Thursday, October 20, 2011

Burnt Lake Project- Part 2

This building project started with a wager.  All of our workers had to predict when the exterior of the cabin would be completely finished.  Before we get to the predictions I feel it necessary to provide you with a little background on our "professional" construction crew.  Our staff consisted of 4 full time workers: Dad, Benny, Corey and Tyrol. I have to label myself as part time, due to the fact I was constantly flying materials.  Benny is a master carpenter from Sandy Lake that has built numerous houses, hands down the most knowledgeable about constructing an outpost.  Both Dad and I possess plenty of construction experience however, never have built a cabin from scratch.  Corey and Tyrol were apprentices ready to learn construction trades.

Now the project we were undertaking was a 24X32' cabin with a 8X20' screened in porch.  As you will see in the numerous pictures to follow, vinyl siding, fascia and soffiting, and steel roofing composed the exterior. Now with this information reader, what is your guess for our construction project?  Two days? Ten days?  Remember this is for finishing the exterior only.  I'll let the pictures do the majority of the story telling. *Note: I flew all building equipment i.e. hammers, skill saws, miter saws, generator in prior to building so construction was ready to begin upon arrival.
Dad: 5 days Benny: 7 days Corey: 8 days Tyrol: 9 days Nathan (the pessimist): 12 days

Day 1
Our first day of construction began with flying into Burnt around 7 am with the 1/2 the crew (Dad, Corey and Tyrol).  However, I was required to promptly fly to Sandy to pick up the brains of the operation, Benny, along with a load of knotty pine interior siding.  Concrete pads were measured out with pressure treated posts as the foundation of the cabin.  Production moved swiftly as we were able to finished the entire floor of the cabin and even started framing one of the walls.

Day 2
The amazingly warm weather greeted us for another day.  The weather was perfect for building a cabin 80 degrees and no winds. Ok, it was a tad warm but I'll never complain about 80 degree weather in September in the Big Hook area.  The goal for day two was finish building trusses and complete the framing of the walls.  
Three of us tackled creating a jig for the trusses while Dad and Benny laid out walls for the floor plan. After another 10 hour day we managed to finish hand constructing the trusses thanks to the pre-cut boards, however the trusses and gable ends chewed up most of the time.  All walls were framed although only three walls were erected with OBS boards placed on most.
Day 3
The unreal weather continued however black flies and mosquito's began hatching.  The construction paced slowed this day due to hot humid weather peaking at 90 degrees.  With rain in the days to come we really pushed to get the roof in place.  We came really close to our goal and managed to install all the rafters with strapping.  The remainder of the cabin was enclosed with OBS plywood.  With an hour left in the day we began securing the steel roofing.  Unfortunately daylight got the better of us and we only finished half of the roof.

Day 4
Poor weather slowed us this day.  Rain and metal roofing are a unfavorable combination.  We held off finishing the roof and focused on a new set of stairs for the camp. We also began constructing the screened in porch.  
Day 5
Clearing weather allowed us a daybreak start.  The roofing was completed along with great progress on the fascia and soffiting.  The windows and door were installed.  The new large windows are a enormous improvement allowing ample amounts of light in.  Everyone noticed the undergrowth sprouting all over the forest bed.  Grass on the front lawn was already ankle high.  We ended the day once again sun burnt and sweltering in heat.  
Day 6 
The task for this day was to tackle the vinyl siding.  After a round of camp checks I joined Corey and Tyrol with the siding while Dad and Benny focused on finishing the porch.  We finished the vinyl siding in no time and I began siding the interior with the knotty pine.  Once again the weather cooperated with sunny skies and warm temperatures.  We started to notice wildlife in the woods. Wood peckers and robins chirped from the burnt trees.  We even spotted a moose on the south shoreline.  

Day 7
If you guessed seven days to finish an outpost cabin exterior you are indeed correct.  Below is a photo of the area right after the forest fire and a picture of the completed exterior.  Basically 70 hours of work with a full time 4 man crew and one part timer completed the exterior on the project. Tremendous weather aided the building process.    
                  Before                                                                                                      After

Below are couple pictures of the interior of Burnt Lake.  

The interior of the cabin will include two 12x12' bedrooms and an 8x12 shower room with a vanity.  The kitchen and sitting area is a massive 12x32' area.  All the rooms have doors and ceilings.  The cabin will be powered with a quiet and efficient Honda 2000 Watt generator.  

All in all, the construction of an outpost camp 200 miles from the nearest road was quite the learning experience.  We did have some hiccups but overall the process went along smoothly.  The weather cooperated, our preplanning efforts kept the errors to a minimum and most of all, we had a great group of guys working incredibly hard every single day.  

Good luck on the water this fall everyone!
Big Hook Camps

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Burnt Lake Project-Part 1

A common question asked by our guests is "How did the cabins get here? There isn't a road within 185 miles!" In the past, I could pass on the story that whole cabins were flown in a DC-3 during the winter time.  The massive DC-3 was equipped with ski's and was able to land on the frozen lakes right at the building location.  In the frigid cold, pilots unloaded the entire cabin onto the ice and left the hauling to several builders.  The cabin was then packed board by board off the ice to the construction site before the ice melted.  At the time, that was the most efficient way to transport materials.

Present day, as many of you know Big Hook suffered the loss of Burnt Lake to forest fires this summer.  Presented with this problem, I asked myself "How do we get a cabin up here?"  DC-3's are no longer cost effective along with being few and far between. Plus, the option of waiting till winter to build a cabin was out of the question.  Our final decision was to build a cabin this fall.  Plenty of planning promptly ensued. Costs, logistics and labor help were difficult to estimate being so remote.  A magical number calculated was 17,000.  This number was the weight, in pounds, of the cabin.  Once again, I asked myself, "How do we get a cabin up here?"

12,500 lbs of materials
After countless phone calls, we developed our plan to haul the cabin in.  The cabins journey started via semi from Dryden, Ontario to the Wasaya hanger in Red Lake.  On September 5th Wasaya Airways then loaded up their Hawker, a large cargo plane with a max 12,500 pounds payload, for the first run and the remaining 4,500 on the second run.  In Sandy Lake 7 helpers plus dad and myself unloaded the Hawker board by board onto a freighter truck that looked like it had survived numerous rough winters in Sandy. Without the aid of forklift or heavy machinery, just strong hands and backs, we carefully piled the first 12,500 lbs of materials onto the truck.  After a short drive to the float base, we then lumped everything out of the truck onto the front lawn of Sandy Lake Seaplane.  No big deal, we just moved 25,000 lbs...our aching backs thought otherwise. The second run of 4,500 pds was effortless compared to the first. Everyone let out a small cheer as we were 145 miles closer to delivering our cabin to Burnt.  However, the most difficult leg of the cabins journey was upon us.

Corey marching up the hill
Without a doubt, Sept 7th was the most physical day of work I have ever experienced.  Under clear skies and cool temperatures we utilized Showalter's Twin Beech for the final push to deliver the cabin.  Unfortunately, several workers failed to show up for duty. "Off to a rocky start," I thought.  Myself and two helpers situated ourselves in Sandy Lake for the loading half while Dad and two helpers unloaded at Burnt Lake.  Countless 2x4 after 2x4 we loaded up the Beech.  The material that slowed the pace of the day was the steel roofing.  Delicately loading the 13 ft 11 inch roofing into the Beech was equivalent to parking a full size truck into a compact car spot, it's doable but takes time.  Just when everyone thought their arms and backs couldn't haul any more, we were finished.  After seven loads with the Beech and several with our 185 Cessna airplane the cabin was successfully moved to Burnt Lake.  Dad and his helpers even managed to haul every board up the Burnt Lake hill without the aid of steps, just a makeshift step way.  Not too bad for a 63 year old with one replaced knee! In one day we managed load and unload 17,000 pounds, march it all up a steep grade and get home before the sunset.  I'll admit as proud as we were of our accomplishment, no one was able to stay awake past 8 p.m. that evening.
The materials up top the hill

The final weight of the cabin...16,950 pounds.  Not bad estimating in my opinion.  Now you know the story on the grueling task of delivering an outpost cabin 200 miles into the bush.  The next task at hand is to begin construction.

To be continued......