PROVINCETOWN – At the end of MacMillan Pier on a recent afternoon, Provincetown assistant harbormaster Luis Ribas drove a Bobcat with a 45-foot wooden piling balanced on the fork. He rolled forward and then stopped. The log kept rolling and then there was a splash. (SLIDE SHOW BELOW)
“This is a pile driving operation,” said Rex McKinsey, the harbormaster.
In the water, in the harbormaster’s boat, were two more assistant harbormasters, Pauline Galipeau and Dan Degruttola. They lassoed the floating piling, which had been carved by Ribas with a chainsaw into a golf tee point at one end.
“We have regular maintenance scheduled for replacing the pilings around the pier,” said McKinsey.
Now that summer was over, the harbormaster’s office, charged with maintenance of the pier, had time replace some of the bumper pilings along the pier. There are two kinds of pilings: structural and bumper pilings, said McKinsey. The bumper pilings protect the boats and the pier, he said.
“This $18 million pier is now 10 years old,” said McKinsey.
“We are not funded enough to do all the pilings we need,” he said. “We need to do 50 a year. We are funded to do 18 to 22.” This is $15,000, including the cap and the hardware, said McKinsey.
McKinsey pointed out that Provincetown’s water is cleaner than in the past, which actually leads to a need for more maintenance on the pilings. “As we get clearer water, the marine borer worms love that. We have more of a problem with marine borer worms because the water is better,” he said.
“In the area at the mud line, they’re just riddled with them,” said McKinsey. “You can see holes and trails running through the wood. It gets real spongy.”
And Galipeau said, “The ones we are pulling are actually breaking.”
Ribas said he was trying to prepare four pilings at a time so he could install them four the next morning. It is easier than prepping and then installing one at a time, said Ribas.
“Some things we do at high tide. Some we do at low tide, “ said McKinsey.” At high tide, we deal with the bolts and things like that. We’re not dependent on the tide. We work with the tide. To stand around and swear at the tide is not going to do any good.”
Once the piling was dropped into the water, Degruttola drove the boat while Galipeau gathered the piling to the side and then verbally directed Degruttola. It took a couple of tries to maneuver it into the spot where it would lay tied up until morning.
“Trying to tow something that is unwieldy in the water,” said Degruttola. “It certainly takes two of us.”
The pilings are installed “using our own crane and our own divers,” said McKinsey.
According to Galipeau, “Two water pumps attach along the piling with a pressure washer to clear the hole as the pile is being driven. It’s a big undertaking.”
— Brian Tarcy