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Wooden Decking Care and Maintenance Tips for Yacht Crew

Part of the general job description of deck crew on a yacht is to keep a teak and mahogany deck in pristine condition. This article will look at the best ways to maintain a wood deck with some inside trade tricks from leading industry experts.

Why does wood decking need to be maintained?

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Teak and mahogany are expensive, beautiful, and luxurious parts of any yacht. However, it needs much maintenance to retain its golden appearance. Teak becomes oxidized, embedded with dirt and oily residues, and is easily affected by the sun and salt. Left untreated, it will become contaminated by mold and mildew spores, and the golden color will change to grey.

Teak Decking Care

Ann Wegland, product and marketing manager for International Paint commented, “Paint provides the longest-lasting protection, but it hides the natural appearance of the beautiful teak structure. Teak is a hard, oily wood with a fine structure and appearance. To keep the natural beauty of the wood, it can be kept untreated with varnishes. Although teak is a very durable wood, it becomes grey and dull over time. However, this can be overcome thanks to products such as teak cleaners, restorers, and oil.”

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Teak Decking Products

Robert Eldridge from leading marine carpenters, Oceanrefit Yacht Carpentry, commented, “There are surface treatments available ranging from natural oils to “nano-technology” protective coatings. However, linseed and tung oil products tend to darken the teak's appearance, require frequent application, become sticky over time and attract more dirt. As a result, they are rarely used nowadays except on some classic vessels with pine decks.

“Popular products are the invisible coatings such as TDS Teak Sealer, Semco, or various products using the prefix nano or mono-molecular. These coatings form a fragile barrier of molecular thickness that repels water. This causes it to bead on the teak surface and rapidly disperse. This helps prevent the ingress of dirt particles and stains from food spills, wine, or oil.

“With all such products, once you start using them, you have to continue with regular applications of top-up coats. Otherwise, the deck soon starts to discolor and become patchy. This then requires sand to remove the remains of the surface coating.


Cleaning Teak Decking

Like gel coat or paint, teak decks and other teak areas/details must be cleaned thoroughly before being restored and protected. Always use the mildest cleaner that does the job.

Most importantly, when the teak is wet, the wood fibers soften and erode more quickly. Wetting the teak and scrubbing removes softened wood fibers fast and can ultimately be more detrimental to the deck’s life than a simple light sanding. However, remember that when scrubbing, always work against the direction of the grain. Working with the grain will wash away more fibers.


Restoring Teak Decking

Ann Wegland told Yachting Pages that if your teak or hardwood has become greyish or has lost its golden glow, you must clean and restore it to its original color before protecting it. First, wet the teak thoroughly with fresh or salt water and use a teak cleaner if the teak is particularly dirty. If it’s not very dirty, you can use a teak restorer to bring the teak back to its natural color.

To do this, apply the restorer generously and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Next, scrub the surface across the grain and repeat this process if required. Then finally, rinse with fresh water.

Protecting Yacht Teak Decking

You should apply teak oil to protect the boat’s teak from the marine environment and to keep that natural beauty of the wood. It intensifies the colors and fine-grain patterns and gives the wood a warm appearance.

You can apply teak oil with a cloth or brush in one or two layers. Wipe away any excess fat until the wood is saturated (the wood should have a matte finish without any shiny spots). Resist the urge to touch the teak decking until the oil is dry.

Immediately wipe up any drips on painted surfaces or fiberglass as they will leave dark and challenging to remove stains. Also, remove teak oil from any sealant as it could soften them if left on for extended periods.

Caring for a Wooden Deck on a Yacht

Caring for a wood deck on a sailing yacht involves regular cleaning, maintenance, and protection to ensure that the deck stays in good condition and remains safe to use. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Regularly clean the deck: Use a mild soap or specialized deck cleaner and a soft-bristled brush to clean the deck regularly. Avoid harsh chemicals or a pressure washer, which can damage the wood.

  2. Sand and refinish the deck: Over time, the wood on the deck may become worn or damaged. Sanding and refinishing the deck can help to restore its appearance and protect the wood. It's best to do this every few years, depending on the level of use and exposure to the elements.

  3. Apply a protective coating: A protective layer, such as a varnish or oil, can help to protect the wood from moisture and UV rays. Again, be sure to choose a product suitable for marine use and follow the manufacturer's instructions for application.

  4. Check for damage: Regularly inspect the deck for any signs of wear, such as cracks, splits, or rot. If you notice any issues, address them immediately to prevent further damage.

  5. Keep the deck dry: Moisture is one of the biggest enemies of a wood deck. Ensure the deck is adequately ventilated and dry after use to prevent moisture buildup. Use a cover or tarp to protect the deck from rain or snow when the boat is not in use.

By following these steps, you can help keep the wood deck on your sailing yacht in good condition for years.

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