Walking The Plank

When I arrived at my mooring in The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida, I tied up to a bunch of bamboo and a couple of small trees. There was/is no formal “landing” or dock. My friend/neighbor/landlord here has a ton of old stuff he accumulated over the years and dug out a 1″X6″X10′ “gangplank.” It was a bit “springy” and quite narrow, but it served me well. Until a couple of days ago…

I recently returned from a 3,500+ mile land cruising expedition. The boat is a mess! I’ve got a ton of work to do cleaning it up so it’s livable again, but as I was walking up the gangplank there was a scary, very ominous CRACK. It didn’t break or throw me in the alligator-infested water, but it was definitely a message.

I’ve been mentally exploring ideas of how to replace the thing with something lighter, wider, and ultimately safer while I’ve been driving the back roads of southeastern America. My brightest idea was to use metal drywall studs as a frame I could pop rivet together and cover with, say, 1/2-inch ply wood. Then, the other day as I was sitting at the picnic table drinking my morning mug of espresso I thought it would be easier if I just got one of those, say, 16-foot extension ladders and laid plywood over it.

Very leery of using the old plank I went looking around at Lee’s collection of old planks to see if there was something I could use temporarily until I could get to Home Depot and buy a ladder. The Swamp Gods must have been looking down on me with favor because lying, partially hidden under some rotting 2x4s and 2x6s was an aluminum extension ladder!

I went down and asked Lee if he was going to be needing it and he said he had no plans for it. It spanned the gap perfectly. I’ve never really liked the plank being located forward like it was. Awkward getting up from the cockpit seat to the cabin top and then, having to climb over the spreader bar I use when I bring the canvas cover forward to keep rain out. Back aft it spanned the gap, the space between the top rung of the ladder and the one below fit just right over the sheet winch to keep it from being pulled off into the water.

A quick run out to Home Depot was in order. I priced out the 8-foot 1x6s. They would fit in the space between the sides of the ladder. That width, though, like what I had been using was minimal at best. I discovered that two pre-cut 2×4 foot 1/2-inch plywood pieces were almost $5 less than the 1x6s. A four-foot piece of 2×2 @ $1.57 could be cut down into smaller pieces and glued and screwed in such a way that the two pieces would be joined together (I KNOW, I could have had a 4×8 sheet cut in half, but the difference in price isn’t worth talking about. This morning I put it all together “et voilà. Parfait.”

It’s a bit bouncy but much easier getting on and off the boat.

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