What does a driveway have to do with an Alberg 35? Good question. Sit back, get comfortable, and I'll tell you.
1996 was a great year. That's the year that Lisa and I took posession of Tomfoolery, our Alberg 35. We were very excited as the boat was a considerable upgrade from our Grampian 26.
The paperwork was all signed in July and we had our new pride and joy floating by August. We were able to sail our Alberg for about 6 weeks to get the feel for her and get acquainted with her mannerisms. Around September I began to think about winter storage. We had previously stored our Grampian at our home on the lawn next to the garage. Most of the time this was OK, but if the fall or spring weather was wetter than usual, it usually presented a challenge to the yard crew when they tried to pick up and haul out a 6000 pound boat.
I sensed a problem. The new boat and cradle weighed two and a half times that of the old boat. I figured I should put down a thick bed of crushed stone to serve as a storage pad and driveway in order to carry the extra weight.
Using the tire ruts in the grass from the boat yard trailor and truck as a guide, I staked out where the extension to my driveway should go. Measuring things a couple of times and assuming that a six inch depth of stone would suffice for the load, I came up with a requirement of nine cubic yards.
The first major task was to scrape off about six inches of top soil for where the stone would be placed. A couple hours with a shovel conviced me that the hard-packed earth would best be moved with some mechanical assistance. I got in touch with a farmer up the road who had a payloader attachment for his tractor. He agreed to come down the following week to scrape back the top soil and dump it into a depression in my back yard.
The next day it rained. And the day after. And the day after that. In fact, it rained almost the entire week before the farmer showed up. He was able to dig out about a third of the area before his tractor got stuck in the mud. After about an hour of work, he managed to free his machine from the muck and suggested it would be foolish to try to dig any further or he would never be able to get his equipment back home.
Using a hand shovel, I cleaned up the edges of the excavation and dug out those areas where it would be necessary to "feather" into the existing driveway so as not to produce a step up to the driveway's extension.
While the blisters were healing, I contacted a local quarry and inquired about getting a delivery of nine cubic yards of crushed stone. Arrangements were made and I agreed to meet the dump truck the following week while taking an extended lunch hour from work.
It rained the entire week, including the day of the delivery.
The dump truck showed up and I explained to the driver what I needed. He surveyed the muddy scene and announced with confidence, "No problem!" While backing down the area of the extension, the truck got about half way to its destination and sank up to its axles into the mud. It went no further. The driver dumped the entire load in place and was able to free the much lighter truck without outside assistance.
For the next week, I used a wheelbarrow, shovel and hoe to distribute the stone, all 18,000 pounds of it, into the bed of my driveway extension. While I was working on it, the pile of stone was shrinking much faster than the remaining area of driveway that had to be filled. I began to worry. Soon it became clear that the stone would only complete half of the new driveway. While dressing my new blisters I contacted the quarry and requested a second truck of stone.
I'll let you guess what the weather did. (Let's just say it was very humid.)
Several days later the dump truck showed up with another nine cubic yards of stone. He began to back down the extension I had been building and the waterlogged earth under the stone failed to support the truck. He dumped the stone in front of my garage before sinking too far.
By this time it was late September and the boat was scheduled to be hauled in a week. I had to hurry and distribute this stone so as to complete the driveway. Again I made use of wheelbarrow, shovel and hoe, completing the driveway the day before our beloved new Alberg was to be laid up for a winter's nap next to our garage. With fresh bandages on my blistered blisters, this proud new "father" escorted his new baby home.
It goes without saying that it rained every day the entire week prior to haulout.
Haulout day dawned bright and sunny. "Maybe my luck is changing?" I thought to myself. The mast was stepped (unstepped?) without incident and the boat was nestled carefully in her new cradle. The ride up the hill from the marina to my house (only two blocks away) also went without incident. It was as the yard truck was maneuvering to back into my driveway that I had a horrible revelation.
An Alberg 35 is about 18 inches wider than a Grampian 26.
The extension to my driveway, you may recall, was laid out using the tire ruts in the yard as a guide. The location for the boat was next to my garage. The garage was fixed in place, meaning that the yard truck was now backing down the new driveway about a foot further to the right than it usually did.
About half way down the drive, the right side of the yard trailer went off the bed of crushed stone and immediately sank past its axles into the waterlogged earth. The truck and yard trailer could not move. For three hours the yard crew tried to free the trailer. I happened to have several 8 to 10 foot lengths of 2x12 lumber available. With a 50 ton jack, the crew lifted the yard trailer and placed THREE of these boards under the wheels. The weight of the boat, cradle and trailer were enough to immediately push the boards well into the muck. They were stuck.
At this point the day was getting late, so the yard crew jacked up the trailer once again and then proceeded to block the cradle in place so as to rid themselves of the payload that was causing them so much grief. With the boat propped in place, the yard crew's parting words were, "Call us when the ground freezes!"
I must say that having a 35 foot sailboat in your front yard makes for quite a landmark. In fact, the word "subtle" is completely inappropriate for the situation. However, it was very easy that year to give people directions to my house. "Turn left onto Third Street and pull in to the driveway with the large sailboat. You can't miss it."
Like the word "subtle," the word "amused" would completely fail to describe my wife's reaction when she got home from work that day.
The good news is that it stopped raining after that. In fact, the weather turned quite mild. In fact, it stayed mild all winter. The ground never really froze. I never called the yard. The boat never got repositioned.
Fast forward now to the spring and the excitement that comes with preparing a boat for launch. I had finished installing a wheel to replace the tiller and had done some significant updates to the electrical system so that some post-1970 technology could be employed. As this work was winding down I succomed to another revelation.
If the boat was still where it had been dropped last fall, how would the yard crew be able to pull it out?
I had to widen the driveway so that it would support the right side of the trailer when the yard crew came to haul the boat off to be launched. I called the quarry and arranged for another truckload of crushed stone. (9 cubic yards)
The dump truck arrived three days before the yard was to launch my boat. The skies were overcast and the day was dark and grey -- but at least it wasn't raining! The truck backed down my drive and stopped in front of the boat. Oh yeah, the boat. The boat that's sitting in the driveway I need to widen. The driver dumped the stone and went back to the quarry.
At this point (I swear I'm not making this up!) it started to rain.
My poor brother happened to be visiting that week and got drafted to help me move another 18,000 pounds of stone. Not wanting to take chances, we widened the driveway by three feet down its 75 foot length. Unlike the first few times, the driveway was getting finished much faster than the stone was being used up. We probably still had three or four tons of stone left when the driveway widening project was completed. As it was in a pile in front of the boat, we had to move it behind the boat so that the boat could be hauled to the marina.
We moved much of the stone in the rain, but got it done. I never thought that callouses could blister the way they did. Even when wearing leather gloves.
Tomfoolery was launched on schedule and it took several weeks for Lisa and I to get used to all of the new found space in our front yard. The extra stone turned out to come in handy as tire ruts formed over the years of storing the boat next to the garage. The yard crew never got stuck in the mud again, and friends and family that visited us in the summer months had a place to park their car that didn't obstruct the garage.
2001 - Lisa and I have since moved to a new house in a different part of the state. Tomfoolery now sails from a different home port and, because of the distance between our house and the marina (and the expense of moving her that distance) we now store her in the boat yard instead of next to our house.
I can't help but thinking, however, how nice it might be to haul the boat for a year and spend the time doing some of the larger projects I've been dreaming about. To do so, however, I'll have to put an extension on my new driveway....
2012 - Well, I decided that the 2011 season would be the year that I hauled out the boat for a year-long layup, so I paved an extension on the driveway for the boat. In the end, while the boat would have fit on it, the truck delivering the boat could not negotiate around the corner of the garage and still have enough room to offload the boat from the trailer, so, the boat wound up on the lawn!
18 months later, when it came time to move the boat back to her slip in the marina, you'll never guess what the weather did the week before the hauler showed up to get the boat.
Yes, Murphy is my good, good friend!