Leaky “teaky”

It’s the middle of March and it’s 80 degrees out right now.  The weather down in the Delta has been pretty nice the past week and it’s starting to motivate us to get working on top-side projects.  We’re hoping to get the boat back out on the water this summer, but the list of things we need to do first keeps getting longer.

Teak deck

Even before we signed papers on our new floating home, we knew one of the major problems we were going to face was the removing the teak decking and dealing with potential deck core rot.  All of the leaks from cabin top hardware and the anchor windlass were addressed last summer, but we still have some leaks in the areas of the front and side decks.  Teak decks were a factory option with these boats, and back in the 1970’s most everyone thought you had to have them in order to look “salty” out on the water.  The benefits are that teak provides good traction when wet and feels wonderful under bare feet (as long as it’s not too hot out).  When properly maintained it can provide years of faithful service, and of course, those salty good looks.


The problem with teak decks on old boats is that they use literally  thousands of #8 stainless phillips head screws, drilled through and into the fiberglass deck skins in order to secure it.  Each of those screws is covered with a wooden plug (most of ours are missing)  Every plank; every 8-10 inches on center.  No matter how well the planks are bedded with that awful black sealant before drilling and screwing, eventually expansion, contraction, moisture, movement, flexing (everything that happens on a sailboat) is going to cause those thousands of screw holes to start leaking.  We realized that fact this winter pretty much every time it rained, and went so far as to tarp over the foredeck to keep as much water off as possible.  So with the recent spell of good weather and fairly optimistic 7-day forecast, we decided to bite the bullet and get started with the inevitable.


We began up on the foredeck since it had the best access for two people to work, and because we sleep directly beneath, and that leak is starting to wear on my nerves. First step was to dig out what little remained of the teak plugs with a small sharpened screwdriver.  This was Jeni’s job.  I followed behind with a drill and backed out all the screws.  Don’t ask.  I quit bothering to keep count after about 200.  Some came out easy, some snapped off at the head, and some had to be twisted out with Vice-Grips.  Once those were out i made a few shallow relief cuts through the teak around the bowsprit and at the coachroof, then we each started at opposite sides of the boat banging and prying up wood.  Similar to the screws, some planks popped up easy, some stuck tight, and some just exploded into a million splinters.  Finally, finishing up by peeling off all the remaining black adhesive sealant with a scraper blade and sanding the whole thing down to bare fiberglass once again.

We had such a great time hunched over, down on our knees this weekend, the two of us working earnestly in a space the size of your closet, we decided to set up the camera and share a little of our fun.

Green Thumbs?
You Don’t Have to Play Tennis to Get Tennis Elbow


  1. Hey Rich, What a terrific web site. Your projects are a good road map for my 1988 Tashiba 40 with teak decks. I’ve had this boat for 18 years and rebuilt every system onboard. Have not addressed chainplates, re-bunging the deck or re-bedding deck hardware. I may have some core issues as well.

    Question: Do you think the teak decking will stay in place if the screws are removed, holes filled with epoxy and re-bunged? I have plenty of thickness left in the deck so can sand them smooth one time but need to be sure there is no way for water to get into the core. Any advice is appreciated

    Best regards,
    Rich Cassano
    S/V Gray Eagle, Tashiba 40, Annapolis, MD

    1. Thanks for the comments Rich. Our decking was glued with a black adhesive similar to what they caulked the joints with before it was screwed down. Most of the adhesive had loosened over the years and the planks popped right up after the screws were removed. In other spots we practically needed a jackhammer to peel up the teak, so it’s hard to say whether your decking will stay put if you remove the screws. Wood expands and contracts with moisture, and fiberglass is a rigid substrate. Also consider the fact that the deck and hull also twist and flex slightly under sailing conditions. After the adhesive in between the wood and the glass is stretched back and forth over many years it’s likely to give way eventually.

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