Getting your boat shipshape for the new boating season
You can write books about the care of wooden ships, and most owners of such boats will know how to do it - or get professional advice from boat builders or shipyards. But there is also woodwork to be done on most GRP or steel ships, and those are what this part of our series is supposed to be about.
Clear coated wooden parts - usually these are masts and spars, cabin superstructures and cockpit coaming or the king plank, the varnished middle plank of a teak deck, - should be sanded and varnished once a year. At least if the paint is still in order. Once the clear coat turns yellowish and starts to come up, this is an indication that moisture has formed under the varnish, and you will have to take a more thorough look at things. Also, if the wood under the varnish already starts turning black, which is a sign of beginning rot. In this case you have to sand the surface down to the raw wood. Take care not to damage the wood itself, sanding should always be carried out along the grain. Then apply around seven to ten coats of varnish.
Use thinner for the first coats Before applying the first layer of paint, the wood has to be cleaned as good as possible. No sanding dust or other dirt must remain on the surface. It is best to wipe it clean with a paint thinner or turpentine, then leave to dry completely. Small areas in particular should be painted with a classic one-component paint as offered, for example, by Epifanes. Apply the first layers of coat strongly diluted with thinner or turpentine (up to 50%). Reduce dillution from layer to layer until finishing off with an undiluted layer of paint. Two to three diluted coats can be painted "wet on wet" without sanding in between.
All shiny and new
Teak and Mahogany in good condition
Well preserved mahogany hull
Avoiding varnish tears & "holidays" After the first two to three coats, the paint needs to dry and harden thoroughly. It is best left overnight. Sand it lightly before applying the next coat. Initially use 240-grit abrasive paper, later one with an ever finer grit. Apply the varnish carefully and evenly and spread crosswise so that neither varnish tears nor "holidays" (spots without or too little varnish) occur. One-component paint can be applied well with a brush, especially on smaller surfaces and areas with many edges, angles and corners. So, to achieve perfect brightwork requires a certain amount of work - which can be avoided or, at least, delayed by keeping all painted parts well polished and preserved regularly every year!
A pinch of colour By the way: Mahogany fades a little with time and loses its beautiful, reddish colour. You can mend this by adding a pinch of colour pigments to the clear coat, which are available for this very purpose. Of course, you could also stain the wood, but to do so you would have to remove the entire varnish down to the raw wood. When applying colour, start with the colouring carefully and in a remote corner to check the effect.
Maintaining teak decks
Your most important tool: a premium brush
A bare neccessity: sanding
Applying the varnisch requires care
Step one: skinning the wood of old varnish
Weathered lends character to your boat
Teak deck cleaner & teak oils Teak decks also change colour as they weather and turn grey over time. This is a completely natural process which looks very nice, too. But if you prefer teak deck in honey yellow, you will have to put a lot of effort into it. There are teak care products and oils that help to maintain this fresh colour. However, the teak deck may lose its natural anti-slip properties, especially in wet conditions.
Too much of a good thing After all, for your teak deck it may be better not to do anything at all! Actually a teak deck needs no or only minimal maintenance. Too much care may even be harmful: Wood is softer in those places where the annual rings are further apart and harder where they are closer together. Intensive scrubbing with hard brushes, for example, will remove the softer parts of the wood faster than the hard ones. The result will be a rippled surface.
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Fight mould and rot It is mainly the air pollution in Europe that makes teak decks look stained or simply dirty after a while, especially when the ships are not sailed a lot (and the decks rarely walked on). Washing the deck with much salt water (!) helps a lot while fresh water is not really too good for teak decks. Various teak cleaners are available for heavily soiled or mouldy decks, notably Bocarol has proved effective. This liquid is simply applied to the dry deck. You can then wait for the rain or, even better, seawater to wash it off while sailing - or do it yourself after a few days.
Salt water will not be enough in this case
A case for scrubber and teak cleaner
Teak cleaner: before and after
A cheap alternative to cleaning products...
...is the regular application of a scrubber and salt water
A definite no-go An absolute no-go when it comes to cleaning teak decks are high-pressure cleaners. They are a guarantee to ruin every teak deck within a very short time! To prevent your teak deck being affected by air pollution, you can cover your ship up using a tarpaulin if it stays in port for a longer stretch of time. At inland lakes and waterways, even moss can settle on teak decks after a while, but this does not happen on the coast - provided, of course, the deck is regularly rinsed with salt water.
The right time to act What is more pressing than such cosmetic issues is the question of whether a teak deck is absolutely waterproof. If the sealant in the joints starts getting unglued in places or the plugs fall out and leave the screws lying bare, immediate action is required to restore the teak deck. Most teak decks are laid either on plywood (on wooden boats) or on a GRP sandwich laminate (on GRP yachts), and once water penetrates between the teak and the underlying "carrier deck" things begin to turn really unpleasant. It is better to repair the teak deck in time. But that is another topic...
Care of the yacht's interior
To brush up worn interior...
...often simple furniture polish is enough.
Moisture & condensation Wood furnishings and equipment below deck suffers and wears off less than the wood outside as it is neither exposed to direct UV radiation nor, hopefully, to constant moisture. Mechanical damage such as scratches or dents as a result of impacts are more likely to occur here. And especially if you like to extend the season into the autumn, perhaps even sail through the winter, or store your ship incorrectly for the winter, mildew will soon start growing below deck. Moisture, which is mainly caused by water condensation at the usual thermal bridges (such places of the outer skin which are not or not sufficiently insulated), in conjunction with a lack of ventilation inevitably leads to mildew blooming.
Ventilate, heat & polish Good ventilation and regular heating are the preventive antidotes for mildew. But even on a well stored yachts, a mouldy coating can settle on the wooden surfaces. If it has not advanced too far by springtime, it can be easily removed with a standard polish for wooden furniture, as for example "Poliboy". Scratched or sun-bleached wooden surfaces below deck can also berefreshed with such an easy remedy. Simply apply with a soft cloth and polish shortly afterwards with a dry cloth. You can repeat this as often as you like, even during the boating season.