Cranes, Concrete, Wood and Steel

Fri, 03/18/2022 - 4:30am

“Concrete and steel go together like chocolate and peanut butter.”

—Bill Rose, President of Block Island Concrete Co.

Sometimes words and observations can come out of a person’s mouth and grab me so fast that I need to ask them to please repeat them. I just can’t process certain stuff that fast. Furthermore, if I ask them to repeat what they said there is a very good chance I’ll be writing the words down in a notebook or on a napkin, or maybe a ferry check-in slip; any type of paper will do. Recently, at the ferry shack I was noodling some ideas about the current marine construction in the Port of Galilee for a column-in-progress that I was writing. Subsequently, Block Islander Bill Rose was walking across the street from his cement mixer to the ferry shack. The following conversation ensued:

“Billy, can concrete set up under water? I asked.
“Yup, it sure can, it sets up really good,” he said.
“Ya know, I’m seeing how the steel is set for the new bulkhead here in Galilee, and how they’re shooting concrete into the space between the new and old steel over at the million dollar corner. I saw how they were screening and lacing the rebar for strength, too.” I said.
“Yeah, ya know concrete and steel go together like chocolate and peanut butter,” he said.
(There was a short delay and then I burst out laughing.)
“What did you just say?” I said, laughing and getting a pen.

“Ya know how chocolate and peanut butter go together like a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup? They just go together really good is all,” he said.

Albeit a quirky analogy, what Billy had said made perfect sense after we discussed the current blending of the steel bulkhead sheeting, rebar and concrete that was happening 200 feet from where we were standing at the ferry shack. Rose has a great way of breaking things down to a simple
explanation. Plus, Billy has a good laugh - a chortle actually - and a great sense of humor. I always learn new things from this guy as we discuss the
vagaries of the human condition.
When the 1938 hurricane came ripping in from the Atlantic Ocean as a Cat 5 ‘cane on 9 September it decimated the Port of Galilee and pretty much all of Narragansett Bay and the Port of Providence. This was a benchmark storm and the above photo can give us a sense of the severe destruction of the State Pier. Here was a storm that surprised the inhabitants of coastal New England because of limited weather facts and specific intel. In the ’38 hurricane there were sustained winds of 160 miles per hour. Moreover, there were well over 800 fatalities. Hopefully, we will never see the likes of this kind of storm again. Regardless of our current weather forecasting capabilities - which are mostly based on conjecture - a storm of this magnitude will do even more coastal damage than was done in 1938, because of a certain population that insists on building at the edge of a barrier beach. Building
on the first dune is a bad idea for the simple reason that sand moves; under and above sea level. I learned this fact of life as a young surfer in 1964 while seeing acres of sand move that created new surf breaks along the coast. Another example of how sand can move is how I once had the task of
helping to shovel out the sunken bar at Ballard’s, as the sand found its way into the dining room during sustained east south easterly winter winds.
How do we hold back sand and sediment in our coastal harbor village of Galilee to help preserve the fishery, ferry and other commercial businesses? We play the best defense we can and build bulkheads to hold back the barrier beach on which these businesses reside. All you need is cranes, concrete, wood, and steel along with a pile of money, and this is precisely what is currently happening in the Port of Galilee.
I keep the above photo of Galilee in the ferry shack as a reminder of where I live and work in the Port of Galilee. Furthermore, this picture reminds me
of the changing nature of the barrier beach on which I make my nickels and lay my head at night; I’ve worked and lived in Galilee proper for most
of my life. I have witnessed wind and saltwater do their daily scouring of what holds the sandy sediment below my feet in check, along with the entire steel bulkhead of Galilee Harbor from Champlin’s all the way to the Great Island Bridge. Winds and tides are relentless and steel breaks down as rust never sleeps; this work being done is necessary.
The logistics for a bulkhead are expansive as well as expensive. The pilings for additional work in Galilee along with the steel sheeting have been staged in the port. Surveyors have done their measuring, and the job is moving in full operation. Currently, if we look at the photo above we can see to the left of the state pier how the bulkhead ends and we can see a beach. That is the corner that is being worked on at the time of this writing. When the corner is complete, the bulkhead work will continue west for approximately seven hundred feet. Steel will be driven, rebar will be placed and concrete will be poured. Chocolate and peanut butter.
Gadung, Gadung, Gadung went the pounding when the pilings were set at the ferry dock many years ago. I remember working ten-hour days during the Gadung years. My head rattled in those days; now the pilings for docking clusters are vibrated into the harbor bottom—one of life’s little pleasures. It seems like the pilings and sandy harbor bottom go along like peas and carrots. Ahem, wink nod, Billy Rose. Finally, the things that are currently being replaced and repaired in the harbor should serve the Port of Galilee well into the future. A foreman told me that once the new reinforced steel is capped it should last for at least 50 more years; maybe even longer.