Wednesday, April 29, 2009

THE CREW - No Belize time here

These are the guys, THE CREW, that poured Pip and Jason's roof. What a great job these guys do. No whining, no bitching, no excuses, nothing! These guys are here to do a job, and they can get it done. And they earn every dollar. I'd like to see the all the people in the States that are complaining about working too hard, or not getting a five, six (or even seven) figure bonus, come down here and do this for a week. Five gallon buckets of cement at a time. Forty tons of it. They never seemed to rest. Just like ants. Just as strong, just as determined.

And these guys are a happy bunch. Not afraid to come over and talk to some tidy, clean guy, standing on the side lines as they labor on. My hats off to THE CREW. I'm looking forward to their commitment when it comes to building our place.

Back on Belize time

The last few days have been a little quiet around the construction site. The bulldozer and front loader have come in and dug out the area for the cistern and pool area. They pushed the cut off remains of the pilings into the hole they created and we will use them for ground support under the cistern and pool. That is not really a necessity but what else do you do with a couple of tons of excess pilings.

They have started to bring in fill dirt, or actually marl, to the site, and that will be used to bring the level of the lot up to the height of the pilings. After that, they will start to make the forms that will become the support beams for the house. Because the pilings did not go straight in to the ground, some extra work is required to make sure all the beams are tied together. Most of the pilings are off by only inches, but there is always one troublemaker. So to accommodate that one piling, the house has grown wider by six inches.

The roof for Pip and Jason’s place was poured Tuesday. It was done just in time for Jason to see the completion of the roof, because he leaves Wednesday to fly back to Canada. It is amazing to watch the workers pour that roof, five gallon buckets at a time. They worked like ants going up and down those ladders, with buckets of cement on their heads. And they would make these little hats out of the cement bags and put the buckets right on top. These guys worked virtually non-stop, for hours. Ah, to be young.

See, pouring cement roofs isn't dirty work

Roof pour at 11AM

Same view at 5PM

The winds have died down enough that I went kayaking today. I got another view of the construction site, from the water, but it doesn’t look like much. It was beautiful in the bay today and the sea was probably in the 80 degree range. I guess I’ll have to come back out when the house starts to go up. It’s a tough job, but I think I’m up to it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Mayan face

Out of all the stories I have written about in my blog, the one that has seemed to touched a nerve was my small story I wrote April 21st on the missing Mayan face. A neighbor in the Shores, Tom, commented from Atlanta, that he had seen it the last time he was here in January. A few others had seen it over time and were aware it was there, but most of the recent times, it had been obscured by the overgrown brush. But early this year I had the front of the lot cleared of the brush and trees that had begun to overtake the seafront. It was then that the Mayan face was exposed to the sea, once again. But it was also exposed to everyone that visits our lot and uses our seawall to fish, swim or whatever.

Everyone that has commented to me, whether through the blog or to me, personally, all lament the loss of the Consejo Mayan face. We have several Mayan ruins here in the Consejo area, most of them are now just overgrown dirt mounds. But there are areas throughout Belize that still have original pottery, carved designs and even a few Mayan bones that have been undisturbed for 500 years or more. I just hope as more people visit this beautiful country of Belize, that they realize that these treasures are here for all of us to enjoy. Take pictures, write about them, tell your friends about them, but please, leave them there for others to enjoy. If everyone that visits these wonderful places takes just one shard of pottery, one bone or in my case, a Mayan carving, we all lose, as these treasures will be gone forever. So, where ever you visit, please respect the local country and leave these artifacts undisturbed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Day 2 of driving piles.

The truck with the needed pilings showed up a little late today and they started driving piles around 9AM. They have ten piles to be driven, so everything should be wrapped up by today.

John Harris and Zane, the owner of the piling company.

Cutting the piles down to size.

Watching piles being driven is like watching paint dry... not very exciting. Or at least that's the way you want it to be. And the shaking of the ground was almost non-existant. From Pip and Jasons' place, next door, you couldn't tell there were piles being driven. No ground movement at all.

As it gets closer to the end of the day, the last two piles are left to be driven. It's almost over. Or so I thought. The last in a series of piles that had all been driven down about 30 feet, we were going to sink a 40 footer. That would leave about 10 feet of piling, exposed above ground. And that would be cut to 3 feet with the top 1 foot of concrete broken off to expose the steel strands just like the others in the previous pictures. But watching them drive this pile was different. After the first 3 or 4 feet of topsoil, the pile dropped 6 feet in one pounding. The next pounding, another 4 feet disappeared. Ten feet in two poundings. We are now down 15 feet and sinking fast. But, if the results are the same as the previous pilings in this row, the resistance should start at about 25 feet and stiffen up at around 29-31 feet, just like the six more before in the same area.

Unfortunately, this was not to be the case this time. The pile driver kept driving, and our pile kept sinking. 20, 25, 30 feet went by, just like that. The other piles were now at the same height, but this 40 foot pile had more to go. 35 and now 40. The pile driver now has the piling at ground level. And still has more to go. Then we find the cavern.

The pile driver has now pounded this 40 foot pile, 44 feet in the ground. It is at this point that the piling has finally met stiff resistance. Four feet below gound level we found an open cavern that was large enough to probably stand inside. Phil has given his OK to stop driving the pile.

Cutting the piling to expose the rebar, below ground level.

John will form up a cast with rebar and type 1 cement to bring this post up to the correct height. He said it's not a problem to do this. So that will be done another day. We have finished driving piles. And that's a good thing. We may fill in a portion of the cavern, but there is no need to crush and fill it all. That's why we went with the pilings. It turned out to be a wise decision.

Everyone is happy that the pile driving is done!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And Let the Pilings Begin…

After all the delays in getting to Belize, the rescheduling of various aspects of the construction and redesigns of the plans, the piling work has begun.

It started this morning with John Harris, my contractor, and Phil Freytag, my consulting engineer, coming over to my studio apartment for coffee and to go over some final details regarding the pilings. The piling trucks had not arrived, because I drove to the lot first thing this morning. They were coming around noon.

John took me around to a few of the pools he has built in the area. He has done some beautiful work and everyone seems to be very happy with his results.

From there, he showed me a good spot for breakfast, Miss June’s Kitchen, on College Road. She also bakes her own bread that is not as sweet as the other breads around here. I’m not used to the sweet types of bread so I will definitely be back.

From there, it was over to the cabinet maker, Ravy Gongora. He has an extensive shop with various woods in the rough cut form. With that, he makes beautiful kitchen cabinets, dressers, night stands, and whatever else you may need. Just use your imagination and I’m sure he could make it come true…..and at a good price. His work rivals any I’ve seen in the States. We toured his shop and saw projects in various stages of completion.

Then John got the call we had been expecting. The pilings were in Consejo. And we were in Corozal. Less than twenty minutes later we are pulling into Consejo Shores just as the pile driver is being unloaded from the trailer. This pile driver is on tracks instead of wheels, which you will see, is the best way for my situation.

On another truck, they have 6 – 30 foot pilings and 4 – 40 foot pilings. We had requested a couple of 35 footers, but I don’t think they had any in stock. I know….tomorrow.
So Phil lined up the first piling, forty footer, placing it in the middle corridor of the structure. We were using this as our test piling. How deep would it go before it would reach the 59,000 pounds of pressure that Phil was looking to achieve. John needs about 3 ½ feet of piling above ground so he can attach the support beams.

All of this was a guessing game. You can’t see below the ground, so the pile driver just pounds away until it reaches the point of 12 to 15 driver poundings per foot or more. Let me tell you, there were times that the pile would drop 3 feet with just one pounding of the 3000 pound dead weight. I’m thinking next stop-China. Or worse, we need bigger pilings. Every pound of that machine, every foot of pilings, were dollars flowing out of my pocket. Would it stop?

But after about 25 feet, the ground began to show some resistance. You could actually see the piling bounce and come back up. The first piling on our lot settled at 29 feet into the ground. We have 11 feet above ground. Phil and John decide to put the next pile on the other side of the middle corridor, in the same position as the first pile. It too, will be a forty footer. It too pounds down to about 30 feet, leaving about 10 feet above ground. Now we decide to pound one of the thirty footers on the eastern wall, in a straight line with the other two pilings. It pounds down to the almost ideal height of three feet. So now we pound three other thirty footers, all along the east wall of the guest bedroom and bath. They too end up with just three feet or so above ground, the perfect height.

Now we have two thirty footers and a forty footer left, but will they be long enough? Phil and John consult, and agree that thirty five footers should do the trick. But we need to order them by 5PM. So Phil heads home to make a phone call. We want thirty five and a couple of forty footers.

But during the minor celebration of figuring out what we wanted, came a new problem. The crane, during the process of driving another forty foot piling began to sink in a hidden cavern. What started off as a minor cavern collapse was turning into a serious problem and even the possibility of the crane overturning. The crane was in a bad position and needed to free itself of the cement pilings. After some heavy duty pushing and pulling by the crew, to free the actual pile driver, the crane was able to move the crane portion to a forward position enabling the crane to right itself and slowly drive out from the collapsed cavern. It was touch and go for a few minutes there.

But with the crane resituated, the pile driving began again. A total of eight piles were driven today. Ten more to go. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.