An apparent error by the project’s civilian contractor has delayed the completion of a new maintenance building (right) for the station’s 47-foot motor lifeboats at the Coast Guard base in Southwest Harbor because the door is too narrow to accommodate their Travelift (left). PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Narrow door stymies Coast Guard project

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — It’s an old joke. A guy builds a boat in his garage or cellar and discovers that the finished project is too big to fit through the door.

At the Coast Guard base in Southwest Harbor, the joke has been turned on its head.

This spring, contractors began work on a new 64-foot-by-40-foot steel building to be used as an indoor maintenance facility for the station’s two 47-foot motor lifeboats. Situated on the concrete pier facing the harbor, the structure was designed to allow the boats to be hoisted out of the water in the station’s Travelift boat lift then moved inside where they could be worked on out of the weather.

A great idea, except that the door of the new building is too narrow for the Travelift.

“There’s been a small glitch,” Chief Warrant Officer Don Wulff, the base engineering officer, said Tuesday, “but it’s correctible.”

According to Wulff, the building was initially scheduled for completion by the end of July. After work began early in the spring, though, the civilian contractor discovered that the area under the pier had been filled with “huge boulders,” and that a concrete wall forming the north side of the structure wasn’t vertical as thought, but sloped inward.

That forced the Coast Guard to relocate the building slightly and pushed the planned completion date back to Aug. 24. Now, Wulff said, no one is sure when the building will be ready.

“We just have to deal with it,” he said.

According to Wulff, the “architect and engineer failed to adequately measure” the width of the Travelift and apparently relied on dimensions listed by the machine’s manufacturer. The station’s Travelift, he said, was widened several years ago so that it could roll out on the pair of concrete finger piers that form the lifting basin for the boats.

“Every one is different,” Wulff said of the Travelift dimensions.

According to Wulff, work on the project is continuing while the engineers and architects figure out how to modify the door to the building. The good news, he said, was that the cost of the modifications “isn’t coming out of the government. They’re paying for it.”

The Coast Guard has been trying to get an indoor boat maintenance facility for the base for a long time. Currently, maintenance work has to be done on the pier, often times in brutal weather. The hope is that the new building will be finished before winter arrives.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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