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Teak Deck Repairs, Thailand, 2011

As we sailed across the Pacific, 23-year-old Baraka's teak decks became increasingly tired. Teak plugs washed away as the teak wore thinner. Exposed screws left black rust stains. Warped deck areas on the cabintop crackled when walked upon. None of this affected the integrity of the hull or resulted in leaks. When we arrived in Thailand, we decided it was time to fix our decks.

Some owners elect to remove the decking and paint non-skid. We love our decking - an important part of Baraka's beauty. It provides excellent footing in all conditions, and is a better insulator for tropic heat than bare white fiberglass deck.

Dave contacted three wordworking firms. We inspected completed jobs, got references from other yacht owners, and got bids. Pricing was surprisingly close, and ran about $500 USD per square meter for new decking, versus about a third of that for repair (recaulk and replug using existing teak). All three bidders told us our cabintop decks were overdue for replacement.

One consideration was communication. The workers speak limited English, and we have no Thai. This was solved for us by selecting Phon Carpentering to do the work. Mr. Phon (Niphon is his first name) understands English very well, though is reluctant to speak much of it. The gap was filled by a translator, Mr. Prame, who was present whenever complex communication or negotiation was needed. Mr. Phon recommended that we replace only our cabintop decks. Our side decks and cockpit could be repaired at a much cheaper rate, since enough wood thickness remained.

Stains from rusty screws mar Baraka's decks.

Cabintop decks are chiseled away.

We signed up at Royal Phuket Marina's work dock. Boat Lagoon next door, though less expensive, was full. Mr. Phon's crew was able to start work immediately.

Dave spent 2 days removing fittings installed on the decks - hinges, mast pulpits, brackets, and the mainsheet traveller. The latter was difficult. After removing the headliner inside the cabin, Dave had to grind out fiberglass covering the bolts, and in one case had to cut through bolts.

Soon Baraka was a sad mess, teak scalped away. Mr. Phon's crew rigged tarps for shade and worked hard through the 95 F heat of the day. Under the cabintop teak was an unwelcome discovery - fiberglass ribs that would have to be painstakingly chiseled out. At no point did Mr. Phon ask to renegotiate the agreed price, even when rework was needed after rain ruined new glasswork.

Mr. Phon is a master craftsman. His work is gorgeous. His crew is competent, though Dave occasionally found someone slacking - failing to apply resin when rebedding screws, or using a drill too fast and stripping screw heads. A quick call to Mr. Prame and a consult with Mr. Phon would remedy any problem.

While at Phuket, Dave extracted our dead icecube maker, intending to repair it. We have rarely used it, and once he had the beast out of its cavity, we realized we were looking at a prime storage opportunity. We talked to Mr. Phon and he agreed to custom design a set of teak drawers for the space for about $500. He assured us he could match the rest of the boat interior. Sure enough, the drawers match beautifully. They look original to the boat. Dave and I are arguing who gets this valuable new space. We also got custom teak brackets to support a cracked stair step, replacing an overbuilt and ugly stainless bracket we had fabricated in Mexico.

We elected to live aboard though the noisy and dirty boatwork. Next door at Boat Lagoon small apartments rent for $375/month. Tempting, but the project and RPM moorage was already a big enough hit to our budget.

A month into the project Dave and I headed to Bangkok to meet son Joel for some land travel to Vietnam. When we returned to the boat we found the decks completed, except for a few plugs being re-done. The new decks are gorgeous. There is a little chatter on the fiberglass where the sander touched, and a new scrape across our strataglass dodger window (the latter because we failed to cover it up before work), but other than that we appreciated the careful work of Phon Woodworking. We had one cost overrun - extra material for the glasswork (no labor charge) which was not in our original agreement. We felt this was fair. It was easy to recommend Phon carpentering to Airstream, now also at RPM getting new decking.

Most days a crew of 4 worked.

Unwelcome discovery...

...fiberglass ribs will need to be chiseled out.

Baraka looking naked at RPM work dock.

Mr. Phon applies a resin bed under new decking.

Poor Baraka is a wreck.

The new drawers are hand sanded by the Phons.

Waterjugs and wedges position new teak.

Coming along!

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