Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not Dropping the Boat

photo from Sunset Gondola launch on May 19th, 2008

Over the years, I've learned many things:
Some by experience (that means by making the mistakes myself),
and some by watching others make mistakes and saying to myself
"I would never do something that stupid", and trying to keep from doing it (because secretly, I know that it's exactly the kind of thing I would do).

In the gondola world, there are a few things you never want to be responsible for:
some of them involve boats sinking, catching fire,
slamming hard into things, and being dropped onto the ground.

Avoiding each of these catastrophes requires a separate discipline.
The discipline for today's post is that of not dropping the boat.

Yes, I know that it sounds like a simple matter, but you'd be surprised how many seemingly harmless decisions can result in disaster.

It's as easy as not checking the anchoring point on a hoisting strap, or assuming that the strap won't slide - when everybody knows that straps love to slide, especially when you've got a boat high in the air.

inadvertently dropping a gondola from fifteen feet or higher will yield a result somewhere between "Humpty Dumpty" and a giant grenade of flying shrapnel.

Ina Mierig sent me this hoisting photo from Hamburg, Germany.
I guarantee that someone was nervous when this shot was taken.

Some boat moving problems can be solved with jacks, blocks and jack-stands.
These are all wonderfull pieces of hardware that, when used properly,
can allow one or two people to do a big transfer job.
When used improperly, they can tip over and drop your boat.

If you're lucky, the boat will swing away from the stands and bounce onto soft grass.
But of course, there is no grass in a boatyard, just hard concrete and other boats on stands (think dominos), and the odds are good that at least one of your standing devices will end up impaling or crunching part of the boat (and more accurately, an underwater part).
If by some miracle, the boat does fall free of the stands,

you'll most certainly come away from it all with a few new leaky spots.

An unusual gondola sits on boat stands in a Southern California boatyard.

I should begin by saying that the forklift sits near the top of my "favorite inventions" list (just below duct tape and zip ties).
Most boatyards have a forklift, and anyone who is allowed to drive it, knows what they are doing.
If you own a gondola, you know that she's an unusual boat, so you may need to work with the driver to insure that they don't damage the boat doing something that works on other types of boats.

Forklifting done right.

The best piece of advice I can offer here is this -
Beware of overly eager forklift drivers who can't wait to help you with the forklift they just got last week!

Also be wary of forklift drivers who can't hear well
(I'll let you figure that one out).

Get a Grip
This week I've had to execute six separate gondola moves.
It's been a game of musical chairs with big, long boats.
I've used a number of the above mentioned methods, and I must say that my favorite method involves less hardware and more people.

It's been called the "Rugby Team Approach", the "Samoan Family Moving Method", and a number of other things.
You just get a bunch of guys together, promise them money, food, beer,
or whatever makes them happy, shout instructions, and try to keep things safe and fun.
(pro tip: don't give them the beer until after the lifting is done)

Having some thick hoisting straps can be helpful, but just make sure the guys on the ends of each strap are of equal strength.

On Saturday, I had the assistance of about fifteen guys working on the TV commercial I took part in. They were eager to assist with such an interesting boat, and they were a lot of fun to work with.

Today I needed to move a gondola, and after considering several options,
I realized that I could either:
spend hours with equipment,
or hire a bunch of day-laborers and get it done in five minutes.

I drove one block over, picked up eight guys, told them what needed to be done and watched them do it in record time.
I paid them well, they were happy, and I got to go home to my wife and kids sooner.

I love the "Rugby Team Approach".

Three final thoughts I'd like to throw in:
1. before you try any kind of move, look at it from all angles.
And then look from all angles again, while doing it.

2. keep the boat as low as you can - this minimizes the fall if there is one.

3. with the exception of the "Rugby Team Approach", when moving or lifting a gondola, have an escape plan.
If that boat starts to fall your way, make sure you're not up against a wall, or have to scramble over a bunch of equipment that could have easily been moved before the "big event".

The only thing worse than dropping a dropping it on yourself!


Mike C said...

Completely off topic, but some what gondola related. I was at a photoshoot yesterday and was telling my client about the upcoming Venice project that I'll be doing, here is the conversation that resulted:

Client: Venice is where they have those funny boats, right?

Me: You mean gondolas?

CL: Yeah, how deep is the water, cause they gotta keep poking that stick in the ground?

That's when I had to explain what little I know, mostly from your blog, how a gondola is propelled through water.

Gondola Greg said...

That's the classic American misconception, and the way you phrased it made me laugh.
"...they gotta keep poking that stick int he ground."
I believe we get that mostly from English punts. You'll see some punt-related posts here in a while.
Tell me about the "Venice project".
Have a great day, and thanks so much for reading the Gondola Blog.

Mike C said...

I got interested in the tides and environmental impacts of tides in the Venice lagoon. So I'll be going to Venice in late February for 2 weeks to document variety of environmental issues in the lagoon, including commercial boat traffic and impact of ocean cruise ships.

There will be a full moon on Feb 25th, a good chase the city will flood. February floods are the biggest, so this will give me an opportunity to document that as well and discuss the proposed sea wall at the entrances of the lagoon.

Of, course being there in the middle of the Carnival doesn't hurt either :)

Sean Jamieson said...

Hey Mike,
I would love to learn about the results of your study. Can you keep us all posted?

Mike C said...

Sure thing. Hoping to get the results published some time. In the mean time I'll be setting up a web site.

Gondola Greg said...

Wow Mike, sounds like a great project.
Of course, any project that takes me to Venice is considered "great". :o)

Please keep us posted.
I'd love to link to your page when it's up, and would be happy to post things here if you prefer.