The relief caretaker duty is primarily to operate the
ferry for members and their guests that come down to visit
the Island. ALL visitors to the Island are required to
sign in on the ferry sign-in sheet. Please sign yourself
in and remind others to sign in as you bring them over.
The sign-in sheet is also a liability release statement
that is intended to protect the Club from legal liability
in the case of an accident. Make sure everybody signs it.
The Club is open to Members and their guests only. Deny
all others access to the Island unless there is an
emergency. Sometimes passers-by will experimentally ring
the bell. When you go to pick someone up and you are not
sure if he or she is member, ask. You can confirm their
membership by checking the membership list under the lid
of the ferry sign-in box.
Beginning Your Shift
As river conditions constantly change, it is worthwhile to
check the weather and rivel level forecasts before you
head down to the Island. You can check the conditions
beforehand on Sycamore Island's website on its Weather
Page. The US Geological Survey provides a gauge
height graph for the
river level at Little Falls, the closest river level
gauge to Sycamore Island.
The river level rule of thumb is that ferry service is not
provided above 5 feet, particularly if higher water is
forecast. On the other hand, if water levels are dropping
and forecasted to continue dropping, ferry service can be
resumed. Other extreme weather conditions such as high
winds, violent thunderstorms, river ice or blizzards may
also be factors that suspend ferry service. Use your
common sense and consult with the caretaker if you have
Please be on time. The first-shift caretaker may find the
ferry already locked up on the Maryland shore. You should
know the combination of the lock to the ferry. Once on the
Island, take a stroll around the Island to determine if
there are any things of note. At the "changing of the
guard," the first-shift caretaker should inform the
second-shift caretaker of who is on the Island or out in a
There are several club canoes. The relief caretakers
should keep track of their use and be sure all have been
returned before closing up for the day.
Tips to Operating the Ferry
Remove all carbiners/clips from pull rope before pulling
ferry. When operating the ferry alone, STAND AT ITS FRONT
END (depending on the direction you're going) while
pulling the ferry along using the pull-rope. When the
river is low and the current slow, as it is most of the
time, it is easy to keep the ferry parallel to the rope
and even to have additional people help pull the rope.
However, when the river level is high and the current is
strong, it is easier to manage the ferry without aid.
Angle the nose of the ferry upstream, into the current,
and run at that angle all the way across the channel.
If others are helping you to pull the rope, make sure that
no one accidentally walks off the end of the ferry (it has
happened!). Be especially alert with children.
Occasionally new members or their guests are not aware of
the rules and you may need to remind them that dogs and
alcohol are not allowed on the Island.
Members are responsible for their guests. At large parties
members are responsible for having their guests sign the
ferry sign-in sheet or other liability waivers, for their
guests' behavior, for their guests' safety, for ferrying
duties and for cleaning up and taking away trash. If you
feel that members are not fulfilling their
responsibilities, feel free to talk to them about it.
In case of emergency, dial 911. You may also contact:
the caretaker's mobile phone at 240-863-1747
the club Captain, Alec Graham, at AlecGrm@gmail.com,
the club President, John Noble, at 301-320-3554.
Ending Your Shift
If you are the first caretaker of the day, do not leave
until your replacement arrives. If your replacement does
not arrive on time, find out who is scheduled by checking
the Islander inside the red notebook in the clubhouse and
At the end of the day, second-shift caretakers should turn
out the lights and turn off the ceiling fans in the main
clubroom, and replace the pool table cover if that has not
already been done.
If the permanent caretaker has not returned to the Island
by the end of day, the relief caretaker can leave (just
before dark) but must lock up the ferry on the Maryland
shore before going up the hill. The lock has a deceptive
peculiarity in that it sometimes seems to lock but doesn't
actually lock. Always tug on the lock after you think
you've locked it just to be sure.
Relief caretakers should consider bringing a flashlight if
their shift ends at dark. The numbers on the lock are
difficult to read in dim light, as is the hill to
Locking up the Ferry
Some people have had trouble using the lock.
Unlocking the Lock:
-- Set the number to the combination
-- Depress the lock and release
Locking the Lock:
-- Scramble the lock's numbers
-- Close the lock firmly
-- Test the lock by pulling on it to be sure it's fastened
The Red Notebook
A red loose-leaf notebook is kept in the magazine rack
adjacent to the bulletin board in the clubhouse for your
reference. The notebook has emergency info and numbers,
issues of the Islander, lists, etc.
Winter Relief Caretaking
During the winter months there is no running water on the
island. You must bring your own supply. There is a "winter
toilet" downstairs if it is needed.
Occasionally in winter the river freezes over and people
can walk over to the Island. As relief caretaker in this
situation, you might encounter some people who have walked
over from the shore who are not members. Inform them that
the Island is a private club and that the club's liability
insurance does not cover their presence on the Island.
Encourage them to leave.
Rescheduling your Shift
In the event of illness or other last-minute emergency
that makes it impossible for you to do your shift, call
one of the relief caretakers scheduled for the weeks ahead
and try to exchange shifts. Their names and phone numbers
are on the the membership roster, sent to all members
If you ARE NOT successful, you must call Sarah Fraidin at
301-412-7478, or Chuck Pill at 703-966-4373. Do not
leave a message on an answering machine and consider
yourself rescheduled. Make sure you talk to a
If you ARE successful in exchanging your shift, email the
Relief Caretaking Schedulers:
Sarah Fraidin at firstname.lastname@example.org AND Chuck Pill at
email@example.com and inform
them who you have exchanged shifts with.