lake clouds

Build A Wharf

It’s Spring in cottage land and you know what that means, it’s time for a young man and a young woman to be thinking about creating something….like building a wharf !!! Or building a dock, depending on your point of view. Wharves and docks are something all can enjoy, and will. Men love being able to tie the boat to the dock, while women love the lake views from the dock, a great place for a pair of adirondack chairs and a cup of coffee in the morning, watch the sunrise and listen to the loons.

These days wharves are more than just places to tie the boat. Yup, they can be part of cottage living, a place to go to escape the heat, swim, read, enjoy the views, dangle your toes in the water, and yes of course, how could I forget, fish….wharves are great places to fish from because fish often enjoy the structure, shade, and food offerings in the form of insects that come from around a wharf. I spend many mornings and evenings fly fishing from my cottage wharf.

Your boat will thank you if you have a great wharf to tie it up to, saving the hull from sliding up and down on a rocky, gravel or sandy shoreline. Besides that, a boat always looks great floating by the wharf, gently rocking in the afternoon waves on your cottage lake.

There are lots of wharf designs, it depends on your own particular tastes, location, water depth, budget, ease of putting it in the water and taking it out in the fall. It may also depend on local regulations, so be sure and check into that before you start building a wharf. Many places have laws and bylaws governing the type of wharves that can be constructed, including the materials to be used, shoreline disturbance etc. Permits can be required as well.

A dock or wharf is a great addition to your cottage life, something you will enjoy over and over again. A few years ago, having gotten rid of a powerboat, we decided we really didn’t need a wharf for the aluminum boat we use as the cottage boat. That only lasted one year. Whether we needed one or not didn’t matter, we wanted a wharf.

I love to stroll out on our wharf on a clear summer night and star gaze. There is no place quite as conducive to laying back and looking up at the stars twinkling overhead or watching the moon come up over the lake. No trees to block the view, and out at the end of the wharf I can get away from some of the house lights that interfere with stargazing.

In our case we chose to go with a floating wharf, a style that I find effective on our lake given the varying water levels. However, for years we had a stationary (non-floating) wharf build using rock cribs and poles etc. It worked very well, a plus being that it didn’t move up and down when you walked on it, or when the waves were high. However a negative was that it was sometimes a long step down to the boat when the water levels dropped, and it occasionally was under water when the lake came up too high.

There are other considerations to know about wharf building, such as the stability of the bottom of your lake, particularly with pole wharves, and how long it needs to be. Sometimes a wharf has to be quite long to reach deep enough water to float a speedboat or provide a suitable place to swim from. One thing to always consider when planning a wharf is weight and size. Remember, it’s all fun putting a wharf in the lake in the Spring, but it’s all work taking it out of the water in the Fall. Making a wharf sectional, that two people can carry is a good idea, otherwise you might need a 4X$ (not a typo) or a winch to pull it up out of the water before the dreaded winter freeze-up starts.

These days the options and accessories you can buy for a wharf are too numerous to mention here. Dock hardware, like hinges for joining floating sections are available (and very useful) as are holders for pipes that you drive into the bottom of the lake for stability etc from most hardward stores. You can also get dock lifts, and those cool solar lights, as well as all shapes and sizes of boat bumpers, cleats and other wharf accessories. If your powerboat is tied to a wharf where there is a lot of wave action, it might be a good idea to add some Taylor Made Products Premium Boat Mooring Whipsto keep the boat away from the wharf, while still keeping it secure.

While most cottagers are do-it-yourselfers by nature, if you want to save time and effort, you can purchase pre-made wharves, like this 16-ft Aluminum Boat Dock

In addition, cottagers are accessorizing their wharves to make them a living area, adding things like adirondack chairs, even tables, chairs and sun umbrellas. A large size wharf, outfitted with some patio style furniture can be like a floating room, a great place to entertain guests on a hot summer day. It’s almost as nice as spending an afternoon on a pontoon boat without the movement…..or burning any gas…..You can also add a Stow ‘N Go Standard Dock Box which is a great place to store boat supplies, life jackets, etc.

If your cottage dog likes to spend his or her summer afternoons jumping off the wharf, you need a Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder so he or she can climb back up on to the dock easily to do it all again. Our little poodle Meeko would have loved to have one of these.

Chris Lamping has written an excellent book on docks and wharves. In it Chris shows you complete instructions for building the most popular wharf designs, including floating wharves and pipe wharves. Chris also provides you with information for customizing and accessorizing your dock, and gives you some pointers on how to care for your wharf to make it last a long time. You can buy a copy of Chris Lamping’s book from Amazon for about 15 bucks, here’s the link… Building & Maintaining Docks: How to Design, Build, Install & Care for Residential Docks

© 2011 – 2012, Rob Dares. All rights reserved. Cottager Online/The Cottage Chronicles / Rob Dares material is copyrighted, please contact me if you wish to inquire about reposting etc All prices quoted for products are subject to change, customer is responsible to confirm price with seller.

2 thoughts on “Build A Wharf”

  1. Hi Robert

    Great article on wharfs. Interesting that we don’t use the term here in Ontario cottahe country — it’s always called a dock. Maybe this is a little like the discussion we were having on “camps” vs “cottages.” We almost never hear the cottage referred to as a camp in Ontario (at least I don’t).

    But all of your points are well-taken. There’s nothing like a floating dock that can go up and down with the lake levels…we take ours out in the fall because we’re on a big lake and in spring break up the ice destroys everything…the power of moving ice is incredible. The problem is that as we have gotten older, moving docks and ramp sections is more difficult. But now I hire a couple of local 23 year olds and they do it in about 15 min! It’s embarrassing! And they have no idea their physical prowess is fleeting…who was it who famously said: “Youth is wasted on the young..?”

    I wonder if some of your future stories might be on ways that us somewhat older folk (50-plus) can still handle the cottage chores and issues…

    Happy spring to you and yours.

  2. Hi Chris, First of all…who you calling an old guy?? Ha ha!!! Just kidding, I know, I feel it more and more everyday and see it everytime I start the lawnmower or grab a rake….

    Thanks for the comments and the future post idea, I like it.

    I know what you mean about youth being wasted on the young. They do tend to make things look easy, not realizing how much more difficult things can become as we get older. I usually always try to take that into consideration when building stuff like “docks”

    One of my “salvations” my daughter’s boyfriend, just got posted to another province, he’s in the military. He helped me drag my wharf in this past fall. I cried when he left for his posting, just thinking about that heavy wharf that has to go back into the lake this spring.

    I hope your cottage season gets off to a great start. Watch for a post about cottage chores for old guys in the near future. In the meantime, in order to stay young and get in shape for the cottage, did you read my post from a couple of years ago, Cottage Physical Fitness Workout Plan


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