Dredge bridges reattached to boat | SummitDaily.com

Dredge bridges reattached to boat

BRECKENRIDGE – For days on end, Carol Rockne has been watching the ice on the Skelly Pond crack and ebb, waiting for her 200-ton dredge barge to fall free of the ice that’s held it in place since January.

The boat is a replica of the dredge barges that churned their way up the valley in search of gold at the turn of the century. Rockne’s boat is a restaurant, held in place on the pond by two wide bridges affixed to the east bank of the Blue River.

But years of drought had reduced the flow in the river to a trickle in January, and on Jan. 13, Rockne’s boat ran aground on what engineers believe is a massive rock at the south end of the pond. As the water continued to drop, the northwest corner of the boat dropped 30 inches, twisting the massive, concrete-hulled boat and threatening to break it apart.

The Rocknes tried a variety of ways to free the barge, including asking the town to release more water from Goose Pasture Tarn upstream, digging out the southeast corner of the boat with a trackhoe and, finally, removing the bridges and hiring tow truck drivers to pull the boat free.

The restaurant has stood frozen in the ice since Jan. 22, awaiting the spring thaw.

Last week, the ice broke.

“We were looking at it and saw ice up against the side, and I thought maybe I saw a shadow,” Rockne said. “Then it showed a little edge, and all of a sudden it was an inch. I said, “I think it just moved.’ All of a sudden, it was a foot. I said, “It’s going. It’s going.'”

Rockne said the barge provided hours of entertainment to diners at Mi Casa Restaurant and Cantina as it floated from one end of the pond to the other. Thursday morning, a tow truck operator and men armed with ropes pulled the boat into place. Crane operators then positioned the restaurant’s bridges, and welders reconnected them to the boat.

“And it’s not damaged – that’s what we were most concerned with,” Rockne said. “The engineers were amazed. They thought it was going to break apart that night. I can’t believe it stayed together, but that good old boat did.”

She must hook up the electricity and water, sewer and fire pipes before the restaurant can reopen for business, tentatively June 15.

“It felt so good to get that reattached,” Rockne said. “It gives us the whole summer to work on what’s going on underneath. I don’t want to have my hat in hand going to the town again.”

Engineers are working on plans to build scaffolding-type supports called “spuds.” They are typically used on dredges and along coasts, she said. The spuds will be erected under the barge, and if the water level in the river ever gets as low as it did this winter, the boat will come to rest on the scaffolding.

Saving the $3 million boat wasn’t cheap or easy. Although Rockne has an “all-risk” policy, her insurance company is fighting her claims, saying the expenses were incurred because the foundation of the boat settled.

“It’s been a very expensive proposition,” Rockne said with a laugh. “Anybody who thought I was rich before will be happy to know I’m a lot broker. This has been a big albatross.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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