The Passport Project: Part 15 (Deck worries)

Buh bye, teak: after getting an estimate of more than $20,000 to redo (not replace) our teak decks, nonskid paint seemed the best option.

Editor’s note: This story is the first of three parts. The second part will run Monday.

The moment we stepped aboard Meridian in January for the first time, I knew her teak decks needed some serious work.

The rain and sleet that was falling in Poulsbo at the time didn’t really help matters much, other than making the issues all the more apparent aboard the 1985 Passport 40 sailboat There were a number of screw heads gleaming where the teak bungs should have been (properly put, they were “standing proud,” as I later learned from a shipwright). Then there was the uneven, raised grain on the foredeck and the patches of failing seams.

Yup, if we bought this boat, these decks would need some serious work.

We did. And indeed, the decks were in rough shape, as a survey soon confirmed.

I’ve always admired teak decks. They look lovely and provide great nonskid traction in wet weather. I knew the downsides as well, starting with several hundred screws drilled into what should be a watertight deck.

Still, my first instinct on Meridian was to see if we could preserve the teak overlay on the foredeck and side decks. The cabintop, fortunately, was molded fiberglass.

But a repair estimate of $20,000-plus has a way of shaking priorities into focus and, well, overriding an instinct.

When we realized just how much work would go into restoring the decks — removing hundreds of bungs and screws, replacing some of the planks, stripping what seemed like a mile of seams, sanding the deck smooth, replacing all the fasteners and then re-seaming the whole lot — we were crestfallen. And the thought that all the work might need to be done again in 10 years didn’t make matters any better.

Then it dawned on us: what not just remove the teak and replace it with nonskid paint?

Luckily for us, we were introduced to Port Townsend shiprwright Rob Parish and his partner, Diane Salguero, a yacht refinisher with about 20 years under her belt.

We mulled over our options and decided that removing the teak overlay was, for us, the best approach. Not only would it be significantly less expensive, we would have the opportunity to rebed a lot of the deck hardware, which was on my must-do list for this 27-year-old boat.

We discussed the merits of replacing the decks with a rubberized mat, such as Treadmaster. There were some real plusses to that approach, and Practical Sailor magazine had just done a test of deck mats that rated Treadmaster very highly.

But in the end, the costs of the product and a few folks telling us some discouraging tales about Treadmaster’s longevity pointed us toward painting on the nonskid. But what really sealed the deal for us was actually seeing some of Diane’s deck work on boats at Port Townsend’s Boat haven.

We were sold.

Having made a decision and having found the right help, we figured the hardest part was behind us. How wrong we were.

One Response to The Passport Project: Part 15 (Deck worries)

  1. don chase October 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    About 10-12 years ago I faced the same challenge. I went for removing the teak, putting in a new deck core, new fiberglass decks, d “Rhino Liner”. I still love my “new decks” after all these years. Functional, easy to maintain, and sturdy – no other way to go. You can visit and see for yourself.

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