Up north, in the little town where I grew up, there was a marina with a small restaurant/bar that was built right on the river’s edge. The Clam Shack had a limited menu and cheap prices and was a great place to have a bucket of clams and a few beers while looking out over the water. This was especially enjoyable in the off season after the tourists had gone home.

Business was slow during the months of January and February, so they closed down to reopen in the spring.

The side of the restaurant facing the water had a deck about 10 feet wide covered by a canvas awning with roll down plastic curtains in case of strong winds. The owner decided he would do more business if he could expand the deck out over the water. Now it was almost impossible to build a structure like that because you had to get permits from the township, and also the state and the federal governments! He decided to bypass the permits and during the months he was closed, he quietly “jetted” in some pilings about 10 feet out from the existing deck, (jetting is an easy way to install pilings with a high-pressure hose and a long pipe that doesn’t require a bunch of heavy equipment), framed them out and built a new deck. Meanwhile, he enclosed the old deck, replacing the canvas awning with a plywood roof and moving the entire front wall including the windows and door out 10 feet. The whole process was casually done with complete disregard for any building codes. Once the construction was completed, the casual observer would not notice the difference, except that the inside of the restaurant seemed a bit larger.

This turned out to be a great success, with a noticeable increase in business (and profits), so the following year he repeated the process, with the same results. He did this two more times, adding a total of 40 extra feet to the Clam Shack’s dining area.

This worked out very well for the next several years until one winter we had a wild nor’easter. Now a nor’easter is different from most other storms in that the wind blows from the same direction for several days without letup. Because the town is located at the upper end of a “V” shaped bay opening to the northeast, the water level goes up when the tide comes in. When the tide goes out the wind holds most of the water in until the next high tide, then it goes even higher. This has a devastating effect on the lower town, most of which is only about six feet above the high tide level.

The storm lasted several days and about halfway through, the “new” roof blew off the Clam Shack and landed in the winter storage boatyard next door, taking out several 55-foot yachts. It flew into them sideways, collapsing their supports and causing them all to fall over, one against the other in a “domino effect,” if you will. By the time the mess was sorted out it was discovered that the fuel tank in one of the boats had ruptured, spilling about 400 gallons of diesel fuel onto the ground!

Almost immediately the area was crawling with inspectors from every three-letter agency in the state and federal government, followed by a posse of lawyers, rubbing their hands with dollar signs in their eyes! Soon people clad in Hazmat suits dug up a swimming pool size hole in the boat yard, and shipped the sand off to where it could be “safely” buried in a toxic landfill.

I’m not sure what the final settlement was, but after the dust had settled, the Clam Shack humbly went back to its original dimensions, and it was still a good place to get a bucket of clams and a few beers and look out over the water.