Monday, September 14, 2009


I love hammocks and have a collection of them. Below is a woven cloth hammock from Brazil. The photo is from Kona. It is too hot here to use it until around December, but it is still part of my collection. From this angle you cannot see the beautiful embroidery work on the hammock itself. Our friend Bill brought it from Brazil for us in the 90's and it's seen a lot of use, but it is still strong.

A man named Saturnino in Akumal made the first hammock I acquired. I picked out the light and dark blues and stopped off to see its progress on the loom every day for weeks as I walked to my studio garage apartment from the dive shop. Below, Pablo shows it's still usable upstairs outside on the patio. I've been toting it around the globe for over 25 years. It has seen its better days, but it keeps hanging.

When I furnished this house I counted hammock hooks to buy hammocks accordingly. I found enough hooks to hang 25 hammocks, but I settled for ten.

I think the hammock is the most practical and versatile piece of furniture. We watch TV from our hammocks. I wrote this piece in the hammock. Pablo prefers to sleep in the hammock. We roll up our hammocks and can easily pitch camp between two coconut palms OR two monterrey pines!

My research on the history of the hammock produced weird results. First the NYT article puzzled me. Wikipedia said Philipinos invented hammocks, but there was no information to support that theory. Most reports state they originated 1000-3000 years ago in the Mayan world. They were found along their extensive trade routes in all of Mexico, Central and South America. One source reported Amazonian Aborigines (?) wove hammocks from the bark of the hamack, hamak, or amac tree. Thus, its name, the hammock or in Spanish hamaca.

I read that Columbus was credited with discovering the hammock, but all he did was take some back to Europe after seeing how comfortable the Bahamians, or per another source Dominican Republicans, were lying around in them in the tropical heat. The sea faring men found them practical and they became the preferred bunks on many European ships. The ships used canvas hammocks, narrow, uncomfortable, and spaced only inches apart from one another.

Yucatecan hammocks are intricately woven, usually out of cotton, nylon, or a polyester combo. They're all the same length. It is the width and the weave that make the difference in quality. The more threads in the weave the better. A 'familial' (literally big enough for a family) size hammock or a 'matrimonial' (double) is more comfortable than a 'doble' (single) or 'individual'(just barely there). The trick in sleeping in one is to lie diagonally. The hammock supports the spine nicely if you manage to get yourself situated in there correctly. It takes some kicking and pushing and pulling for me to get it right, but I can get there. Pablo is a pro.

The other most comfortable sleeping position is crosswise, like this:

Russell concentrates on a creative moment sitting in the hammock. If I am going to sit in mine, I usually grab a couple of pillows to support my back, get my feet up, and put my work on my lap.

A hammock cools you off in the heat. Air can circulate through the weave. Add a few fans and you are in a pleasant comfort zone. A hammock keeps you up off the floor where humidity, mold and PESTS abound. The mosquitoes however use the hammock to their advantage. I believe they use the grid pattern to zero in on my most vulnerable parts!
In the cold you can wrap in a blanket and the hammock around you like a cocoon. If it's really cold you can have someone put hot coals underneath you which generate heat up through the cocoon. Try doing that with a bed.

Remember, 90% of all Yucatecans are conceived in, born in, spend most of their lives in, sleep in, and die in their hammocks. It's a fun statistic and often a conversation maker.
I like the hammock concept so much that I have other hammock furniture. Below is a hammock chair for the house. We used them outside for a year but had to have them restrung and the wood revarnished, so just a wise tip, keep them inside and they will last forever. This is a small chair, just my size.

Some of the kitties like hammocks, some don't. Moka and Mokito love them. The other cats don't feel secure in them at all. Kitten Mokito played a part in the destruction of the chair pictured above during the height of his kittenhood. He is sitting in one of the bigger models. The larger chairs are great for sunbathing or laying back. But they shouldn't LIVE out in the sun either. They are in for repair now. This repair wouldn't have been necessary if foresight was 20/20.

Don't think that I quit there! Below are two hammock stools. Mike picked up the one on the left in Tixcocob and I found the one with the folding backrest when I took the chairs to be repaired. These are great for indoor and outdoor use, but they live indoors.

There are hammocks for your personal items. These hammocks are not strangers to anyone in the boating community. Here they are easy to find and inexpensive. I like to use them in a variety of places.

Last but not least are the hanging hammock chairs. There are two outback on the patio behind the pool. You can stretch out and put your feet up, and I had a great photo showing exactly that, but it was accidentally deleted. If you had any idea how long it took me to work on this hammock article, you'd understand. I do own some regular furniture. There are a couple of beds, several tables and chairs, and accoutrements, but a visit to my house is definitely a trip to Hammockville.


Nancy said...

I'd been looking forward to your post on hammocks, thanks!

Are you going to describe how to choose one?

Islagringo said...

Great story. Can you believe that I have never, and probably never will, owned one!

Linda Dorton said...

Nancy, if you can locate a hammock maker, ordering one is the best way! Nylon lasts longer in salt air. Try putting your fingers through the weave, if they go through easily, it is not tightly woven. Count the strings on the borders to see how many threads they were weaving...those kinds of things to watch for. When hammock shopping, the vendors are usually happy to hang them for you to try out!

Linda Dorton said...

Shame on you! Living in the Yucatán and not having ONE hammock! Not even on the porch to watch the passers by? Not even between a couple trees in the patio to enjoy fresh sea breeze and the sounds of swaying palms? Not one? Not even so that a guest might enjoy some hammock time? Hammock time is indescribably delicious. Hope you change your mind. Let me know and I will bring you a great hammock.

Tom and Debi said...

I too enjoy sleeping in a hamaca. Unfortunately, even though we told the builder we wanted hooks and how many and in which rooms, and they did comply...the hooks are either to close together, cut in half by the bed or to close to a wall. VERY Disappointing, althought I have managed to make 2 work, you can't swing because of the wall.
ah well, TIM

Thanks for the story, most people don't realize that in these hammocks you go cross ways, not rolled in and folde up like a taco.

Linda Dorton said...

Tom and Debi, Thanks for the comments. I am shocked and disappointed that Yucatecan builders would misplace hammock hooks, of all things!

Islagringo said...

LOL! We really have no place to hang one. No trees to support them in the back and the front porch is too small. Maybe I need you to come visit and tell me where to install some hooks?