On the Ropes - Tom Roper

On the Ropes - Tom Roper

Sometimes you just need to be lucky

Tom recalls a job working on a sawmill barge

I have never considered myself the sharpest tool in the box, but sometimes you have to get lucky to keep in the game.

A few years back I got a call from a friend. He was working for Silver Grizzly, a helicopter logging show out of Rupert, set up in the Work channel.

He wanted to have a holiday and needed someone to fill in while he was out of camp. I was fortunate to be between jobs and jumped at the opportunity. Be at the shop by 6 a.m. and the chopper, Miss Piggy, will get you to the barge.

The old 206 Jet Ranger was the workhorse of the operation and I rode out to the barge and landed on the deck with six fallers. This barge was a working sawmill cabled to shore in 200 feet of water. The operation consisted of one Sikorsky Skycrane and a hard-working crew of fallers and millworkers from Port Simpson and Rupert area.

Once I was settled, I quickly suited up and got to the deck to help out as the show was broken down. It was a quick intro to the millwrights and I crowded in to see if I could help pass tools or whatever.

Seems one of the main hydraulic pipes had split and Stan was cutting out the damaged section and splicing in a new piece. They got her done and she was back up into production.

The Skycrane was still making four minute turns from hookup to drop with big Sitka spruce stems. The Boom boats would then crowd the logs up to the barge and a crane on deck would lift them out of the water to an infeed chain.

What a neat operation, I have always been impressed with a Sawmill in action. Next, these beautiful big brutes would travel down to a 10-foot chainsaw and be cut to length, then head out the stern of the barge and back in the water to be boomed and floated to a ship in Rupert Harbour.

What a sweet place to work just off Quottoon Inlet in the channel.

Sure it rained every day but usually not all day. It would pelter down, it would drizzle, and sun would shine.

If you work on the coast, you have to be prepared for that, and I was and not only that, the boss would let us millwrights use the 22-foot aluminum runabout to go out fishing after work.

Pretty hard to beat when you can snag a little halibut and bring it home to the cook for fresh dinner the next day.

As you can see, life for that moment in time was pretty good until bang, that hydraulic pipe split again and the panic set in.

Now we had to figure out what was wrong. I traced the circuits and we dug out the schematic drawings. Everything looked right. Did you guys do any new installs? Yes, actually we did, we put in a new infeed line.

Did you put in a relief valve to go with that? Ah, no we didn’t, it should relieve off the original one.

I don’t know, lets put in another valve and try it. Ya baby, no more blown hydraulic pipes over the rest of the summer.

Sometimes you just have to get lucky.

Call me if you have a story to tell 250-877-1806 or email tr.ranch@hotmail.com

Thanks for reading, Tom.