Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thatching the Palapa

The thatch on our big palapa has been in need of some help. It seems that over the years, patch work had been done when various holes appeared, but those and other sections were about shot. In addition, we found out that a number of the supports (a.k.a. sticks) were the wrong size (read: too skinny) and had rotted. It wasn't like the roof was ready to give way, but we knew the sooner we could get repairs done, the better -- especially before the rainy season starts.

Broken ridge support

Sample of holes, damaged thatch, and evidence of bird nest

A couple of doves who are about to be temporarily displaced

We discussed the situation with Fernando, and he knew of a source for the thatch. While one might think, like I did, that any old palm branches would do, such is not the case. There's a certain type of palm that provides the best and longest lasting thatch. It used to be widely available right in this area, but due to over harvesting, it now is only available in select places located in the outlying areas of the district.

On Sunday, Fernando came by with two loads of thatch, along with his son, Hugo, and his brother, Raphino.

This pile represents about 550 pieces of thatch. Fernando estimates that we will need closer to 2,000 pieces to repair the entire roof, but this load would be enough to get them started.

On Monday morning, the guys showed up bright and early and started ripping off the old thatch pieces. This is a dirty job. Between the rotted palm leaves, dirt, grit, bird nests, and who knows what else, it was all pulled to the floor. Bits and pieces of debris were flying everywhere. How these guys managed to even breathe is beyond me. Factor in that there was no cloud cover and temps in the upper 80s, plus humidity, and clearly it wasn't a job for the faint of heart.

After a decent-sized section had been cleared, it was time to start putting up the new thatch.

Starting from the bottom of the grid, what the guys did was take a piece of thatch and, like a tress of hair, separate it into two even pieces. One section would go over the skinny support stick, the other piece would go under. Each layer overlaps the other going up the roof line.

While all of this was going on, Sam was having a case of nerves. He and Tanya spend much of their time under this palapa and here it was being changed. He kept pacing and seemed to be looking for some safe haven while the work was being done. With it being so hot, I let him on the porch.

I never thought I would see the day that these three would share the same space and all would have their limbs at the end of the day. I tried to invite Tanya in, but she seemed content to sack out in a shady corner outside. It should also be mentioned that she has zero patience with Olivia. After about two minutes of her bowing, scraping, jumping, and whining to win Tanya's praise, all that Olivia gets in return is a low growl that clearly indicates, "You're getting on my nerves girl. Go away."

She did get on Sam's nerves a little bit and wisely decided to rest under the love seat, out of his reach.

But back to the thatching...

Here's Fernando adding more pieces. It should be mentioned that he's up there, supported only by a horizontal plank and a few thin support sticks. I can only watch for little bits of time, because I'm afraid he'll slip. Of course, I also have a fear of heights, which doesn't help matters.

By the end of the first day, they had cleared out a good-sized area and had replacement thatch in place.

This process will be completed over and over again during the next few days until the whole roof is repaired. In no time at all, the new thatch will dry out and turn brown, and we'll have a roof without leaks, which will make Sam and Tanya very happy campers.

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