Twenty-four thousand pounds of concrete hovered over the Dutcher Dock in Menemsha harbor on Wednesday morning, a bright January sun shining through the crane’s sling.
A small group of onlookers, town officials and contractors watched as the floating dock was expertly guided into place by the crane operator.
“Well, this is the moment of truth,” selectman Warren Doty said. The dock manufacturer had connected two pieces of dock into one for easier transport, but it was unclear whether the crane could handle the load.
But up it went and within a few minutes a new transient yacht dock was on its way to completion.
The new yacht dock is part of a vast harbor improvement plan that includes a new 40-foot fixed wooden fuel dock and new access ramps for people with handicaps. The yacht dock, also known as the transient dock, will have a fixed wooden pier for the first 60 feet and the floating concrete docks surfaced with wooden planks for the remaining 80 feet.
The project is funded by a $629,000 grant from the Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council, which was awarded last spring for repairs stemming from the July 2010 Menemsha boathouse fire.
The docks are the third phase of the harbor improvement plan. The first phase involved removing the fire-damaged structures and installing concrete floating docks for town slips; the second phase saw the completion of a new town pier that had been completely destroyed in the fire.
Chilmark voters approved a harbor improvement plan for the fishing village at a special town meeting in August.
Work began on Jan. 2. All the pilings must be in the water by Jan. 15. Many are already in but still need to be evened out in height. Construction is being done by Atlantic Support Installations; the docks were purchased from Bellingham Marine. Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll said everything is right on schedule.
Mr. Doty praised the work done so far.
“They really have done a terrific job,” he said. “They’ve worked every day, including Saturday and Sunday, and have said they will work every day until it’s done.”
The dock construction project has been a frequent
topic of conversation at Menemsha Texaco, where owner Marshall Carroll was one of a number of vocal opponents of a plan to use concrete instead of wood on the docks. But this week he said he found a new place of balance.
“There are pros and cons — you know how I feel about it, I think it’s a fiscal cliff we’re falling off,” Mr. Carroll said. “But the crews are working hard. They’ve had to work through a lot of wind and some ice.”
All was not lost either. The wooden railing that once stood along the old dock is now at home in Mr. Marshall’s barn and some of the planks have been turned into signs with Menemsha carved into the boards. A few Menemsha regulars were framing windows “and thought it might be nice to do it in Menemsha wood,” Mr. Carroll said.
“It’s hard to complain until you see the finished project, and I’ll be the first one to say whether it’s better or not,” he said. He expects the lines to be re-installed on the fuel dock in February.
On Wednesday, Mr. Carroll was busy taking pictures of what he described as a “ballet of loading and unloading.” There was a moment of quiet just after the first docks were lowered into place. A flock of brants flew over the beach. And then another truck pulled up to Dutcher Dock loaded with more docks for the next installation.