Building a working waterfront

Start song! John Henry



For the last week, I have not been able to control my elation.  After almost four years of permitting, our dock builder, John Costello, showed up and began siting our new dock.  We were all so busy sorting oysters, that for 30 minutes, we did not notice him and his workers.  As my son was loading sorted and cleaned oysters into cages on the beach, he shouted out that “John is here!”

Muddied with the scum of 10,000 18 month old oysters, we all immediately abandoned our work stations by the French Trembler sorter and gathered around John as he hammered stakes and set lines.  He said he would return with his barge the next day, but, after four years of petitioning fattened layers of bureaucrats and politicians, I did not believe.

Dawn Tuesday I awoke early, and not finding much in the fridge, pedaled into the village for a loaf of bread and some croissants.  Returning, I was headon-ed by Costello Marine’s barge plowing into my back yard.  I dumped the pastries on the table and aimed my Nikon at the apparition:  my long awaited dock was about to be born.

John lined his barge on the stakes, sent men poling in on a float to set the marks, then jetted in the first pile.  That morning my wife, two teens and I were cleaning seed in the upweller, but constantly kept an eye over our shoulders as one pile after another, dead plumb against the midpoint line of the dock, was planted into the sand and gravel bottom of our 12 year old oyster farm.

By the end of the day, a row of neighbors had joined us on the Adirondack chairs at the edge of our seawall under the shade of plane trees planted 50 years ago by a former owner of this house.  Mike Burden, grandson of that former owner and now a next door neighbor, studied dock builders as the pilings moved from the end of the dock to the seawall.  Bill Swiskey, another Greenport native and neighbor, traded jibes with Mike and John about the work, while, under their breadth, they tried to determine how old John Costello  was.  Gaging by classmates at Greenport High, they deduced he was 76 and still setting piles.

John joined us for a beer and said that this dock is the resurgence of the working waterfront in Greenport, the same notion that had driven me 14 years ago to forsake Wall Street for a pair of Grundens.  I was touched.

The next day, his workmen notched the piles and bolted cross ties.  The crew chief told me to discuss any finer points of the work platform with him because John will listen then forget to convey that to the him.  We talked about hatches, then he returned Friday to set stringers atop the single row of piles with cross ties.  Next week they will add two more rows of piles along the edge of the 140 foot long dock, add a chase for the electrical wiring and the water lines, then deck that.  Then they begin driving piles for the 650 square foot work platform at the end.

Dawn this Saturday morning, I could not sleep.  At 5, I gandy-danced along the stringers to the end.



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    from Linda

  2. Yeah! So happy this is starting! Sarah

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