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  • Writer's pictureMarc S. Tremblay

Feels like an Amazon delivery

Updated: May 8

It's been four days since our house was delivered to our lot on Mayne Island. It feels like we got an Amazon delivery, except it didn't come in a box, and we can't return it if it doesn't fit.

Luckily, it does fit, but it was a close call...

Nickel Brothers employees waiting for the barge to arrive

Trees were cut, a massive hole was dug, tons of dirt and rock were moved, the driveway widened, and with the finesse of Swiss Watchmaker, the house was positioned within inches of the markers placed by the land surveyors, one day before the house arrived.

While the placement of the house on our lot was done with precision, not all of the Nickel Brothers' efforts went according to plan.

The house arrived by barge at Village Bay's boat launch. It's a very shallow bay, so the house movers planned its arrival at high tide, except, it wasn't the highest of the tides. It was a medium tide. The barge got stuck on the silty seafloor and couldn't get closer, so the barge's draw bridge landed in the water, about 15 feet from the boat ramp.

Drone view of Nickel Brothers employees waiting for barge to arrive

They tried pushing the barge in with the accompanying tug boat. The barge didn't budge. They tried pulling it in with ropes. Both ropes snapped, but they eventually managed to nudge it a bit closer.

After about 45 minutes, they decided to build a bridge to close the gap between the barge's ramp to the boat ramp. Thankfully, the Nickel Brothers' crew had massive beams and ready-made wooden bridge decks that they dropped between the two ramps, which allowed the truck to drive off the barge.

Nickel Brothers employees building a bridge

They started driving the house off the barge, but at 60 feet, the house was too long for the angle between the two ramps. They tried raising the tires under the back wheels to provide more clearance, but that didn't provide enough space for the very back of the house to clear the ramp deck.

They whipped out their reciprocating saw they cut off the bottom of the back wall of the house - the garage wall - which we were planning to modify regardless (we were going to cut it eventually to match the height of the floor joists).

With that 6-inch portion cut off, and the blocks under the back wheels, and the wood bridge over the ramp gap, the truck slowly drove off the barge onto Mayne Island.

Nickel Brothers planned to start the 3.4 km trip to our house at about 5:30 pm, but at the last minute, they decided to wait until about 10:30 pm to do it. That's when there are fewer cars on the road - not that there is a lot of traffic on Mayne.

It took about two hours for the truck and house to reach our property. It was slow and methodical. Dana and I drove behind the convoy from Village bay to our property.

There were two guys on foot in front of the house, one driving the truck, and one driving another truck behind the house. Normally there's a lead vehicle escorting the convoy, but Nickel Brothers hired Mayne Island Towing for that job.

The back wheels of the truck were on a dolly that can steer and move up and down. It was amazing to see them in action. Depending on the road curve and what was on the easement, they'd steer left or right, or they'd raise the truck bed up over mailboxes or rocks, or just one side at a time. If there was a street sign along the road, they removed it and the guy driving behind the house would stop and replace it. They removed all the sign except the last one, just before our house... Bad idea.

It's not clear why they didn't remove it. Maybe they were getting tired. Or maybe they thought the back of the house would clear the street sign, but it didn't.

Siding damage from moving the house to the Grove on Mayne Island

As the truck curved to the left, the back of the house swung to the right right and the sign scrapped against the house, ripping off and bending the aluminium siding on the back of the house. Thankfully, Nickel Brothers acknowledged this was an error on their part and has offered to take care of the repairs.

It was about 2 am by the time they parked the house and truck in our driveway. That was enough for that day. They decided to come back the next morning to position it on the lot.

The crew had to manoeuvre carefully to get it in position. Even if about 20 trees were felled, they had to thread the needle between other nearby trees, our well pump, the Grove sign, and the up-hill rampart of the excavated hole, where the house would sit.

Slowly, the crew backed it into position, sometimes going forward and adjusting the wheels to gain an inch or two, but they got it nearly exactly where it was supposed to go. We're talking inches. In fact, the house is in a slightly better position because it yielded six more inches to make sure the foundations won't be exactly on the set-back line (required 3-metre distance to the property line). Once in position, the crew started unloading 200+ massive blocks to jack the house up.

Remember, we still need to build the foundation and a full lower level, so they slowly and painstakingly lifted the house up 11 feet in the air, using six coordinated hydraulic jacks.

In all, we purchased and organized all the logistics for this successful delivery in just 60 days. That's amazing, even if we say so ourselves.

It wouldn't have been possible without massive efforts from the following amazing and talented people: Matt Bolla (tree felling): Jesse and Brendan (prep work for moving the bunkies); and most importantly, the First Star, Matt Taylor (bunky moving and excavation).

Oh, and of course, Cody and his Nickel Brothers crew...

These three videos show how the crew moved the house, first, on the barge, then off the barge and finally, onto our lot. Check 'em out, it's pretty amazing that they can move a 70,000-pound building like that!

Part 0: drove views of the barge and houses

Part 1: moving it off the barge

Part 2: moving it into position at the Grove

Next up: 1. finishing up the lower level design and foundation plan; 2. submitting the Land Use application to the Islands Trust; 3. submitting the Building Permit application to the Capital Regional District (CRD).

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Jun 17, 2023

This is so amazing to watch! I read the text (you are so good at this Marc) so knew it was a successful outcome, but was still holding my breath during the disembarking adventure. Those guys are genius and prepared for anything, it appears. This will be so fun to look back on in few years...😁

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