How they brought a 60-ton rock to the Rock

03/23/2012 9:00 AM |

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | South Ferry President Cliff Clark with the 60-ton boulder on Tuesday.

When South Ferry Company owner Cliff Clark went to work full-time on the family business 36 years ago, he never imagined the day would come when he’d carry a 120,000 pound boulder to Shelter Island.

The 65-foot-long boats were simply too small back then, and they were designed in such a way that putting too much weight on the very back end of the boat would have surely flooded the deck.

“It was so far beyond anything we might have done back then,” he said.

Welcome to the future, Mr. Clark.

A crew of nearly a dozen South Ferry workers carried a 60-ton rock from North Haven to Shelter Island Tuesday, completing delivery on what Mr. Clark called the single largest item ever shipped by the nearly 300-year-old company.

The boulder came from the pit at Wainscott Sand & Gravel in Bridgehampton and was brought via police escort to a house at 179 Ram Island Drive. Property records show the home is owned by Wall Street professionals Kathleen Tait and Ian Rosenthal, who according to laborers working at the home Tuesday plan to build a 45-foot long concrete bridge connecting the second floor of their home to the rock.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel employee Janine Astorr said the couple shopped there for the rock for the better part of three years. The bridge is expected to take three weeks to complete.

Transporting the rock 13.7 miles from the gravel pit to the 2-acre property overlooking Gardiner’s Bay was no easy task. First the boulder had to be dug up and loaded by a crane onto a flatbed truck. The boulder was then transported in a caravan that included another truck with more than 40 tons of construction equipment on it.

For the South Ferry crew that meant three stressful trips across Shelter Island Sound, two of which were carrying loads weighing more than 115,000 pounds.

“It was a lot of hours of planning,” Mr. Clark said. “We had to make sure we had all the right equipment and all the right people.”

The company’s newest ship, The Southside, a 101-foot-long vessel built in 2008 and capable of carrying 18 carloads, made all three trips. Mr. Clark oversaw the operation and Capt. John Westervelt, the company’s training pilot, steered the ship. While one crew continued to make passenger runs on the Sunrise boat, the rest of South Ferry Company was onboard the Southside, which the property owners chartered by the hour.

The original gameplan was to receive the boulder at the dock in North Haven at 9:30 a.m., which would have meant it would cross at high tide. But the transportation of the rock was delayed more than two hours.

The most challenging part of the delivery across water was actually the final step of driving the flatbed off the vessel after the tide had already begun to fall, Mr. Clark said. The truck cleared with only inches to spare before the boat would have submerged, he said. The boulder finally reached The Rock about 1 p.m.

“Another hour and they would have had to turn around,” Mr. Clark said.

For as serious as Tuesday’s mission was, the South Ferry crew got to enjoy a few minutes of fun with the boulder as it made its way across Shelter Island Sound.

Cliff Clark said he felt like a “rock star” as he posed for pictures next to the 60-ton talk of the town. Capt. Billy Clark III climbed on top of the rock and rode it while the boat was moving, his arms stretched out toward the sky.

After the truck headed north up Route 114 to begin its trip to Ram Island, Cliff Clark looked over at Capt. Phil Dunne and smiled.

“Now that’s a pretty good testament to what these vessels can do,” he said.

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