Crane raises boat from rocks

Mark Janke and Chris and Keith Bryenton of Coppertop Towing in Elbow secure tow straps under a pontoon boat they were tasked with recovering from the rocks of the Qu'Appelle dam at Lake Diefenbaker.

Mark Janke and Chris and Keith Bryenton of Coppertop Towing in Elbow secure tow straps under a pontoon boat they were tasked with recovering from the rocks of the Qu’Appelle dam at Lake Diefenbaker.

By Tara de Ryk

ELBOW — A crane plucked a 3,500-pound pontoon boat off the rocks of the Qu’Appelle dam Aug. 28.

It was all in a day’s work for Mark Janke, owner of Coppertop Towing, and for crane operator Jarred Beattie of Alliance Crane out of Moose Jaw. Both are often tasked with recovering a variety of vehicles, but for both, recovering a wrecked boat out of Lake Diefenbaker was a first.

The boat landed on the rocks after strong winds in early August ripped it from its mooring and sent it sailing down the lake.

“I bet the waves down here were a good eight feet high that day,” Janke said. The wind and waves sent the boat on a collision course with the Qu’Appelle dam. The pontoon boat wound up wrecked on the rocks, one of its pontoons ripped to shreds.

Its resting place was at the midway point of the dam, making a recovery from shore impossible. Towing the wreckage to land by boat was also unfeasible because one pontoon was destroyed and the other was waterlogged.

Janke said the boat owner’s insurance company asked him to come up with a plan to recover the watercraft.

“I decided the safest way to do it was by crane,” Janke said.

He had to get permission from CP Rail to use the right-of-way across the dam for the recovery. Janke said officials from Environment had been out earlier and removed fuel and contaminants from the boat.

Janke hired Alliance Crane and Beattie arrived around 10:15 a.m. Friday morning with the mobile crane. He angled it on the driveway beside the railway tracks and extended a series of booms high into the air, across the dam and over the lake.

Below, Jahnke and helpers Chris and Keith Bryenton worked out a way to secure the boat to the cables.

Balancing and securing the weight of the boat proved tricky due to the outboard motor and the wrecked pontoon, which made it difficult to secure the cable.

After about one hour of adjusting the straps and chains in various combinations, success was achieved and the pontoon boat was raised out of the lake and onto Janke’s flatdeck truck.

Janke was pleased with the job.

“When it’s (the boat) broke up like this…I calculate for the worst and hope I get lucky,” he said. “I brought it out the best I could without putting another mark on it.”

He was helped by the weather. There was hardly any wind and the lake was calm.

Beattie said he does a lot of salvage work, including recovering rolled semis and farm machinery, but “boats are kind of a rare lift.”

Janke said the pontoon boat would be delivered to a wrecker in Saskatoon.

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