Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Adding Flotation Barrels Under the Cabin

55-gallon plastic barrels for extra flotation.
Last summer we worked hard on repairs and renovations when the weather was warm and conditions calm. One major task was to add barrels for extra flotation under the cedar logs in the back corner of the cabin. When we added a bathroom for our composting toilet that made extra weight on the float logs.

Pull line to get the barrel under the cabin.
We don’t want the logs to get saturated, so they needed to an extra boost higher in the water. In addition to extra flotation, exposing the logs allows them to dry on top and become more buoyant themselves. As usual, our good friend John helped us.

John sinking the first barrel at the edge of the float.
There was just enough room to tuck two more barrels between the cedar float logs where they were needed. We already have quite a few 55-gallon barrels underneath. But the two new ones had to slip under and between their neighbours.

John crawled under the cabin on the float logs.
Step one was to tie twine through a hole drilled in the top rim. This hole couldn't penetrate the barrel, which has to remain airtight. The twine was then tied to a length of floating rope. When installation was complete, the twine would be sacrificed to save the floating rope.

Wayne pushed the submerged barrel under.
Step two was for Wayne to use a pike pole to feed the floating rope down under the logs and existing barrels so it would ascend where John was waiting crouched underneath the cabin deck. John used a wire coat hanger hook to grab the yellow rope as it came into view. This rope would allow John to pull the barrel into place.

John using the pull line to maneuver the barrel.
Step three was to fill the barrel completely with water. When full, it becomes neutrally buoyant. This was the time to test the seal on the upper cap that keeps the barrel airtight underwater. Step four sent John back under the deck. He would man the pull rope while

The barrel on its way under the float logs.
Wayne used the 12-foot pole to propel the barrel down as far as it would reach and in John’s direction. The push and pull process turned the barrel from its vertical sinking position to the horizontal position needed to snug up between the cedar logs.

Wayne manning the compressor up on the deck.
Step five was to inflate the barrel. John has a compressor with a hose and wand extension he devised specifically for pumping air into barrels. The narrow slits between float logs make this procedure difficult, forcing many cabin owners have to hire scuba divers for this step.

John used a wand to fill the barrel up with air.
Wayne manned the compressor while John held the wand into the barrel’s open lower hole. After a few bursts, he stopped to make sure the barrel was in position. Then the compressor ran to push air in and all the water out. Here’s a video of the process from a few years ago.

John checking the barrel's position.
Once the first barrel was done, it was on to number two. The float log at the back corner rose just above the lake level. Then over the next month, as it dried, it rose even higher. Job well done.

Taking care of projects on a float cabin during the summer is best because both the air and water are warm. If problems occur during the cold winter months, they are much harder to complete. -- Margy


  1. Very interesting photos! With all of Wayne's book I have read I had no idea that your float cabin looked like that underneath. btw I could not find the link to the video showing the air being pushed in. Please?!

    1. Hey mick - Thanks for catching my omission. The link is there now. That was John's old rebuilt compressor. He now has a nice new one, but it lacks that classic look and sound. - Margy

    2. Thanks Margy for the video link, Very interesting.

  2. Interesting perspective seeing underneath the cabin. Great shots!

    1. It's a critical part of our home, but I guess everyone's foundation is. - Margy

  3. Wow - what a job - good to get it done before the storms start.