Monday, January 23, 2012


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.533N | 80º84.321W

Those who have been following our saga since the beginning probably remember my teeth-bared, death matches with teak. On our last boat, I had repeated varnish disasters followed by further disasters.

When we bought Cara Mia two years ago, her previous owners had "let the toe rails go," which in boat-speak means they left the teak bare. There are two schools of thought on teak above deck, actually, let's make that three.
  1. Teak above deck is beautiful and charming and should be varnished.
  2. Teak above deck is practical and should be left to the elements.
  3. Teak belongs below deck. Period.
While I'm well on my way to being a 3, I'm not really a 1 or a 2 either. Teak left on its own forms a hard shell that protects itself well against the elements but turns a sad gray like this:

Once it has gone gray, it takes a lot of sanding, and thus a lot of sacrificial wood to bring it back. We might have left the rails bare, but after enduring two Maryland winters, they were starting to get pitted. There was not enough wood left to let it slip any further.

Back then, we were gainfully employed and happily hired someone to sand the rails. And then we sanded them some more with the help of our friend John.

Then we coated and coated the rails with an experimental product made to protect wood roofing shingles. If it worked on a roof, it should work on a boat, right? It was easy to apply and water based, which made cleanup so simple.

Alas, by last summer, just a year later, the toe rails were chipped and, in general, a mess. Was it us or the product? We had to find out. So, in the steamy heat of a Chesapeake August, we sanded and recoated our toe rails, the final volley with the roof protectant.

And now, only five months later, those beautiful toe rails once again look like this:

So here we go again, sanding, sanding, sanding, 100 grit then 150, this time at least in the beautiful, mild Miami sun.

Lessons learned, we plan to use Cetol Natural Teak, a marine product that is oil based and well tried. Sigh.

Why, why, why do the teak gods hate me so?

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