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House sail' shades southeast glass wall

Jan 1, 2003

To the editor: I would like to offer a more seaman-like solution than pasting up paper to screen your handsome new offices from the sun (Chartroom Chatter, Issue 119, Jan.⁄Feb. 2002).

I had a similar problem several years ago with the morning sun flooding a two-story living room that presented a glass wall to the southeast. Furniture, floor and paintings were fried, and I was determined to find a better solution than turning the entire room beige or blocking the view with a cat's cradle of curtains and drawstrings.

So I sunk four stainless steel eyes in the four corners of the outside wall. Then I strung, top and bottom, 3⁄16-inch stainless-steel wire rope of the type called aircraft cable, which doesn't stretch. I attached them to the eyes with turnbuckles on one end to tighten them up.

Then I went to my sailmaker and ordered up a 450-square-foot house sail. After they got with the idea — and past dark mutterings about Mr. Venturi — they built it of 5-ounce Dacron, the weight of which I badly miscalculated. I discovered the significant weight when I lifted it to the top cable, some 18 feet off the ground, with the help of my brave girlfriend (braver wife now).

The sailmaker installed grommets every 18 inches. Snap shackles link the grommets to the wires, top (support) and bottom (guide). A vertical pole on one side makes it easy to slide the thing open and shut; a couple of strategically positioned shock cords and a top line flipped over a bolt above the wire allow me to pull it drumhead tight, which is helpful when the wind blows.

So far, the house has not blown away; the morning light is as soft as any photographer could wish, and the deep reds and greens and blues and woods we prefer stay deep red and green and blue and woody.

It takes about 60 seconds to flake it open and 10 seconds to close it. If I happen to be feeling flush when the Dacron expires, I just might rig the new one with roller furling.

Paul Garrison is a former merchant mariner and the author of two novels, Red Sky at Morning and Fire and Ice. His latest novel, Buried at Sea, was published by HarperCollins in February.