Pickle Raft Crushed, Rebuilt and Refloated

Crunch! Last winter a tree crushed our beloved Pickle Raft. This week, we rebuilt it. Here’s a quick (30-sec) video of how that went followed by some pics.

Introducing the Pickle Raft

A few years ago, my wife Julia and I assembled what looked like a patio on top of a bunch of plastic barrels and pushed it in to our pond.

We christened it the Pickle Raft and life was good.

Building the raft. We scored the barrels on Craigslist. The lumber was a mix of stuff laying around the farm and some new boards from Lowe’s.
Floating in our pond.
Pickle Raft Cruise #1! That’s Julia and Snookie hanging with my brother Christian Harberts – barrel rafter, barefoot marathoner and inventor of TrailBall.

Then disaster struck. During an ice storm, a red oak tree tipped over and pole-axed our raft. When I say “pole-axed”, I mean absolutely obliterated the raft. Smashed the decking, railing and joists. Crammed the barrels under water and left the mess for dead.

Our first sight of the Pickle Raft on that fateful morning
Good thing we didn’t loose our fire pot

And so it sat for a few months, our beloved vessel, raft-wrecked on our tiny farm pond. The seasons passed. Other projects took priority. The locust fence. The new pole barn. I spent 198 days riding mules Brick and Cracker from North Carolina to Idaho.

How the Pickle Raft spent the winter of 2018/19

Then the pond silted up. And, like a death knell to what had been a beautiful rafting experience, the damn dam broke. Yes, the water ran out of our tiny pond leaving our smashed-to-bits raft cowering in a muddy corner.

And then the track hoe showed up

It got worse. This spring, the rains came. It rained and rained and rained and, like our pond dam broke, our driveway washed out.

We got off lighter than many in Western North Carolina. We just suffered a collapsed culvert and a flooded drive.

It was time for some major repairs. A track hoe showed up. A new culvert was installed in the driveway. And while we were at it, we dipped out the pond.

Cleaning out the pond. The remains of the Pickle Raft can be seen between the track hoe and the bulldozer.

It was lovely having the pond back. Only, without the Pickle Raft, it seemed…..empty. So these past weeks, with the help of Seth Ingle, I rebuilt the Pickle Raft. Here are some photos of the project I though you’d enjoy.

Pickle Raft Part II

Before building a new raft, Seth and I took the smashed raft apart. What what could be salvaged – barrels, fastenings and decking – were incorporated in to the second Pickle Raft.

Shaping up the raft with a mix of salvage and new boards. That’s Seth casting a careful eye over my carpentry to make sure the corners were square.
Adding stringers
Filling in with barrels. The four bright blue barrels are new barrels we added for extra buoyancy.
The barrels wired in place to keep them from shifting. The barrels were secured so the caps would remain above the water. All caps were sealed in place with silicone caulk to keep water out of the barrels just in case they went under water.
Ready for launching! (Seth Ingle photo)
Back in action!

Big thanks for Seth Ingle for helping Julia and me get the Pickle Raft rebuild and refloated. Here’s the link to the original build, complete right down the budget and materials list.

All the best with whatever project you’re tackling. Happy Rafting!


PS: The Pickle Raft and the Eiffel Tower in the same video? Yep. Check out the TrailBall video featuring my brother Christian bringing his Paris running skills to Caldwell County, NC.


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[…] in it. No big deal. I’ll probably nail this shoe up somewhere on the barn. Or maybe on the Pickle Raft. Barefoot! Two things of note. 1: notice that horse shoe nail still stuck in the hoof on the left. […]

3 years ago

Long live the Pickle Barge/Raft! Cowering in a muddy corner is not a good look… At least you didn’t have to go fetch somewhere off the NC coast. Would have been a great story, tho. Fun fact: the Pickle Raft made guest appearance in a very famous YouTube moviefilm a couple of years ago, a little French chez-d’ouvre indy production called “Comparaison Vibram Dunas 10mm & Xero Shoes Z-Trail”. Maybe you’ve heard about it? It was on the shortlist for the Sunprance film festival a couple of seasons ago. Here’s the excerpt, edited to cut right to the best part. https://youtu.be/DX0kpI1PK8w?t=78 Enjoy! Christian


[…] After a glorious season of farm pond drifting, the Pickle Raft was crushed by a red oak tree. After lying derelict for a year, it was resurrected, improved and relaunched. […]

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