Hit the Deck

It occurred to me in thinking of all that transpired with cleaning my deck this weekend that there are a lot of terms from sailing ships that are used figuratively in our everyday speech.  Most people have probably had no more experience with a big sailing ship than a tour of the Susan Constant at Jamestown or the Constitution in Boston or the Mayflower in Plymouth, and yet we make frequent use of terms used by crews of sailing ships.  I know that language is conservative by its very nature, but that conservative?  You could have fooled me.

“Hit the deck” means of course, get out of the way, whether what we’re hitting is a deck or a laminate floor.  The expression “at the end of one’s rope” also comes from sailing ships. “Chew the fat” came from the tough rations aboard ships. “Fly by night” referred to a small temporary sail.

Anyhow, last Friday I was trying to clean my neglected deck.  With each application of deck cleaner I gained about two square feet of relatively clean wood. After about ten applications of cleaner I had what I am sure looked like a giant leopard skin print when viewed from space. (Hey!  Homeland Security!  See my leopard skin?) Clearly this wouldn’t do.

I thought about using my portable planer to take about 1/64 of an inch off the boards.  This was the same power tool I used to plane about 1/64 of an inch off my left index finger last summer. The finger is fine, but I don’t recommend trying to shorten your reach that way. As it turned out, the planer was too narrow to take down a board in one pass, so I thought it the better part of wisdom was not to try that.

Then I thought of sanding the grime off.  I had some 60 grit sandpaper.  As far as I know 40 grit is about as coarse as sandpaper gets, although there might be some coarser (with big chunks of abrasive embedded in the paper). So I took my power sander and hit the deck with some 60 grit.  Not much happened other than a big cloud of dust.

I had heard of pressure washers and concluded that it was time t use a new power tool.  I checked into renting one, but it cost $50 for six hours, so I bought a small electric model for $100, thinking I could use it every year to clean the deck.(You heard it here first.  I expect you to hold me to it.)

The washer was rated at 1400 psi, which was supposed to be adequate for wooden decks so I put the machine together and fired it up. The high-pressure stream of water cleaned the crud off the deck; initially I was holding the tip too close to the wood and ended up with an engraved deck, mostly on the handrails.  After a while I was enjoying using the tool, which throws up a big cloud of spray.  It’s kind of gratifying to use and see years of dirt (and layers of wood) wash away.

And so I was left with a clean deck although it did have something like wood fuzz on it.  I swept and sanded it and got a fairly smooth and clean surface, not too shabby for 45-year-old wood.  A couple of coats of sealer and we’re good to go until next year. I learned a lot doing this, like don’t neglect maintenance chores around the house, but beyond that, I can’t think of anything else I learned this time around.  Maybe something will come to me.  I’ll let you know.

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