Cottage Wharf Planning

It’s January, and a cottagers mind has turned to….you guessed it, building a floating wharf…

My old floating wharf is on it’s last legs, no wait, it has no legs, it floats. Well it has floated it’s last summer, and needs to be renewed, or replaced or at the very least substantially overhauled.

With that in mind, I have been thinking about the perfect floating dock, and decided I don’t have any idea what that might be. But I know what I like.

My current cottage wharf consists of two 8 X 10 foot floating decks joined together by a series of 3 foot wide walkways. I have found this to be the most practical wharf for our lake with it’s widely variable water levels. One thing about a floating wharf, it is always the same height from the water.

This kind of a wharf is relatively cheap to build as well. Each platform has four styrofoam blocks, each 4 X 2 feet wide. Although it floats fine, my next wharf will have an additonal two blocks for added floatation. Otherwise, it’s just a deck frame, made from 2 X 8’s for the frame, covered with 6″ boards. Very easy to build. Just build a frame, and cover it. But make sure when you are framing it up you allow room to put your 2 X 4 foot styro blocks in each corner. You get the picture…I hope because I don’t have a scanner….but I think this picture will help.

Here is tip…don’t put the frame in the water and then try to shove the styrofoam blocks under it. Although it is hilarious to watch, it is somewhat dangerous when those blocks shoot back out from under the wharf and hit you in the head….trust me…

Your walkways can be framed from three 8 foot 2 X 4″s run length wise and covered with 6 inch boards. I like to make my walkways about 3 feet wide, although, I think my new wharf this will be a little narrower to cut down on weight. Even better are longer walkways, but if you do that, say 12 feet or more per walkway, move up to 2 X 6’s for your stringers, they will be stronger.

I have some hardware to hold the walkways to the floats, basically they are heavy duty hinges called Connector Hinges and they are very strong and durable and do the job of holding the walkways to the wharf or two floating docks together very well.

I also anchor my wharf in place using metal poles driven into the mud of the lake bottom and held to the wharf by Leg Holders I remove the bolts, as they are designed for a stationary wharf, to hold it up out of the water. Because my wharf floats, I let it ride up and down on the metal pipes, relieving me of the hard work and hassle of trying to raise or lower it according to the lake level.

Because my wharf floats, it is subject to wave action, and storms, so I have found that it is a good idea to tie it to shore with a strong rope, from one corner of the float at an angle to a tree on the shoreline. This does mean you might be restricted to only using one side of the wharf, but that’s all I use. My wharf is long enough to tie up three boats on one side. Consider how many boats you want to tie up when you are constructing your walkways, that will determine how long your walkways need to be. I also drive a steel bar into the ground through an opening in the end of the wharf that attaches to the shore. That also helps to anchor the wharf.

One note about the rope going from the wharf to the shoreline. Don’t make this tight. Leave it slack with some play in it, floating on the water is best, and tie a couple of javex bottles or boat bumpers to it as a marker. That way it won’t be affected by your wharf going up and down with lake water levels, but will keep your wharf from floating away….you get the picture….

So…that is pretty much what my wharf is like. It works great. In the winter, I bring the walkways ashore, and move the float to a cove behind the cottage and secure it to the shoreline. It freezes in to the ice in winter, but has stayed intact over the last few years. It’s just too damm heavy to pull out of the lake. I used to do that, but gave it up for lent a couple of years ago….

Good luck with your wharf planning….

If I have confused you, (and I probably have, I confuse myself sometimes) this book by Chris Lamping may help clear things up!The Dock Manual or this one Building & Maintaining Docks: How to Design, Build, Install & Care for Residential Docks
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