Keep it simple
The decks on Horizon, our Hans Christian 38, are 20 years old and have seen the full spectrum of weather conditions—cold and rain for weeks on end in Alaska and constant sun and heat in the tropics. No matter where we are, our maintenance strategy is the same: keep it simple and keep it silver. As with anything boat-related, proper maintenance now is always much easier than an extensive refit later.
When we are underway, seawater keeps our decks clean. We carry a small canvas bucket on deck, and part of our daily routine is to pour seawater on the decks from bow to stern to keep them clear of airborne material and to reduce excessive salt buildup. When we’re in port, the bigger threat is the soot and other pollutants that can darken a teak deck and even become embedded in the grain of the wood.
When in port we use an environmentally friendly boat soap (Pure Oceans Citrus Boat Soap is a favorite) and a soft mitt to clean the deck. We wave the soapy mitt back and forth across the teak in a side-to-side wiping motion, then follow up with a good freshwater rinse. We don’t use brushes, we don’t scrub, and we don’t use any chemicals. Scrubbing a piece of teak—even with a soft brush—will, over time, pull away soft fibers and hasten the erosion of the wood’s surface. There are different opinions about chemical cleaners, but we believe washing regularly and gently with soap and water eliminates the need to use harsher measures.
Our decks are screwed down and occasionally we have to replace a screw bung; a wet spot around a bung after the area around it has dried indicates the glue holding the bung in place has broken down. Replacing a worn bung is not difficult. First, take a tool with a sharp point and pop out the old bung. Then use a drill with a countersunk bit to clean out the hole. We always replace the screw at the bottom of the hole before installing a new bung. Use a manual screwdriver to avoid stripping the head off the old screw. After the replacement screw is in, insert a new bung and align its grain with that of the surrounding deck.
Many adhesives can be used to secure the bung in place, but we like Elmer’s Waterproof Exterior Glue. It cleans up quickly, doesn’t leave a dark ring around the bung (which is not the case with some other epoxies and glues) and dries quickly. To set the bung, insert it in its hole after coating it with glue and then give it a quick tap with a mallet. After the glue has dried, use a sharp chisel to remove the head of the bung and make it flush with the deck. If necessary, a little hand sanding will finish the job.
Because teak and the caulking material between the teak planks weather at different rates, at some point you need to sand the deck to keep the surface even. We lightly sand our decks every 18-24 months with an orbital sander loaded with 180-grit paper. We are careful not to over-sand. If necessary, we use 220-grit paper to finish the job. You should be especially careful not to oversand your deck if it is a modern teak overlay that is simply glued over your fiberglass deck rather than screwed down. Modern overlays are often quite thin and excessive sanding will wear them down prematurely.