15 March 2020 (bis): a perfect storm

Funny, March 15th was a Sunday. That day I took the liberty of not getting my hands dirty and write the post entitled “15 March 2020: the end of the first period is approaching”. At the end of the day I did do some work after all, just to clear my mind, think I did some sanding of the foam on the scoops in order to prepare them for lamination. But that’s beyond the point, what this post is about is what happened afterwards: a perfect storm!

Weather in the tropics is unpredictable. Warm and calm in general, a heavy shower or a storm can nevertheless build-up in a very short timeframe. It did on 15 March 2020 in the evening. Thick and heavy clouds were developing in the East of the marina and heading towards us slowly. I noticed the ambient light decreasing rapidly and well before sunset, that’s when I observed these thick clouds approaching. Quite rapidly the wind was picking up, blowing gusts never experienced before in that area. I just had the time to gather my sander, the vacuum cleaner and all the other tools inside the cabin before the first drops started to hit the marina. 5 minutes later, it was pitch dark and things were going banana!

A storm is not really an issue for a catamaran on the hard, more specifically one that does not carry a mast. I was concerned about my shading nets on top of the boat. They were supported by a network of electrical PVC tubes attached and stitched together. Though the netting is a an open fabric (air can pass through) it nevertheless acts as a huge sail. The complete setup was pulled up by the wind gusts and afterwards pushed down by a reverse gust. This all occurred with forces well beyond the design resistance of my structure of rods. One after the other the plastic tubes disconnected and broke in pieces, the net was ready to be blown away. I went back outside in a desperate attempt to hold some of the parts back but that was not really conclusive. After seeing a piece of tube pass just 10 cm aside of me and hitting the deck with a force that scared the cr…p out of me I concluded it was better to let go and hope for the best Vs to be stabbed by some runaway electrical tube sheared in diagonal and sharp as hell. So I got back in the cabin and waited for the storm to pass.

These pictures clearly indicate the complete left portion of the arch has collapsed. Most of the vertical holders are either separated from the roof section, either broken in several pieces. By miracle, the right portion survived the storm. Building this shade structure took me about 3 days of work in January when I started this adventure. Now to be honest, I knew the structure was resistant but not indestructible, so deep inside of me a voice had always whispered “Alex, it’s not about if this thing is one day going to collapse, it’s about when…”. 15 March was the day when!

What’s next? Prioritise! The right portion is still holding, that’s where most of the works are ongoing. The best thing to do at this stage is to do nothing. Worse that can happen is another storm blows the complete thing away: better in this context compared to the same scenario after a thorough repair. That also gives me time to think about other options to keep shade on the cabin. Time will tell!