Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Outdoor goods - don't use them outdoors

It's been windy the last few days. Not a typhoon or anything, but a strong wind blowing right through our garden.

The house doesn't seem to mind this, but the tarps we've been using to provide shade have been flapping like they're literally three sheets to the wind. That expressions refers to the setting of sails--a sheet, as is not at all obvious to the non-nautical, is a piece of rope tied to the loose end of a sail. This can change the sail from being close-hauled, almost in line with the ship when you're sailing upwind, or let right out for a broad reach or a dead run.

The house doesn't look drunk, but the strong wind has been pulling pegs out and letting the tarps wave around.

The wind was blowing so strongly the other evening that I undid the guy ropes from the pegs, went up to the balcony and furled the tarp, rolling it up and tying it along the top of the railing so that it would not flap any more. I started thinking about getting a more ship-shape arrangement out there, so the tarps can more easily be drawn in and out to suit the sunshine and wind.

The sound of wind is not a bad sound, but there is a lot of energy in the wind, and hopefully the balcony which the tarps are tied to will not sail away from the house. At night we don't need the tarp, but if it's a sunny and windy day in September, we want to keep the sun out. Perhaps I can rig up some halyards for next year, so that the tarps can go up and down with the weather, and possibly be set differently for the sun. Low and in the East for breakfast; high and to the south for lunch; letting the stars in at night.

One issue is that the guy ropes have been breaking a lot over the past few days. This is probably a combination of the heavy wind and fatigue over a month of holding the tarp through all weather. The points of failure were not at places with friction, at the knots, in the eye connecting to the tarp or at the peg, but in the middle of the rope.

I wonder also whether UV radiation has been breaking down the material of the rope. I know that UV can be very damaging. This would be ironic as the tarp is called a "UV Hexagon Tarp" and claims to "protect UV". No doubt "UV" is more of an advertising slogan than an optical description. And anyway the tarp claimes to protect anyone sitting under it from UV; it does not claim that the ropes holding it up are UV resistant. Or perhaps "protect UV" is literal, and it is doing as little as it can to impede the ultraviolet raise on their long journey from the sun to our subcuticular carcinomas.

Anyway, I'd hoped all the parts of these outdoor goods would last more than a month outside, rather than being good for a couple of weekends and being stored away in a cupboard for years in between.

The first tarp we used tore in two on a very windy day at the beginning of August. We'd had it for years and it didn't owe us much. It was a good excuse to buy a newer tarp to add to our camping inventory. After some sewing we can now use the original as two different tarps, which I suspect will be less susceptible to wind than one large piece of cloth.