The installation of the new ramp lifting frame on the Chappy side is coming along rapidly. One of the major turning points was reached late Monday afternoon as the sunlight was fading. The two counterweights, each weighing 3,000 pounds, which suspend the ramp when the ferry is away, were meticulously shifted over to the new frame work. I know that I can sleep more soundly knowing that 12,000 pounds of essential structure no longer depends on the integrity of four wooden pilings which were driven into the sand over 35 years ago and have been marinating in salt water, exposed to every kind of sea critter that craves wood for a diet. Now all of that weight rests on heavy-duty concrete slabs, high and dry.

The hydraulic cylinders and their six-foot-long levers, the humming hydraulic pumps, all but two of the hydraulic hoses that you see there today are being replaced by their counterparts far above the tide and elements in a weatherproof stainless steel compartment. The new frame height takes into account a sea level rise of one and a half feet.

All of the design, arrangement and fabrication comes from the imagination and skill of Erik Gilley. He and George Fisher assembled the various pieces with the help of a Lull fork lift and a Grove crane. When they use the noisy lifting equipment, they don headsets that allow them to communicate with each other amidst the tumult in normal speaking tones.

Over the next few days, the wiring for the 12-volt electric control system will be completed, the hydraulic components will be filled with fluid and a pair of slim chains will descend from above to lift the ramp at the flick of a toggle. Then the old levers, cylinders and paint-peeling steel will be disassembled, leaving a sleek work of art to perform a very functional task.