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December 04, 2020
If your cabin is by the water, you know that one of your most important pieces of equipment is your dock. It allows you to be on the water without being in the water. Your dock is a place to kick back and catch some rays or drop in a line …
It is a place to tie up your boat and all your water toys.
If your cabin is in a location where the water freezes (like MN!), you know that means putting the dock in every spring and taking it out every fall. Otherwise, the ice will break your dock apart and haul it out to the middle of the lake for burial. Since you want to make the most of the short summer season, you want your dock in as close to “ice out” as possible and you want to leave it in until the last possible day. Unfortunately, that means the water is going to be COLD!! I mean “can’t feel your feet after 10 minutes” cold. A good pair of chest-high waders can help, but it seems there is always that last dock section that is just deep enough to let at least one wave jump over the top of the waders and you are sunk – now you are wet and cold and your boots are so heavy you can hardly walk. For the past several years, I’ve gone with the full-body wet suit for my spring and fall dock tasks. I know it makes me look like I’m auditioning for a Jacques Cousteau Undersea Special, but that is one of the beauties of life at the cabin … there is rarely anyone around that you need to impress.
As far as dock construction, there is no one right way to go. There are docks with wheels, docks with posts, docks with hinges like a drawbridge – whatever works for your shoreline. Over the years, our dock, like our cabin, has grown and changed. Back in the 1950’s, the first dock my dad put in was made of rough boards and the posts were harvested from the woods. That worked great until the beavers decided to snack on our dock posts.
After that, we switched to metal poles and brackets.
The top sections can be simple as well. 2X4 frames (eight or ten feet long, three or four feet wide) with a stringer down the middle and 1X6 top boards are good enough. It is a simple enough project that even your kids can pitch in. Just get them a couple hammers and a bag of nails and let them go to town.
Just make sure you build it sturdy enough to hold about a dozen kids or your three high school buddies who played offensive line.
Last year I broke down and bought a 21st century dock with aluminum frames and vinyl tops and I even paid the local Dock Guy and his crew to put it in and take it out.
I’m guessing my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who built our cabin and viewed hard work as an end in itself would think I’m getting soft and lazy, but the dock guys are pros, they’ve got all the gear and it takes them about 15 minutes to do a job that takes me about 2 hours.
I do still have an old-fashioned dock at the swimming area by the sand bar that I put in by hand every spring and take out every fall. Getting in that ice-cold water makes me feel like I’m keeping some traditions alive and living the authentic Cabin Guy life.
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