Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Samsonite's Trailer

Long ago in a remote logging camp in Southeast Alaska the boss decided that he needed a boat trailer for one of the boom boats. Boom boats are not very long, but they are deep and heavy. The trailer would have to be stout. It would have a long tongue so that they could back the boat deep enough into the water to float the boat off off the trailer. The boss decided that Henry was up to the job.

Samsonite the boom boat.

"Henry! Samsonite needs a boat trailer. We're going to tow it overland to the other side of the island the morning after next. And don't go robbing anything off of working equipment!!"

Henry nodded, collected up his lunch off of the spike table, went out to the equipment boneyard, and set to work. He gathered up a bunch of rebar from here and there and pulled some flat bar stock and angle out of the scrap barrel. Then he put his leathers on and went to work with his cutting torch.

Henry took a back axle off of a log truck that the greenhorn had wrecked when he hotdogged down the mountain and missed a corner. Then Henry cut the reach (tongue) off of the truck, welded that onto a pipe from an old log tower, and welded that onto the axle.

Now loggers were always losing the dang pin for the pintle ring, so Henry found a broken log chain over by the pile of shackles. He welded the chain onto the top of the pin and welded the hook onto the tongue. Let them try to lose that.

Hitch pin chain hook welded

Boom boat operators push big, heavy logs around for a living. Henry needed something hell-for-stout to stop the boat when the operator runs it up onto the trailer. He fired up the Cat 980 log loader and used the tine to dig around in a pile of metal that had been building up for a few years. There was that little platform built out of old metal shop building beams. Henry flipped it over with the 980, and then cut out a chunk of tapered i-beam. In that pile he also found some walkway grate and other treasures.

Things were coming together pretty well by midday, so Henry pulled two sandwiches out of his lunch bucket and washed them down with a thermos of coffee. Then he fired up his welder and went to it.

Now Henry figured that he could pretty well fab the trailer with chunks and scraps, but the fenders were niggling him. Plate steel was just too darn heavy and precious to use up on that. It sure would be nice if you could step up onto the boom boat from the sides, too. He tucked that thought away while he pulled the hinge pins out of the ventilation doors from an old generator shed. Those would be great bunks for the boat to sit on. There were a few leftover scraps of dock bumper to pad the bunks, so Henry quickly procured them.

As Henry walked past the cookshack with the dock bumpers casually wrapped in a blue tarp, he noticed the tank for the oil stove. It reminded him of the 500 gallon fuel tank that was left over when they changed the generator out. Perfect for fenders!

Henry cut the tank in half and cut the angles to lay the bunks on. He spent the afternoon welding and cutting and welding some more. Another day and things should be in pretty good shape.

At dinner the boss came over to Henry with a scowl. "Henry," he said, "we need that boom boat on the other side tomorrow night. They'll be pulling it out no later than ten tomorrow morning."

Henry finished his meal and went back to work. He made ladders out of scraps of bar stock and rebar. He made rails and reinforcements with angle iron and rebar. He pulled out his blacksmith hat and bent rebar to make a railing. 

It was getting somewhat late, or judging by the light to the east, a little early, when Henry realized that it would be best if there were a few safety features. He added rebar cleats to the walkway, but the walkway needed a railing, too. Henry was tired enough to be past "pretty" and "nice", so he grabbed a wicked looking piece of scrap metal and a length of conduit. He welded the scrap onto the trailer and then smashed the end of the conduit flat and bolted it to the scrap iron at the top. There just wasn't an elegant way to attach the conduit to the walkway, so he blew a hole in the conduit with a torch, welded a bolt in, and welded the bolt to the walkway.

Attachment for conduit to walkway

Henry knew that the boom boat wouldn't always come onto the trailer perfectly straight, so he added some exhaust hose as a bumper. He scrounged up some rope and attached the hose to the metal.

He contemplated his prowess with rope and decided to stick with his torch and welder. A few finishing touches and Henry was done.

The boss stopped by before breakfast. "Damn, Henry! That's a work of art! But what's with the shiny red and white stickers?"

"Safety first, Boss," Henry said.


*Disclaimer* I made this whole story up. Henry only exists as the men who made do with what was available during the logging camp era in Southeast Alaska. My hat is off to the person who fabbed up this boat trailer with inspiration, improvisation, and perspiration.

Take the scraps of your day and make something that works!

Alaska Beachcomber

P.S. I know that the last two posts have been whimsical. I'll get serious in the next post or so. Don't give up! I haven't lost my grip on reality entirely yet.

P.P.S. Mini glossary below.

More on boom boats...

Moving a Boom Boat

More logging stuff...

Logging Mental Health Trust Land in Southeast Alaska

Logging in Alaska: Falling a Big Spruce

Second Growth; On the Bones of the Elders

Boom boat: A small powerful boat that is used to push logs, log bundles, boom sticks, and other wood around in the water.

Boom sticks: The logs that are chained together to contain the log raft.

Spike table: A table with lunch items. The loggers pack their lunch off of the spike table in the morning.

Rebar: Steel reinforcing rod for cement work. It's like duct tape - a staple of bush camp work.

Pintle ring: What the pintle hitch attaches to.

Cat 980 log loader: Like the 988 below, only a little bit smaller. Don't be fooled by the delicate work this loader is doing. It can grab a whole load off of a truck.







Cute Chicks

At first all that I saw was this...

This spruce grouse hen could blend in with the moss pretty well if she wanted to, but she stuck her head up. She could have taken off at that point - flying or running, but she chose to sit tight.

I figured that it must be nap time for the kids and she was up for a little socializing, so I sat down to have a visit. She was happy about the great crop of bugs that were feasting on me, and she said that those bugs are healthy snacks for her kids. She told me that the tips on the blueberry bushes were starting to get too chewy, but the bunchberry blossoms are at a particularly tasty stage. All of this talk about food made me think of a delicious dinner with grouse and red huckleberry sauce, so I tried to steer the conversation to good looking guys. She told me all about one handsome bachelor in the neighborhood.

And she smiled at the thought. It's all in the eyes, see, because it's tough to smile with a beak.

We were about to get into some good girl-talk when one of the kids popped it's head up.

Then the other four woke up. They fluffed their feathers...

...and strutted their stuff...

Cute spruce grouse chick in Southeast Alaska

...and then turned into a whirlwind of activity.

Grouse chick in Southeast Alaska

Five Cute Chicks!

Grouse chicks on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska

Wait...that's barely four of them. Hey, you try to get grouse siblings together for a family portrait!

Here's the other one.

Grouse chick in Southeast Alaska

This one needed a little more of a nap. There's always one like that.

Then Mom Grouse said that it was time to go. I thanked her for the nice visit, and she looked a little wistful. Maybe someday we'll get a chance to talk again.

Wishing you a day of happy encounters,

Alaska Beachcomber

More bird posts...

Pot Fishing for Crow

Just Ducky

Crows and Ravens Love Dog Food

It Has Been a Little Bit Chilly

Owl Medivac


Floathouse Dreams

"Do you know of a floathouse for sale in Southeast Alaska?" This question pops up in my inbox once in awhile. The letters usually include the writers' reasons for getting away from where they are plus bits of hopeful dreams.  ...it is so beautiful there in Alaska!...I want to be close to the real world...fish off of the front deck...be in a peaceful cove...run an Alaskan lodge...  So this post is to give you some grist for your daydream mill.

I feel for the people who are drawn to make such an enormous change in their lives. It can be idyllic to live in a cozy floating cabin, tucked into a tree-lined cove, to jump into your skiff to run to town for supplies every few weeks, and to catch a salmon for dinner. Now I'm not going to idealize the floathouse life too much, as there's the difficult part, too. Floathouses are a great place to live if you are strong, energetic, and have a career that doesn't require you to show up in town daily. 

This floating shop is for sale. It needs to be moved to a new location. Info is HERE

This floating shop is for sale. It needs to be moved to a new location. Info is HERE

Living in Alaska is expensive, and the price of land seems astronomical to some people. A floathouse may be an affordable dream.

Floathouse kit: This furnished floathouse is listed with a truck (in town) and a boat HERE.

Floathouse kit: This furnished floathouse is listed with a truck (in town) and a boat HERE.

It is not open and free to live in a floathouse in Alaska, but it is doable in some cases. The State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining, Land and Water has an application here (opens a new window) as one part of the process. They want to be sure that the applicant has a solid plan for the footprint of the float, anchoring the float, handling waste, and other considerations. If a permit is issued then State personnel will occasionally come around to be sure that floathouse is in compliance. There is also an annual fee, but I don't know how much it is.

Spring, and the season for selling and buying homes, is here. This year there are several floathouses for sale near Thorne Bay. That is kind of unusual, so when we were out in the skiff today I took a few pictures of available floathouses with my little point-and-shoot camera. It was dreary and starting to rain so use your imagination to add sunshine and dream about life on the water.

Here's a floathouse that has a fun driftwood railing on the upper deck. It is listed on Craigslist with way better pictures HERE.

Here's a floathouse that has a fun driftwood railing on the upper deck. It is listed on Craigslist with way better pictures HERE.

One of the floathouses, shown in the photo below, already has an offer pending and might be off the market soon.

Cute little floathouse for sale in Southeast Alaska

But really, if you are going to dream then dream big, right? This dream includes a floathouse to live in and an amazing lodge business. Even the story of the floathouse is cool - the house started out on land in Ketchikan! Check out McFarland's Floatel at their website, or look up Coastal Real Estate Group to dive right in to living the Alaskan Dream. The older floathouse is a great home - we were there today - thanks for the great visit Jeannie and Jim! - and the cabins are gorgeous.

Floathouse Floatel in Thorne Bay, Southeast Alaska

I have to do this. This post sounds like an ad, but really it is just a response to a lot of requests that I have received. *Disclaimer* I'm providing the links for your entertainment and convenience, and am not representing anyone, and do not receive anything for posting about these floathouses.

So Keep Dreaming, Dear Ones!

Alaska Beachcomber

More floathouse posts: Floathouses, Hello Prince of Wales Island!

More about floathouse living at Alaska For Real (a friend's site)