Instructions for Relief Caretakers

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 any questions.

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 canoe.

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.

Club Rules
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,
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 call them.

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 navigate.

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 every spring.

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 person.

If you ARE successful in exchanging your shift, email the Relief Caretaking Schedulers:
Sarah Fraidin at AND Chuck Pill at and inform
them who you have exchanged shifts with.