Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Crane on the River, Part II

This morning at high tide the barge was sailed around into our marina and over the course of the morning, its crew raised the stranded sailboat in front of Dr Tabubil's building from the riverbank boardwalk.

One barge, one crane, two tugboats, two lighters, and a boat full of safety men seconded from the city. All for a sailboat.

There was quite a crowd to watch her go up - residents from the riverfront buildings, men in suits ducking out of offices to watch the show, the city workers still mopping up simply stopped shoveling - they had more interesting things to do today than unplug storm drains.
It was a long, slow, salvage in the heat. The men working in the sun had water bottles down over the side of the barge on long strings. They stopped often - and as the morning limped on, more often - to collapse in patches of shade and haul up the cool bottles and drink.

The crowd melted away between the flagstones in puddles of grease and sweat. I watched in bits and snatches from the shadow of a large frangipani tree, my clothes sodden, sticking damply to my belly and my legs, and going inside and upstairs between times.

First they slung a set of harnesses around the belly of the boat.

Then they raised her to a semi-vertical position and pumped out her two hulls.

They lifted her up and swung her around into a marina berth - where she promptly tried to sink again, and continued pumping.

Then, while the men manning the pump from the lighter scrambled to start their motor and get out of her way, the crane operator swung her up into the air and set her down on the deck of the barge.

Not lightly. Nose first. You could hear the crunching. The boat's owner stood on the riverbank and gripped the rail, red faced. As the hull twisted and groaned against the metal deck his face turned redder and his knuckles ground whitely and when the operator let go the slack in the sling too soon and the mast gave out a splintering crack and shivered in its place - he leaped at the river and screamed.
"Bloody fool! Go on, why don't you?!?! Break the rest of it while you're at it!!!!"

The crane operator didn't take him up on it. Which may have saved his life.

The sailboat settled limply to the deck of the barge, and the men untied the slings from her belly and went off to find air-conditioning and waited out the hours of low tide. And at high tide, the barge and her fleet of escorts sailed away.

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