Duct Tape is Not the Answer


jsw_ducttapeisnottheanswer2In the tropics duct tape doesn’t behave the same way as it does in more temperate climates.  I am used to being able to fix anything with this magic stuff and, well, I still can, but … it doesn’t stay fixed.  Not if it’s out in the sun.  Or even just in the heat.

A year and a half ago in early February I thought I was being terribly clever when I bought a small (10′ by 10′) gazebo from a local hardware center for the traditional penny less than $30.  At first I used it to make welcome shade on my uncovered west-facing porch.  Then I moved next door to a place that had an actual covered porch and re-purposed the gazebo  in a corner of the front yard over there as a scooter-port, protecting my transportation from both the sun and the rain.

Oh, I was pleased with myself and my scooter-port.  I planned to keep it “forever.”   I even put some stepping stones out to it.

Gazebo Scooter-Port with Initial Duct Tape Repairs

Gazebo Scooter-Port Initial Duct Tape Repairs

But I began noticing weak areas in the plastic of the roof.  (Check the photo – and ignore the length of the grass.)  So I took my trusty step-stool and a roll of duct tape and set to work sealing and reinforcing.  First, it was just an occasional rotten spot that ripped a bit.  Then the seams themselves began to show more and more signs of strain.  And more and more layers of duct tape as I continued to patch and reinforce.  After awhile the roof was mostly duct tape.

But one morning in late July (about six months from purchase date) when I opened my front door the gazebo appeared to have exploded.  The roof and roof supports hung crazily, shredded, draped partially across the scooter and partially just flapping idly.  The aluminum tube supports and their plastic connectors looked like they had been struck by a heat-less meteor.

Forensics produced three theories.  One, the mango tree above it had dumped a load and the cloth was just too rotten to support it.  Theory One rejected.  The mangoes on that particular tree maxed in size around two inches.  Not to mention there were none on the ground.

Theory Two: a bird had tried to land and the cloth was just too sun-rotted to support it.  Nah.  None of the local birds were heavy enough to crack and shatter the support connectors with their tiny little bodies.

Theory Three:  a bird twitting from the tent roof  had tempted one of the local cats, which pounced and produced the disaster.  Yes, that would have done it.

And the entire shebang needed to be replaced.  So, in August,  I bought another gazebo ($30), but this time I took a leaf from the locals’ how-to book and also bought some sun-resistant tarp (+$15).  I cut the tarp to fit and taped it together with duct tape, draped it over the new gazebo and set her up, tied her down good.  Oh, was I pleased with myself.  I could deal with the local conditions, I could, I could.  I was soooo smart.

And my little blue tent worked like a charm for about four months.

In December, traditionally, the winds come.  They blow off the Pacific in tremendous gusts, heralding the arrival of tropical “summer” and the dry season.  One of those tremendous gusts swooped under my little gazebo tent and hoisted it, used the fence to which it was fastened as a hinge pin, and dropped it, inside out in my neighbor’s yard.

He helped me flip it back to my side, but while I was scurrying about looking for something to use to hold it down and keep it from attempting that trick again, another gust removed my options.  Once again it landed upside down in the neighbor’s yard, and this time all the aluminum supports and plastic connectors turned to trash in the process.

So I tidied up the mess, folded my tent and quietly stole away to brood over how to “garage” my scooter now.  I mulled throughout the dry season, protecting the leather seat at least with a big towel across it.  But the rains were due any minute.  What to do?

Finally, with the sky looming black and all my MacGyvering come to naught, I grabbed the gazebo roof and just draped it over the scooter.  She stayed dry.  However, I was appalled at the condition of the duct tape on the roof.  Look at the photo at the top.  The tape was cracked and peeling, curling away from where it had been applied.

I’ve been using the old tent roof to protect the scooter for a few weeks now.  Pieces continue to curl up and fall off it, almost as though it had leprosy.  Keep in mind THIS roof was only in use for four months, then spent about five more sitting outside in the heat although it was protected from the sun.  Nine months, $75 plus five big rolls of duct tape.  I guess I will have to find another solution soon, and I can promise you it won’t involve duct tape.

Not while I still live in the tropics.