Inspiration often springs from sore backs, scraped shins, and twisted ankles. Just ask Eagle Lake cottager John Mowat: When it was time to remove the dock at his cottage near South River, Ont., “the big hassle was lugging the dock up over the rocks on the shore,” he says. “It would take three or four guys. Someone would get a bashed knee or hand, or a scraped shin.” Why not, he mused, winch the dock up and down a custom-made skidway?
The result is Mowat’s “dock retriever.” Powered by a 12-volt electric winch, the retriever tugs sections of the dock up a ramp made from two 15-foot 2x6s with horizontal cross-braces. Sections of the dock slide over a series of rollers made from muffler pipe, held in triangles of 5/8″ plywood. At the top of the ramp, the dock slips onto a landing for winter storage. To keep the ramp in place, Mowat hooks it to a 2×8 header secured to concrete-filled tires. At the other end, out in the water, the ramp is elevated on 2x4s to keep the back end of the dock sections from dragging on the lake bottom.
The retriever turns a three- or four-hour chore for three or four people into a shin-friendly task that takes about an hour, with Mowat’s wife, Nancy, on the winch and Mowat guiding the dock sections. After years of grunting and cursing the dock, he says, “I must be getting older and smarter.”