My friend Brian and I got back to the island for the first time in a year. The owners have various levels of interest and ability in getting to the island and working on it, but Brian and I are generally the two who do the big projects.
It’s interesting working with Brian, because in some ways our approach is very different. He tends to plan ahead and prepare for every contingency. I tend to figure out the first couple steps, get working on them, and adjust as I go. This sometimes causes us to butt heads, though I think we also influence each other a bit. When I built my pinball cabinet, I actually drew the key parts out in Sketchup first, as he would.
Brian also loves tea, so most mornings on the island are a couple hours of us sitting around the fire, drinking good tea, having conversations. One conversation we had was about how we both believe anything is possible, and how useful that belief is.
On this particular trip, it was particularly useful.
Hurricane Fiona had come through and caused more damage than any hurricane since we got the island. I knew we were going to be in trouble when our mainland neighbor texted me the night before saying, “Hey, this hurricane is going to be huge. We’ll hope for the best and I’ll let you know how bad the damage is tomorrow.”
In the nine years we’ve had the island there have been plenty of hurricanes, but he never warned us before.
His damage report was both reassuring and perplexing. The damage wasn’t bad, he said. My cabin seemed safe and the only notable damage on the yurt was that the clear plastic dome cap was somehow missing.
Immediately, the dome cap made me wonder what was going on. The roof is a cone shape, with rafters attaching to a heavy-duty dome ring. The ring is two layers of 2x6s screwed together and with the outside cut into a circle. On top of the dome ring was a heavy-duty hard plastic dome cap that would let sunlight in.
I’ve been on the roof many times in failed efforts to make the seal between the dome cap and the dome ring actually be waterproof, so I’m very familiar with it. It was attached with 18-24 big screws, so I couldn’t imagine a situation that would cause the dome cap to be ripped off, but otherwise leave the yurt ok. I was nervous to inspect the damage.
At first everything seemed ok. We had water damage, but had the foresight to buy mostly waterproof furniture, and the neighbors had come in and set stuff up to dry out. But when we looked closer at the dome ring, we realized something really terrible had happened.
One of the boards that composed the dome ring had rotted and cracked under pressure, causing the ring to cave in on itself. The two ends that should have been butting up against each other were instead on top of each other.
It would be really easy to throw up our hands at this point. A storm wrecked our yurt, and we don’t have any experience with repairing roofs, let alone yurt roofs. The force of the rafters collapsing the circle was great, and it was obvious that any solution that would be successful would require something neither of us had done before.
When you believe anything is possible, though, you just get to work. I think we both knew that we would leave the island with the problem solved, so figuring out how we were going to get it done was really just like solving a puzzle. Without the “can we or can’t we” question looming, you just start figuring out solutions.
We brainstormed a bit and came up with a general plan involving some clamps and temporary blocking to help us get a grip on the ring. We decided that we’d use two clamps to open the ring back up, another to push it back to being flush, and once in place we’d replace the rotted wood and add a new reinforcing ring along the bottom.
After replacing one clamp that didn’t have enough leverage and a couple small setbacks, we got it done. Once we had everything in place, it took two hours of constant minor adjustments to move the edges of the ring about six inches. Making the supporting ring was easy, as was building a waterproof cap to replace the plastic dome until we can come up with something better next year.
None of us really know what is or isn’t possible, but I’d say that most people way underestimate what is possible. I’m always surprised at how early people give up on things or how little confidence they have that they can figure out how to make something work.
And it’s not just like you can just substitute things that you know are possible for those that you aren’t sure of. The best things tend to be the things that people doubt, but that you pursue with the belief that anything is possible.
When I saw weaknesses in online casinos, I believed that there was some way I could make a living from them. My first attempt was a total failure and I had bumps along the way, but in the end it supported me for nine years.
I admit that at first I did not believe it was possible for me to date the kind of girls I wanted to date, but as soon as I caught a glimpse of what was possible, I believed that I could do it and I rose through the pickup world and eventually married an amazing woman.
From the first moment I saw an advertisement for an island in a magazine, I believed that I could own and island. And now I get to do luxurious things like repair rotten roofs cracked apart by hurricanes.
When my college friends and I had the idea of buying a school bus, we believed that it was possible and called around until we found one we could afford, and drove it home the next day.
Before digital nomads were a thing, my friend Todd and I believed that it was possible to live inexpensively around the world as nomads. We sold all of our things and figured it out as we went.
Before anyone had ever heard of #vanlife, I thought that it would be possible to have a great life living in an RV, so I bought one and moved into it.
A friend suggested that I write a book, and because I believed that it was possible to write one quickly, I stayed up for two days straight and wrote it.
I believed that it was possible to organize my friends to find inexpensive but great apartments to share in our favorite cities, and now we’re in Tokyo, Hawaii, and Budapest.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, all of these things are familiar to you and are many of the bulletpoints of “who Tynan is”. You might notice, though, that none of them were things that I had any advantage or ability with. In fact, many of them were the opposite. The primary reason I achieved most of the things I achieved was that I believed they were possible and was content to keep walking on the path towards them and deal with whatever came my way.
Of course, if you believe that anything is possible, you will sometimes be wrong. I believed that Todd and I could build a better blogging platform and create a successful business around it. I actually still do believe that it was possible, but that we failed at it. There’s no way to know for sure, of course.
Even so, it’s better to believe anything is possible and be proven wrong occasionally than to believe many things are impossible and to prove yourself right all the time.
Photo is the cracked part of the ring.