Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Roof to Keep Us Dry

I seem to have succumbed to Island Time with regard to my blogging frequency.  Not that we are on an island, but you couldn't tell it from our view.
The increasing frequency of rain squalls are a sure sign that the rainy season is gearing up.  Our goal was to have our addition dried in before the rainy season, but we didn't quite make it.  The top photo below was taken Sept 25th. No roof, no windows, and 4.3 inches of rain in our rain gauge in the previous week.  It seems the rainy season was not aware of our timeline.  The bottom photo was taken today, 23 days and 20 inches of rain later than the top photo.  Now only 1 more door and 1 more window to install and then we will be totally dried in. Yea!  
Another view of the sea. 
 Here is what happened in those 23 days:
The wooden straps that support the sheet metal roof were put in place along with the boards needed to make the eaves.  Those dark things in the sky are dragonflies.  Tens of thousands of them migrated through the day I took this photo.  It was amazing to see them.
 From the inside you can see the roofing trusses and upper level walls. 
The large Santa Maria wood roofing trusses are bolted together with iron plates.  These babies ain't goin' nowhere.
From below you can see the 2x4 wood straps to which the sheet metal (called "zinc" here) will be screwed.
We love these blue sky days.
Another view from below showing the crew securing the last 2 sheets of "zinc" on the north side of the roof.   
Given the irregular shape of the roof, we actually had to start the courses of 10x4ft zinc sheets at the top of the ridge line and work down instead of starting at the bottom and working up.  The next course had to be slipped under the first course.
We used mostly 10x4ft sheets of zinc along with some 8x4 sheets for the corners.  Oddly, the undersides were different colors.  Luckily, that won't show from the inside once we are finished.  However, it isn't uncommon around here for the zinc to be exposed, i.e., for the roof to be the ceiling.  We will be installing rigid insulation against the 2x4 straps and then some sort of finish over the insulation.  Not sure what yet, maybe tongue and groove mahogany paneling.  Suggestions are welcomed! 
Another view of the roof from below.
This is with all the roof, including the ridge cap, up and most of the doors and windows.
 Before and after shots of the north side are below.
Before the zinc and windows.  You can see how the gable end eaves extend out. 
After the zinc, windows, and 3 of 4 doors.
 We had the windows and doors custom made in Spanish Lookout by Peters Glass Shop; we highly recommend them.  I am so happy with how they turned out.  We will be putting up the exterior trim around them next week.
The crew working on the south facing roof.  This is the side on which the solar panels will be mounted.

The sheets of metal roofing are all installed.  Next, we will come back and finish off the gable ends with sheet metal covers and then install the soffit.  That will keep it weather tight.
The collage below shows the southwest corner and the south facing roof during the construction.  Either 18 or 20 solar panels will be mounted on the roof.  A small shed room will be added to the windowless wall to house the inverter and the batteries will run under the windows along the wall on the right.  The space the batteries will be in is on a breezeway that will be covered by a shed roof that links the old cabana with the new addition.  The breezeway will be screened in.
 Once the roof was up, we took the tarps off the Santa Maria wooden beam.  You can see the beam and some of the posts in the collage below.  I had thought that putting the roof on would make the space seem smaller, but it doesn't.  The space is nice and open with plenty of light coming in through the windows.  I'm sure that will change a bit when we put the loft in, but with 10 foot ceilings under the loft, it should still feel open and airy.  
There is still an amazing and daunting amount of work yet to be done.  Getting the solar panels, inverter, and batteries up and running is our priority now.  The panels are being shipped, the batteries and inverter have been sourced and will be ordered next month.  Things are happening!
Looking more like a house every day.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

August is almost gone

Here it is, already August 28th!  Where does the time go?  We finally have some relief from the weeks of windy weather that blew the sargassum seaweed ashore, although piles of sargassum linger.
Lovely, calm sea in the view looking north from our dock.
The calm weather was helpful for getting the next batch of lumber boated over.  As usual, Dennis and I are consumed by the construction process.
And our cabana as viewed from the dock.  The siding is up on the 2 gable ends of the addition.
We are making slow, but tangible, progress.
A closer view with the scaffolding moved to the inside to start on the interior roofing trusses.
A view of the north side of the addition.
Getting the first of the 5 interior roofing trusses up was a big milestone.
The first of the interior trusses is now complete.  It was a challenge to install because the west gable-end truss is not parallel to the remaining trusses.  Tricky measurements were needed.  The next ones should be easier ...
You can just make out the nylon lines that were strung to keep everything lined up right.
And here is the view from the back showing the west wall with the back door and windows.  The windowless wall is where the electrical inverter will be housed.
Like Dennis and me, Max takes a keen interest in the construction.  Every evening she makes her inspection of the day's progress.
Max on the job.
 It is tough and tiring work.
Exhausted by her efforts, Max takes a little break, still keeping one eye open.  Sort of.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sargassum Invasion

Near the horizon, an olive green mass more than a mile long floats, drifting languidly from north to south.  A moment later the languidness is put to lie as the south tip of the mass makes landfall on our beach.  The Sargassum has arrived.  This happens periodically every year, but this particular Sargassum landfall is part of an impressive invasion that has the entire coast of Belize mainland and cayes covered with the brown alga.  
The Sargassum is closing in.  All day long a seemingly endless line of Sargassum floated in. 
Some has washed up and much more is headed in.
 The next day there were mounds of it on the beach and floating next to the shore.
Sargassum floating next to the shore.
A thick blanket has mounded up, especially to the south of our dock where it is a couple of feet deep on shore. 
Not quite as much to the north of the dock.
This Sargassum is from the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean.  The Sargasso Sea is a very cool thing/place - it is where baby sea turtles spend their growing up years as do European and American eels.  Every now and then the ocean currents change up a little bit and push some of the Sargassum to the south where it is picked up in other currents and pushed through the Anegada, Mona, and Windward Passages of the Caribbean Islands into the Caribbean Sea.  Once in the Caribbean, some of it gets taken up to the Gulf of Mexico and gets deposited on beaches in Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, while some it heads to Belize and Honduras.  Texas A&M University has an informative website devoted to tracking Sargassum drifts.  I found of lot of this information there in addition to the Wikipedia links below.
Most of the Sargassum that has washed up on our beach seems to be S. fluitans, but there may be some S. natans mixed in with it.
There are several species of Sargassum and the 2 of them from the Sargasso Sea are holopelagic, meaning that they float on ocean waters for their entire life cycle.  Other species of Sargassum that grow attached to rocks and corals are not normally found in the Sargasso Sea.
Besides the olive green-colored Sargassum, there are also greener wide blades of turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) and some narrower blades of another sea grass in the mix that washed up.  The darker reddish brown stuff is Sargassum that has dried out.  There are also some other seaweeds in there that I haven't identified yet - like the clumps of roundish leaves about halfway down the right side of the photo.
Sea grasses, as opposed to the algal seaweeds, are vascular plants.  There are 3 recorded seagrasses in Belize namely, turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) manatee seagrass (Syringodium filiforme), duckweed (Halodule spp.).  We have large beds of turtle grass along the very shallow water just off our beach.  And we often see manatees grazing the beds of seagrasses about 100 feet off shore in water that is about 10-15 ft deep.  Almost every day dead seagrass blades wash up on the sand.  We normally get that raked up and composted.  This big invasion of Sargassum will take us longer to deal with, but we are gradually getting it raked up.  Beats shoveling snow!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Construction, Coffee, and Constrictor

Just a short post today with, you guessed it, construction, coffee, and constrictor updates.

The crew have been hard at work on the roofing trusses.  The trusses have a fairly complicated design so that a large central space is left unobstructed for a nice sized loft.  
The view of the whole place from the dock.  You can see that roof of the addition is quite a bit higher than the original cabana and that roof line is almost perpendicular to the original.
Instead of a central "king post", there are 2 "queen posts" spaced eleven feet apart for a good sized open area in the loft.  The horizontal tension piece is about 8 feet from what will be the floor of the loft.  From this view, you can easily see how irregular the sides of the hexagonal floor plan are.  There is also a good view of the black-painted iron plates that we had fabricated to secure the joints in the trusses.  The plates are 5.5 inches wide and are bolted through using 1/2 inch threaded rod cut to length.
A view of the partially assembled west side gable end truss from the inside.  The trusses pre-assembled on the ground, disassembled, and then re-assembled in place. The central beam has been finished and is protected from the sun and rain by tarps.
Our friend and neighbor, Craig Pearlman, loaned us his scaffolding.  It makes this work much easier and safer.  This is the riskiest bit - securing the top of the truss with the ground 30 feet below.  That is Tiger at the top with Pascal holding the foot board in place and Derwin keeping the truss board at the right angle.
The hardest part is done and that is the stopping point for the day.
Another view of the heart-stopping view open space where Tiger was reaching up to fasten the top of the truss. A good place to stop until everyone is fresh.
Speaking of fresh - one of the things I like to have here in the heat is a nice glass of iced coffee sweetened Vietnamese-style with sweetened condensed milk.  The beautiful glass cup is one of a set my sister gave me.  They are really glasses that folks use in the middle east for hot tea.  They are perfect for iced coffee, though, just the right size.
Mmmmmm ... iced coffee.
Last night when Dennis went out to turn off the generator, he was surprised to see this tiny boa constrictor climbing up the veranda stair rail.  I was able to get a few flash photos of it before Dennis took it out to a noni bush.  The baluster the boa is leaning against is only 2 inches wide - the snake is smaller than the diameter of my little finger and is about 2.5 ft long.  Very pretty.
Last, but not least, the constrictor.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rails and Posts and Beams

I mentioned in the last post that when I returned from Colorado, Dennis and the crew had gotten the rails up along the stairs and around the deck on the existing cabana.  As you can see in the next photos, they did a great job!
The rail around the landing at the top of the stairs.
The rail around the deck.  It is good not to have to worry about getting too close to the edge!
You can see the new wood decking is a fresher color than the old.  This is one of the things about building in Belize - they ran out of the decking and we had to wait about a year, due to the major flooding last fall, to finish the deck.  And even after it was available, the width was slightly different than what we had first.  sigh ...  So it even after it weathers in to the same color, it will still not match.
The rail as seen from the ground.  I am quite pleased with how it turned out.  Now I can also see that the concrete needs to be pressure cleaned and painted.  It's always something!
Now for the new construction project - we are finally to the stage of getting the 4 huge support posts and central beam in place.
The set up for pulling the 8x8 inch x 10ft posts up to the main level.  There is the post at the foot of the "ramp".
Dennis, Derwin, and Tiger get the rope fixed to one end of the post.
Richard and Paschal hoisting the post up the ramp with ropes.
Paschal and Derwin moving the second of the four posts.  These posts are of Santa Maria tropical hardwood that is native to Belize.  It is similar to white oak in weight but is nearly as hard as maple.
The posts that will be positioned at opposite walls.  They had to be cut at an angle due the walls not being parallel.
The end of the post was shaped so that it fits over the floor joists and rests on the concrete column below.  Here the guys are lifting it into place.
The 3 central pieces of the beam rest on a tongue in the post.  
It took several days for the 4 posts to be shaped, fitted into place, and secured once they were plumb.  Then came the construction of the beam that rests on the 4 posts, spanning the addition from front to back.  The 25 ft long beam is made of 5 layers of wood.  The 3 central layers are 2x10 inch Santa Maria and each outer layer is 2x12 inch Santa Maria.  The 3 central pieces were installed first.
The top of the beam is level with the top of the walls.   
The outer layer of Santa Maria has been installed on the beam.
The outer layer of the Santa Maria is getting a smooth finish since it will be exposed in the finished room.
This side of the beam is awaiting the final layer of Santa Maria.  Here you can see the tongue that central layers rest on with the outer layer on the far side being 2 inches wider and covering the tongue.
In the midst of all this construction, Dennis had cataract surgery in Belize City.  He has a wonderful ophthalmologist, Dr. David Hoy, who did an excellent job with the surgery. He even corrected an astigmatism at the same time.  This required 2 overnight trips to the city; one for the surgery and another for the 2 week checkup.  We flew up for the surgery, but drove for the check up.  Both times we stayed at Villa Boscardi B&B.  We highly recommend it for staying in the city.  It is lovely, clean, and in a convenient and safe neighborhood.  Check them out on Trip Advisor.

Next up will be the construction and installation of the roof trusses which is currently in progress.