestyle choice which compelled us to leave Manhattan and begin a new life in Essex. It was the boathouse which starred in recent memories of swimming and waterskiing and windsurfing and kayaking with our nieces, nephews, family and friends. It is the boathouse that is celebrated by local artists in exhibition after exhibition. It is the boathouse that adorns postcards and book covers and brochures and newspaper articles over the last hundred years. It is the historic boathouse that was resuscitated by the inspiration and perspiration of so many people over the last few years. Obviously watching the water swallow it up is unnerving. And waking up in the middle of the night, hearing the wind, worrying that the waves will unleash a floating log like a battering ram against the walls or the columns or the railings…

But three words, “Need a hand?”, illuminated the lightbulb for me. Literally hundreds of friends and strangers have stopped to photograph the submerged waterfront and boathouse. Emails, Facebook messages, Twitter tweets and photographs have flooded in. Sincere condolences and flip observations have lightened the mood. Even a few aesthetic and philosophical reflections have attempted to reframe the scenario. “But until C.G. stopped, nobody’s offered assistance. Is that strange to you?”

My bride listened. She agreed. She’d noticed the same thing.

“And, CG, though I’ve known him for at least twenty years, maybe more, isn’t even a particularly close friend. He’s more of an acquaintance, not somebody I would’ve bothered with a request for help.”

Susan told me that on Friday night over pizza at Dogwood, one of her closest friends had dismissed the flooded boathouse with a cavalier, “Oh, you can always rebuild it.”

Right. We can always rebuild it.

Rosslyn boathouse with Kestrel

Rosslyn boathouse with Kestrel

Only, we can’t. Rosslyn’s boathouse is historic, built most likely in the late 1800s. It is a part of the historic architectural heritage of Essex, NY. History can not be rebuilt. It can be replaced with a facsimile.

Only, in the case of Rosslyn’s boathouse, it probably could not. Having been through the complex, multi-authority permitting needed for our original rehabilitation of the boathouse, I can say that if it were dismantled beyond repair, it is very likely that we would not be granted permission to rebuild it. New structures of this sort in the Adirondack Park have been disallowed for many years, and depending on the degree of damage to the structure, rebuilding is not a foregone conclusion.

And even if it were, the time, labor and material resources alone would be prohibitive. Flood insurance has not been an option. It is a boathouse after all. And even though there is absolutely no historic precedent for Lake Champlain to flood this high, insurance does not offer the safety net that it might for our house or carriage barn.

And then there is the human capital that it took to rehabilitate this structure. Mine. My bride’s. Several engineers. Between three and four dozen contractors, carpenters, laborers, painters and landscapers. Literally thousands and thousands of hours. Sweat and patience and dreams. People working in some of the most challenging conditions — forming and pouring concrete in freezing water; steel construction in snowy, windy winter; roof shingling and copper flashing in scorching summer — to save and restore a building that has greeted Essex residents and visitors for well over a century.

In other words, we can’t “just rebuild it.” And the notion that a close friend who witnessed Rosslyn’s rehabilitation from beginning to end wouldn’t see that surprised us both.

Why the self-pitying post?

Actually, it’s not self-pitying. Or, hopefully it’s not. I realize I’ve flown pretty close to the woe-is-me frontier, but I’ve tried to stay out of the No Fly Zone. I’m not asking for pity. Frankly, I’m not asking for a hand. Not yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and my psychic energy focused like a laser beam on dry, windless days until Lake Champlain’s water level drops two feet.

We’re resilient. A boathouse is a luxury, a folly, a non-essential, but we’re confident and optimistic that our funny little building on a pier in Essex will endure the flood, take on a handsome weathered patina and slip soon into the realm of “Remember when…”

So, if this isn’t a self-pitying post, what’s the take-away? If you’re a corporate speak aficionado, the take-away is empathy trumps apathy. Every time. And consider offering a hand when your friends might need it, even if you think they’ll decline, even if you’re not sure how you can help. Intention needs no translation.

On that note, if you’re anywhere near Essex, NY or Westport, NY consider offering a hand to the Old Dock Restaurant, Essex Shipyard & Rudder Club, Essex Marina, Normandie Beach Resort, Westport Marina and Camp Dudley. All of them are coping with Lake Champlain flooding, and even if they decline your offer of assistance, I suspect they will be genuinely flattered that you offered.

And, to close on a less preachy note, here are some of the more unique messages that I’ve received over the last few days:

  • “Global warming.” ~ Charlie Davis
  • “People pay a lot of money to have an indoor pool… I hope it’s heated.” ~ Michelle Rummel
  • “I got some great photos with the ducks swimming by, though. It’s all in the name of art…” ~ Catherine Seidenberg
  • “So sorry about your boathouse! Those pictures were so beautiful and so sad!” ~ Elena Borstein
  • “Maybe you can start your own ferry service – is it time to ski to Charlotte?” ~ Bobbi Degnan
  • “I suppose the bright side is that you can fish inside it…” ~ Paul Rossi
  • “I am all for starting a nice water taxi service, the Venice of the Adirondacks…” ~ Linda Coffin
  • “Still a beautiful boathouse even underwater.” ~ Matilde Busana
  • “Let’s all move to Flagstaff!” ~ Chris Casquilho
  • “I always thought it would be cool to live in that boat house with the lake and all… never quite meant it so literally though…” ~ Kevin Cooper
  • “Sad. But maybe there’s a children’s book there?” ~ Amy Guglielmo
  • “George is using him mind control on the lake. Watch it recede as he uses his awesome powers.” ~ Kathryn Cramer
  • “Heck, Catherine and I canoed through your boathouse today… We were very careful!” ~ Tom Duca

Lake Champlain vs. Rosslyn Boathouse

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on April 29, 2011 at 9:10 am
Rosslyn boathouse is flooded

Rosslyn boathouse is flooded (6:00am April, 29, 2011)

We knew it would happen sooner or later. But like so many inevitable but dreaded events, we’d wrapped ourselves in a warm comforter of denial. And four springs slipped quickly past since purchasing Rosslyn without the boathouse getting flooded. Sure, we’ve had plenty of high water, but the water’s never risen above the floorboards. In fact, the highest it had ever gotten was about 9-12″ below the floorboards!

Not this year. Lake Champlain‘s water level has risen quickly in recent weeks due in part to seasonal spring melt after an extremely snowy winter and spring. But spring rains are the real culprit. Lots and lots and lots of rain. We’ve been watching day by day as the water crept up, reassuring ourselves that it must be cresting soon… Only it wasn’t. It’s still rising. About another 5″ inches since yesterday afternoon, bringing it to about one foot in the last 24 hours. That’s fast! But slow enough for us to clear out the items that don’t play well with water. Which put a dent in Doug’s carpentry work upstairs, finishing up the trim and oiling the fir. We also had to shut down all electric. Which makes for a dark and eerie lair in the evening. A bit like a flooded tunnel. Interesting photos though…

Most of the drama surrounds the boathouse, especially since we’ve worked long and hard to restore it to health and happiness. But the waterfront is another big concern. Major erosion already, and that’s with relatively light wind and minimal wave action. Big wind and big waves could be catastrophic! Hoping against hope that the wind will remain calm and the waters will fall. Help me hope if you’ve got psychic horsepower to spare. Although we haven’t finished landscaping the entire waterfront, roughly a third (about 80′) looked great up until a few days ago. We’ve rebuilt the stone walls and planted a lawn on the terrace above the beach. The rear edge of the lawn, following the base of the next stone terrace had grown into a handsome daylily bed that stretched the full eighty feet. Spectacular in summer. Now virtually erased by drift wood grinding and churning in the waves. All hand planted. All pampered through the first season. All healthy and thriving earlier this week. All gone now. Memories. I can only hope that some of the bulbs are intact, floating around Lake Champlain, and that they will wash up on people’s beaches and surprise them this summer with heirloom blooms!

In the time it took me to whip up this post, the USGS has changed the Lake Champlain water level from 102.54″ to 102.61″ which happened over an interval of about three hours. So, still not cresting. And the sky has gone from sunny and clear to dark and cloudy. Storm clouds threatening. Wind rising…

Essex-Charlotte Ferry Flooded Out

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on April 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm
Essex-Charlotte Ferry closes due to flooding

Essex-Charlotte Ferry closes due to flooding

At 8:13 AM I received an email and text message from Lake Champlain Transportation notifying me (and all other ferry-watchers) the inevitable.

4/28/11 – Effective IMMEDIATELY – Charlotte, VTEssex, NY ferry crossing closed due to record high water until further notice…

I can’t say that I was surprised. After all, I took the ferry from Essex to Charlotte yesterday morning and returned from Charlotte to Essex about 6 hours later. Although the weather yesterday was spectacular, the water had risen a few inches in the time between my two ferry crossings. I commented to my bride last night that the ferry wouldn’t be running for long.

Lake Champlain Transportation’s Heather Stewarts says the ferry between Essex, New York and Charlotte, Vermont shut down because of high water: “The Essex dock is awash, so water is on top of the dock, so it is unsafe for vehicles to drive on and off the dock.” (VPR News)

Of course, if the ferry dock is under water, then Rosslyn boathouse isn’t far behind! As of mid-morning today, the water had risen about 6″ above the floor boards. I’ll be posting some photographs soon. Of course our fingers are crossed that the flood has crested, but a glimpse at the weather forecast — plus factoring in how high the rivers are running — and the odds are that we’re going to see Lake Champlain’s water level rise further.

Andy Nash of the National Weather Service says the lake has already passed 102 feet above sea level in Burlington. “That is a record for the Burlington Waterfront, and even the measurements up at Rouses Point are up at about 102 feet. The all time record that we have for 1869 is just 102.1 feet up at Rouses Point.” Continued rainfall and snowmelt will push the lake even higher. Nash expects the waters to rise as runoff makes its way to the lake over the next couple of days. “We’re getting into uncharted territory now with the lake being this high, and if we get some strong winds, and we get the wave action on top of that will make things worse, so any property, roads that are close to the lake, they’re at risk.” And it takes a long time for water to move out of Lake Champlain. So Nash expects the lake to will stay above flood stage for several weeks. (VPR News)

The good news? So far the winds have remained low, minimizing boathouse damage from large logs and other flotsam surging against the dock, railings and walls.

Boathouse Needs a Snorkel

In Boathouse, Champlain Valley, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on April 28, 2011 at 7:23 am
USGS Lake Champlain Water Level, April 28, 2011

USGS Lake Champlain Water Level, April 28, 2011

According to this USGS data for Lake Champlain we’re making history. To be more precise, Lake Champlain’s water levels are making history. That red line at the top of the graph is the historic high water mark set during spring flooding on April 27, 1993. And, as you can see, the blue “actual” recordings have already flickered above the red line a couple of times, though — as I understand it — these figures are not official. Yet. Not sure why. Nor when we’ll know the official water level, but I can assure you that Rosslyn boathouse is now swamped. And the lake is virtually windless and flat… Imagine what this afternoon will look like if/when the wind climbs into the high teens as forecast!

Fortunately there’s less debris floating around the boathouse today. I’m worried that heavy wave action combined with a large floating log or two acting as a battering ram against the boathouse superstructure could be devastating. We’ve witnessed the damage already when the water level was 18″ lower. I’ll head down when the rain abates to take some more images of the drowning boathouse to share with you. Until then, please send dry, windless vibes Essex-way. Thanks!

Rosslyn’s Redneck Yacht Club

In Boathouse, Carriage Barn, Daily Munge, House, Ice House, Renovation & Rehabilitation, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story? on April 25, 2011 at 7:28 am

I challenge any red blooded American who’s spent a little time in the country to dislike Redneck Yacht Club from Craig Morgan‘s 2005 album My Kind of Livin.

Can’t do it! Redneck, city slicker, suburbanite, exurbanite, whatever… If you give this energetic summer anthem a second or two you’ll be hooked. Scoff if you need to. Turn up your nose if your tastes are too refined for the Redneck Yacht Club. But I’m gambling that the next time you hear it pumping out the window of a slow-passing pickup truck you’ll smile. And hum the chorus. And admit to yourself that it’s a pretty catchy tune.

Here’s a little taste of the chorus. Try to read it without singing/humming the melody. Just try!

Basstrackers, Bayliners and a party barge,
strung together like a floating trailer park,
anchored out and gettin loud.
All summer long, side by side,
there’s five houseboat, front porches astroturf,
lawn chairs and tiki torches,
regular Joes rocking the boat. That’s us,
the redneck yacht club.

See what I mean? So, your Chris Craft tastes don’t feel comfy with a song about Bayliners and party barges… So what? Stop judging and start bobbing your head!

I did.

You see, for the first year (or two?) that my bride and I were renovating/rehabilitating Rosslyn, Redneck Yacht Club played on always-on WOKO again and again. I don’t remember for sure, but I may have scoffed outwardly (and hummed inwardly) the first time I heard the song. But not the second. I laughed. I sang along. I went out and bought the album! Several years later, WOKO is no longer the default radio channel at Rosslyn, but I still hear the song from time to time. And when I do, it transports me instantly to the days of demolition, of surprises (mold, rot, bad electric, bad plumbing) and a mushrooming scope of work. It also takes me back to a house full of laughing contractors, rambling stories, off-color jokes and meals shared on sawhorses and upturned compound buckets.

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