Re-plugged

The Tuamotus Diaries #51, Day 99 – September 4th 2016

 

As every other specimens of her breed, Pesto’s deck came finished in Teak from factory. It gives her a classy aspect, looks lovely when wet, delivers a romantic scent just after dusk, and feels great under our feet. As everything else that is nearly perfect though, it has a few pitfalls, one of them being that it needs to be “re-plugged” from time to time. I explain.

When Pesto was built, the fiberglass deck was covered with a special adhesive, and the planks of teak laid on it. To increase bonding between the teak and the deck, small stainless steel screws were fastened along each plank of the teak, one every feet on average. Each of these screws was then covered with a teak plug, the grain of the plug matching the direction of the plank’s – it’s a large-scale wooden jewel, really.

However as the teak wears down over time, so do the plugs, and eventually they get so thin that they come off, exposing the screw.

When we were getting ready to depart Seattle two years ago, Pesto already had quite a number of screws exposed. A friend kindly taught me the art of fixing it and, as he did so, he told me that it would be a perfect “project” for when I had time to spare on a perfect tropical anchorage. I hoped to do it before we hit the tropics, but as we started sailing down south, a lot more plugs came off, the project became overwhelming, and kept being postponed.

I don’t think there is a technical reason to cover the exposed screws, but those 300-or-so shiny things were an unforgivable blemish on what is otherwise one of Pesto’s most beautiful feature. I avoided looking at them as much as I could but it utterly bothered me to not having been able to replug the deck yet. So last week I gave myself an ultimatum. We ARE in the tropics, on a paradisiac anchorage, and we were waiting for Adriana to arrive back from the US with another week or so. That was it, the deck was going to be replugged !

By the time I started, there must have been at least 300 exposed screws. Doing a large batch at once has its benefits – I gradually picked up the tricks of it and the result came better and better. In the beginning, for instance, I spent a lot of time fairing the leading edges of each plug, to make it easier to push them into the holes. I learned afterwards that the fairing is not necessary – saving me time and layers of my fingers’ skin. Another learning was on the way to drive the plugs in. I started with a plastic mallet, with the rationale that plastic might be gentler on the plug than metal. It turns out that the plugs penetrated the holes more efficiently with the use of a regular, metal hammer – go figure.

On average, I was able to do 12 plugs per hour and it took me the good part of five days to replug the whole thing. I tried to do the job in the morning, after homeschooling and before the sun got too high in the sky. As tiresome as it was, it gave me great pleasure to work with wood.

And for the time being, I am proudly walking in a deck that is fully plugged.

Well, that’s until the next plug comes off …

 

replugged-1
A typical “unplugged” screw hole defacing the beauty of our glamorous deck
Glue (from a previous attempt to re-plug), dust and wood scraps were removed, exposing the screw head
Glue (from a previous attempt to re-plug), dust and wood scraps were removed, exposing the screw head
The screw is removed
The screw is removed
The hole is drilled deeper, cleaned, and readied to receive the screw again
The hole is drilled deeper, cleaned, and readied to receive the screw again
Once the screw is refastened (and sealed with a small dab of Silicone), the new plug is put in place
Once the screw is refastened (and sealed with a small dab of Silicone), the new plug is put in place
This picture shows a set of holes just after the plugs have been driven in
This picture shows a set of holes just after the plugs have been driven in
 The plug heads are then removed with a Bear Saw and faired by hand with a medium-coarse sandpaper
The plug heads are then removed with a Bear Saw and faired by hand with a medium-coarse sandpaper
The same set of holes, with the new plugs faired. From this point time and weather take over, turning the plugs into the charming pale-grey of the remaining of the deck within a month or so
The same set of holes, with the new plugs faired. From this point time and weather take over, turning the plugs into the charming pale-grey of the remaining of the deck within a month or so

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