Living on the oceans edge
Living in a world where water flows uphill
I live in a house at the beach, thanks to some choices my great grandparents made some hundred odd years ago. In the summer time this seems to be an idyllic place, with beautiful sunrises and magnificent sunsets over the marshes behind us, on the other side of the street.
On a hot summer's day there can be so many people trying to enjoy the sun and water that it sometimes looks like there is no place for one more individual to spread a towel, in contrast, in the winter, it can be days between times one sees new foot prints in the sand.
In February of 1978 a Blizzard swept the northeast doing a tremendous amount of damage in seaside towns such as Scituate, MA where I live. We lost all of one cottage, all of a long narrow building that had formerly been the home of the Massachusetts Humane Society (a precursor to the current Coast Guard which sent longboats out through the surf to rescue sailors off of ships foundering on the ledges offshore) and the front third of a second cottage.
The IRS quaintly calls such an event an "Involuntary Conversion to Cash", and my mother set about getting the insurance settlement and SBA loans necessary to rebuild. Almost universally people up and down the beach replaced cottages that had been wooden shells without insulation, and frequently without interior finished walls, with fully sheet rocked and taped or plastered houses.
The problem with this is that building a structure on the beach is very different that building one across the street. Why, you might rightly ask? Because the one across the street has us for a windbreak. The builder inexperienced in the needs of coastal construction will not know or understand that winter storms driving rain horizontally at 50-70 knots will cause water to flow uphill in certain flashing situations, will cause inexpensive tilt windows to tilt of their own accord at inopportune times and will probably install sliding doors that are simply not up to the task of keeping the weather out.
I came up here in the spring of 1979 for "six weeks" to finish the first cottage my mother had repaired. The smiling contractor had grossly abused a time and materials contract and the money ran out far short of the house/cottage being finished. Little did I know that this "six week" diversion would substantially alter the path of my life. But that's a story for another time. The first cottage which the family has always called the Bar Rock, was weather tight, with thermopane windows and double glass sliding doors of a nondescript brand. The windows were tilt and clean windows, which although a nice idea, were not appropriate for installation in a location where they might have regularly (every winter) withstand a coastal winter storm with 60-70 mile an hour winds and after about 8 years they started to blow in, or "tilt" automatically, during such storms. Not a good idea. So we had to replace all the windows on the front and northeast corner of the house after 8 years with much better ones, and all the rest of them a few years later. At the ten year mark we replaced the 8 foot sliders with much improved sliding doors, though if I do it again I think I'll use an out swinging patio door so that wind pressure will increase the pressure on the door seal. We've also found leaks where the only possible explanation is water flowing uphill and under flashing to get to where it is gotten to.
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