Growing up on the eastern seaboard of the US, I made forts. Cardboard, sheets, branches, snow. Mostly because it was fun and made a great defensive position for snowball fights when the temperamental nature of New Jersey winters gave us snow instead of ice.
Today, I made a fort with purpose. The sun blazes here with an intensity I’ve never experienced. Occasional vacations to the Bahamas or the Caribbean were spent in nice hotels with ample and shade and air conditioning. Sometimes the buildings were so cold I’d go outside to warm up. Here, there is nowhere to go but in the water or below decks. At anchor, in the safe middle of the bay, Pura Vida lives in a world of sun. No clouds, no trees, no rain to be found in this desert climate.
For most of April and May the Bimini and dodger were enough to keep us from frying during the hot hours of the afternoon. Come June though, the sun has shifted from a pleasant friend to an unwelcome plague on our days. The cats have taken to spending their day in the aft cabin, on the floor; undoubtably the coolest place on the boat thanks to its location under the waterline. Brian sets up a personal fan inches in front of his face daily and goes into a trance editing video on his computer. “Exercising my pores” he jokes.
I am at a loss. The dodger, which we hid behind in cooler climates to keep off the cutting wind, does too good a job of blocking the breezes here and the cockpit is sweltering. The foredeck is an arid wasteland, blistering in the sun, the gray side decks too hot to walk on with bare feet. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I reach back to childhood for inspiration. I build a fort.
Back in Ensenada, I purchased a roll of sun shade material meant for awnings. I had grand plans of an elaborate, sewn to fit, sturdy shade that would span bow to cockpit. It would be able to withstand strong winds, be quick to put up, and still allow access to the bow. Then, we started anchorage hopping in earnest and my grand plans fell to the wayside. I was just having too much fun cruising.
The fort I built is quick and dirty but very effective. A rectangle of cloth hangs tightly over a line run from the bow to the mast. It’s held down at the corners with paracord run through brass grommets and also at the top of the peak, where the paracord attaches to the center line with running hitches to give it some tension against the inevitable wind.
The cloth blocks about 75% of the sun but only half of the breeze. Once it’s hung securely I grab my deck chair from the cockpit and settled down in my new fort for a well deserved afternoon of reading and enjoying the shade.