Living at land’s end
To build the home, Cataldo’s team overcame a number of unique challenges, mostly due to the location. “When you build a house on an island like Cuttyhunk, it’s the only project you can do at that time,” says Cataldo. “You’re always planning ahead to make things as comfortable as possible for the workers—and you need to bring almost everything over.” New Bedford is the closest harbor with commercial shipping facilities, so a tug was hired to tow a barge measuring 130 feet by 28 feet. The one-way trip, at a maximum speed of about six knots, took two-and-a-half hours. “The challenge,” says Cataldo, “was in picking days when the weather was favorable for heavy loads and the tug captain was available.” Sometimes the barge had to carry massive cargo such as a full-sized crane shrink-wrapped like a boat to protect against salt spray, or fully loaded trucks. Cataldo notes, “Falmouth Lumber was critical in providing materials whenever we needed them.” Additionally, he used other vessels to transport smaller items, including the Cuttyhunk Ferry Company and Quickwater Ferry out of Falmouth. Captain John Paul Hunter of the Seahorse and Captain Duane Lynch of the Seahawk, both based in Cuttyhunk, were also instrumental to the project’s success. Cataldo firmly believes that to complete a project like this, “You really need a great collaboration and total commitment from everyone—and great organization and discipline to manage downtime and costs.”
No matter how thorough the planning, surprise obstacles are sure to surface, especially when a team is working far from the conveniences that mainlanders take for granted. A dramatic example of this rule occurred that winter, when Cuttyhunk’s only power plant had a major fire. “We had to dismantle and rebuild the plant,” says Cataldo. “We had to do it in mid December. It took us nine days with 18 men and a lot of help from the islanders. It was a team effort.” Cataldo emphasizes the efforts countless individuals contributed to vanquish the unexpected hurdles. One cold December night, John Augusta and Chris Roberts from Falmouth Lumber left the company Christmas party early for Tucker-Roy Marine in New Bedford, and made the crossing to deliver two boom trucks carrying a full load of materials for the plant’s repair. On Cuttyhunk, the barge was usually met by Asa Lombard and other islanders who were waiting to run up the barge ramp so that the equipment could finally be off-loaded.
With the power restored, the team of warriors could resume the building of the home—and build they would, as they crafted a dwelling that should withstand anything Mother Nature has in store. The homeowner recalls that he ordered Andersen Stormwatch hurricane glass after seeing a video of a 2×4 bouncing off a window in 40 mph wind. Cataldo would use the home as an example in a promotional video for Andersen Window Company a few years later. Both the homeowner and Cataldo marvel at the effectiveness of these windows; Cataldo says, “I was in there during a hurricane, and you could almost hear a pin drop. It was very quiet inside the house—with 90 mile-an-hour winds outside.” The choice to use Stormwatch was just one of many practical decisions that these savvy homeowners and the building team made. Cataldo says, “They chose the right materials to protect against the harsh environment.” For example, there is no drywall in the home, a precaution against the humidity of Cuttyhunk’s fog; instead, the home is built entirely of wood, mostly red cedar and fir, with fasteners of stainless steel. Three double-walled oil tanks—with a total capacity of 825 gallons—were installed to maintain climate control year-round, and closed-cell foam insulates the house. One of the carpenters was so impressed by the solidity of the home that he joked, “If there’s a really big hurricane, this house isn’t going to blow apart; it’s just going to blow down the hill, and we’ll find it floating in Vineyard Sound.”
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