Restoring Decks

The decks of our Friendship Sloop are fir, and are in good shape. The debate we have been having for the last six years has been over how they should be finished. There are total wooden boat purists who would not finish a fir deck at all but would just let the deck age and pay the seams with hot pitch. Of course, those same purists would probably holy stone the decks as well. Our sloop is not that kind of boat. Although the design dates from 1903, the actual boat was built in 1988-1989 for the, then, Commodore of the NYYC. In other words, her bloodlines may be those of a workboat, but she was built as a yacht. When we bought the boat, the deck was in terrible shape. She had been left out for two winters without a cover (she had a cover; the two previous owners just did not use it). I had to strip the decks, pull, re-caulk, and re-pay about a third of her deck seams, and then we decided to try a high end deck oil to protect the wood. It didn’t work.

Re-paying deck seams

             Despite six coats of deck oil, that took forever to dry, and produced some nasty fumes, the deck bleached out before the end of our short New England season in the water. Further, I should say that despite being a yacht, I have always felt strongly that decks are to walk on. I have been on pristine, showpiece, sailing yachts where prior approval for footwear was needed. I even crewed for one guy, who would not allow potato chips on board, or anything cooked with oil and no food was allowed on deck because it might stain the teak decks. It was not any fun. I figure if you can’t walk on it, can’t have children, and the ship’s wolf aboard, then it isn’t worth much as a boat. On the other hand, I can’t just treat our beautiful deck as disposable; there had to be a middle ground.
             Two years ago, frustrated after fussing with different deck oil recipes, I threw up my hands and just varnished the decks with the same satin varnish that I used on the cabin sole and on the companionway ladder. I had been impressed by how little wear these areas showed, despite heavy traffic. To my surprise the single coat of satin varnish held up superbly well for two seasons with no attention. The decks were slippery when wet, but not much more than they had been when treated with deck oil.
             So, as part of maintenance this year I have refinished the decks again using just varnish. They look great now, and will look even better when I have repainted the covering boards. We shall now see how they hold up to sandy bare feet, deck boots, and wolf claws.

re finished decks


2 Responses to “Restoring Decks”

  1. David Says:

    I too have a fir deck and have just replaced 2500 fir bungs. Now to oil or not oil?

  2. Follow up on Fir Decks « Dovetails Says:

    […] up on Fir Decks In a much earlier post, I wrote about refinishing the fir decks on our friendship sloop with satin varnish. After a summer that included two boat shows, rafting up […]

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