Precision placement required when reassembling Geneva Lake’s piers
That’s been as early as mid-March and as late as late April.
Last week, a crew from Gage Marine of Williams Bay transformed piles of whitewashed wood into the Lake Geneva municipal pier. Its 40 rented slips make it the biggest pier on the lake.
Pier installation has few steps but requires care and caution. Even a light wind can chase crews off the water.
Scott Renwick and his crew were hard at work last week.
Renwick, the crew foreman, maneuvered a big, blue barge toward shore. He raised and lowered two outboard motors to keep propellers clear of the mucky lake bottom. He quieted the humming diesel engine before lowering “spuds” to anchor the barge. The tall metal pilings screeched metal-against-metal until they rested against the lake bottom.
Loyd Monroe, one of the six-member crew, hopped onto dry land.
Renwick lowered the crane toward a pile of decking, and Monroe secured ropes around it. Renwick raised the crane and spuds, the pile of decking swung off the ground, and Monroe jumped back on board.
Renwick deftly spun the hulking barge, cruising around a pier framework the crew had installed in previous days.
“It maneuvers very well, but you have know its limits or you can get into a lot of trouble,” he said of the barge. “You have to know where you are at all times.”
Renwick lowered the crane and decking, and Monroe gingerly stepped onto the pier framework. While putting one foot carefully in front of the other as if on a balance beam, he guided the pile of decking, unhooked the ropes and started disassembling the pile.
The pier installation process is a lot of back and forth, Renwick and Monroe said. The crew gets parts from shore, brings them out to the water and goes back to shore, they said.
It starts with the “horses,” or H-shaped pier support structures. A crane is used to lift the frames off the ground, stand them up and lower them into the “crib,” or underwater framework.
The process continues with the “stringers,” or lateral support beams that fasten onto the horses. Gage crews use a smaller crane to lift and lower the beams into place. Crew members working from a small barge position the beams and fasten all the bolts by hand.
It finishes with the decking boards laid close together to create a flat surface.
Gage also services the piers it installs, cutting and replacing worn parts. The piers are all wood and last anywhere from seven to 10 years, Renwick said. Submerged wood and wood above the water last the longest, but wood at the water line deteriorates more quickly, he said.
Gage is not the only company that installs and services piers on Geneva Lake. Austin Pier Service of Walworth also has several contracts, including those for the Fontana and Linn Township municipal piers as well as many residential piers.
Renwick, who has been with Gage for 15 years, said it takes about four days to install a large pier like the Lake Geneva municipal pier.
“It’s not unusual to have people stop and watch for a while,” he said.