It’s been said that brightwork is the bane of owning a boat. I can certainly attest to that. We don’t have a whole lot of teak on the boat, but we do have some. The only teak that has not received any type of attention is the teak around the cockpit. I have now experimented with 4 different “finishes”.
First, I tried Sikkens Cetol Marine Light. I thought it might be easier to apply and last longer which is why I tried it first. At first blush, I liked it and got a number of complements on it and some distasteful looks as well. It tends to be very orangish and the final finish is a bit softer than varnish. It tends to stick well to the painters tape and will peel off the teak, at least in my experience. It’s requires buying two different finishes, the base coat and top coat, and then applying a total of 6 to 7 coats (3 coats of the base and then 3 to 4 of the top coat) to the teak. It’s the same amount of work as varnish, but does seem to be a little easier to apply as it doesn’t run and sag as bad as varnish. About a year in and the teak that was done with it still has a nice seemingly unaffected finish to it. It does not wear as well as varnish and in spots where there is wear, it has already completely disappeared and bare wood is showing. Overall, I just wasn’t really pleased it and opted to try something else.
Second, I tried just sanding and cleaning and letting the teak go grey. Strongly disliked it. Enough said.
Third, I tried Starbrite Teak Oil Finish. Uuuggghhh. Why do they even sell this stuff? I thought it would be very easy to apply and if it lasted maybe 6 months between coats, it would be well worth it. In the summer sun, it weathered very fast and the teak was in need of cleaning (again!) and a new coat within 3 weeks. Reapplying every week was really not an option. It wasn’t any easier to apply than the Cetol Marine or varnish because it would stain gelcoat thus I had to be very careful about not allowing it to drip on the deck. In this regard I found it worse than Cetol or varnish because once it hit the gelcoat, it was absorbed and I had to just wait for it to weather off. I am just letting it all weather away from where it was applied and then I will clean the teak and give it a new finish. Most strongly disliked it. Even disposed of the remainder of it.
Fourth, I had a partial can of Interlux Schooner 96 varnish on the boat from the previous owner. Aahhh, the old classic: varnish. Since I had some, I figured I might as well try it. I sanded a hand rail on the cabin top to remove all the old varnish, cleaned it , taped it, cleaned it again, then applied a first coat. Not bad. I definitely liked the appearance. It looks very yachty, classic, and clean. I decided to go ahead and use it on all the hand rails. If you are looking for a “showroom” finish, I recommend that you find a nice big warehouse somewhere, put your boat in there, and then apply the varnish in a clean room atmosphere. In a windy area, it’s otherwise impossible to varnish outside and keep the finish clean and smooth. As that didn’t concern me too much, I did all my work outside. I purchased another can and have decided to finish all the teak with this. I have noticed that after 6 months, there are some very small “grey” areas where the varnish has weathered through on the tops off all the hand rails. I think I really have to chalk this up to putting the varnish on too thin in an effort to prevent sags and runs. Today I went and lightly sanded the tops of all of them and applied a liberal coat of varnish. I will probably apply another coat or two since the tops take a beating from the elements. Overall I have been pleased with the varnish. Its classic look and wearability are what have sold me. A few touch ups here and there is not a problem. Since I have gotten better at cutting in with a brush, I won’t have to tape and the work becomes that much easier. I’m still a little concerned about its longevity. I’m going to assume that I applied the finish wrong and that it’s not a problem with the life span of the product outdoors.