May 1, 2007
ICE MELTS INTO MAY RITUALS
After winter's freeze surrenders, sometimes the first boat on the water belongs to the guy who puts in the dock.
May: Time to put in the dock. All over Minnesota, families will be coming together to curse, sprain joints, drop tools to lake bottoms and experience the thrill of icy water over the top of one's waders.
Sure, it's a tradition. But George Jukish thinks some Minnesotans are happy to outsource it. "Most of them come up here to relax," said Jukish, who installs docks and boat lifts on Bay Lake, Gull Lake and the Whitefish Chain in the Brainerd area. "The last thing they want to do is spend their weekend messing with a dock and lift system." This is Jukish's eighth season in the business, which grew out of a lawn service he ran in high school and college.
His firm, Weekend Extensions LLC, has 600 customers wanting their waterfront structures in place either right now, or by fishing opener at the latest, or certainly by Memorial Day. That makes May his money month.
But in fact, Jukish gets busy - very busy - as soon as winter's ice vanishes from the central Minnesota lakes. On Bay Lake, that happened on April 21, and Jukish and his crew have been working dawn to dusk ever since, in all weather.
Many days his 40-foot-long barge has to break through a skin ! of new ice; on some, it zips to its first job through a layer of morning mist that hides wailing loons. Evenings, the group works "until we can't see the bubble in the level anymore," crew member Mark Munsterteiger said.
Those are long days both on the water and in it. Jukish's barge, which he designed and built himself, does the big grunt work, fetching boat lifts off the shore and placing them next to docks in minutes.
In the old days, Jukish said, that might have taken four people, stumbling with a lift down a steep bank and scraping through shoreline landscaping and muscling it into place. Everyone on Jukish's crew still gets in the water to assemble docks, but the team is quick: Last week it assembled a 17-section dock with two boat lifts, two personal watercraft hoists, a bench and a ladder in 45 minutes.
At the time no one had a thermometer, but the guess was that the water temperature, five days after ice-out, was still less than 40 degrees. Some d! ays there's wind and waves, and sometimes, even in May, it can! be snow ing, Jukish said. But the odds this time of year are that the weather will only get nicer.
"I'm always glad to be back on the water," Jukish said. "I enjoy the winters off, but it's a nice feeling to be back on the lake."