You can’t miss it. Towering over Townsite for the past year, like some sort of gigantic stork, has been that huge, yellow, 183-foot-tall crane.
The crane and its operator are assisting in the building of the new wastewater treatment facility below Larch Avenue, where the old golf course used to be. Driving by, if you glance up, you may find yourself wondering, who’s up there? What are they doing? And how’s the view?
“The views from the cab of the crane are amazing,” said Rob Predinchuk, the crane operator who has been sky-high looking over the qathet region since August 2021.
“I can see all of Westview, the downtown Powell River area, Texada, Harwood [Ahgykson] and Savary islands, among others. The breakwater hulks and the old mill are clearly visible from up here as well.
“The sunrises and sunsets have been wonderful to observe. I have seen whales, dolphins, porpoises, deer, bears, numerous bird life, and of course the hundreds of sea lions that occupy the area through the winter.”
Predinchuk is a salt-of-the-earth, friendly guy who spends his working life high above the earth. He and his towering workplace have already made local history: the crane is the largest to ever be used on a construction project in Powell River.
“I started operating cranes when I worked for a paper mill, mostly overhead bridge cranes,” explained Predinchuk. “I worked my way into a designated crane trainer role within the mill, did crane safety consulting, then when the mill closed, the jump to crane operations in the construction industry was a logical step forward in my career as a tower-crane operator.
“I was fortunate enough to have worked a few jobs for Graham Infrastructure prior to this project starting in Powell River, and equally fortunate that they gave me the opportunity to join the team for this job.”
While Predinchuk’s full time home is in Maple Ridge, the Townsite crane gig was one of great interest to him, since he was already very familiar with this area. On weekends off, he climbs down from his perch in the sky to fish the ocean’s depths.
“I do spend a lot of time in the Okeover Inlet and the Desolation Sound area, fishing and relaxing,” said Predinchuk. “I’ve been coming up to extended family’s cabins for almost 40 years, since 1983 or so.
“My kids have grown up loving the ocean, the tides and the beauty this area provides. I love the sounds of nature and the solitude of drifting in my boat, the Mina Lisa, as I drift-fish in the area, releasing almost all of the fish I catch. I call it my happy place.”
Wind creates ‘scariest’ challenge
Back in Townsite, Predinchuk has now worked more than a full calendar year atop the crane, and has seen it all when it comes to weather, too.
“Working on the tower crane so close to the ocean has resulted in a number of challenging situations,” admits Predinchuk. “One close call we had last fall was when a squall came through very quickly. 20-kilometre winds went to 90-kilometre winds in seconds. We had a small wall-form on the hook of the crane at the time, and with the quick thinking and actions of the ground crew, we were able to safely land the form and disconnect the crane before any misadventures could occur.
“The wind is the scariest and most challenging part of being a tower-crane operator for me.”
Predinchuk’s “rule number one” is to always put safety first. He inspects the crane thoroughly, and puts the safety of the ground crews as his first priority. He’s also learned a couple of life lessons from his solo perch with the bird’s-eye view.
“The first lesson is that it takes a team effort to safely and successfully complete any job, so don’t hesitate to use the support that is around you. The second and more personal life lesson is to follow your passion, and love what you do. I love my job, it makes a difference if you do.”
Predinchuk’s time towering atop Townsite is almost done. The crane is expected to be dismantled and removed sometime this fall.
Grant Lawrence is an award-winning author, columnist and radio personality who considers Powell River and Desolation Sound his second home. He is a regular contributor to the Peak.