The decks of
wooden boats do much more than provide a platform for the crew.
They are an integral part of the
structure and the type of covering used will affect how the loading is
transferred through the beams.
The covering also needs to be watertight to prevent rain water seepage
which cold cause underlying structures to rot.
Minor leaks in the hull providing they are kept under control are not a
However, a leak overhead can become extremely frustrating.
law says that any deck leak will appear above the head of your bunk and
will start to drip in the early hours of the morning.
Unfortunately, building this surface is not the simplest of
Not only is the surface made up of compound curves due to the
sheer and camber but it will have numerous openings and have to cope
with a considerable amount of wear and tear.
For the majority of amateur boat builders, plywood
is the obvious
choice as a deck covering because of its;
Large sheets cover large areas quickly
Less cutting and trimming than with traditional methods
It can be cut from a pattern
No seam caulking
Strength to weight ratio.
out at this stage that
when it goes wrong can be quite disastrous.
Which, is all the more reason to only use
marine grade ply
and make sure the surface and edges are well sealed.
While I am wary of using epoxy on a traditionally built
boat and it is
becoming increasingly expensive.
I would certainly advocate using epoxy to seal the edges
of the plywood
Because of the compound curvature of most decks, laying
plywood in one
thick panel can be a problem.
It will be much better to make up the required thickness
Sheets of thin ply will have enough flex to comply to
Laminating the covering in this way also allows for
staggering of the joints and thus minimising the risk of leaks.
When it comes to making patterns, try not to have any
align with stress points such as the corner of an opening.
And try to position joints where they can be hidden
under a covering
board or a king plank.
easiest way, that I have found to make the patterns for deck
panels, is with clear plastic sheet.
It wants to be reasonably stiff thick polythene sheet.
Not only can you see through it when positioning but you
can easily cut
it and mark out the pattern with a marker pen.
Having transferred the outline of the pattern to the
panel, I like to
cut it slightly over size.
Then, having tried it for fit it can be trimmed with a sharp block
plane, preferably one with a low angle blade, the concave edges can be
trimmed with a spokeshave.
If you don't have a chisel-plane, inside corners can be trimmed with
sharp bevel-edged chisel.
a good idea to start with the larger panels covering the ends of the
deck, leaving final fitting adjustments to be made on the smaller
panels such as side decks.
Fasten the panels directly on to the sheer strake/clamp and to beams
you plan to nail the panels, I would recommend silicon bronze gripfast
nails rather than galvanized as the galvanizing can so easily be
damaged when hammering and will eventually cause rust stains to show
My own preference for gluing layers would be a resorcinol
glue, this will need plenty of weights such as sand bags to hold the
top layer down during curing.
Another good alternative would be Aerolite as it does have some gap
The glue needs to be evenly spread by squeegee or roller.
teak is regarded as
the ultimate deck covering.
certainly on a large boat
they do look superb, if well done and maintained.
However, to my mind they can
look a bit on the fussy side on a small boat.
And not only is this an
expensive method but it does have other disadvantages.
from all those caulked
seams which will need to be maintained, any form of decking made up of
planks running fore and aft will be lacking in athwart ship strength.
So, the framing will need
extra diagonal reinforcing in the form of tie bars.
Some of these problems can be
overcome by laying it on a substrate of plywood.
But you will still have a lot
of work fitting the planking and nibbing the covering boards and king
There are a number of imitation laid
teak products available, all of which claim to be incredibly life like.
But there is
only one material which looks like
real solid wood and that is real solid wood.
This imitation stuff is really
aimed at plastic boat owners who want to pretend that they have a
proper wooden boat.
Put it on your wooden boat
along side some real wood and it will look like what it is, plastic
floor covering, and expensive floor covering at that.
If you want to use a synthetic
non slip covering there are many cheaper alternatives which don't
purport to look like something they aint.
Many small boats have traditionally
been decked with tongue and groove planking which was then covered with
This, if well done and
maintained is an excellent no nonsense method.
However like the laid deck
it's fore and aft strakes have little or no diagonal or cross beam
strength so, it needs tie rods to strengthen the underlying framing.
constructed in this way and would have been covered with
At some time in her past the
canvas had been replaced with a synthetic covering,
But by the time I came to
rebuild her even this had mostly gone.
So I cleaned off what was left
and laid a marine grade plywood over the tongue and groove.
I spread a bedding compound of
non hardening rubberized mastic over the tongue and groove and nailed
the plywood panels using silicon bronze gripfast nails.
The plywood was then finished
off with a good quality non slip deck paint.
Not only has this given her a
durable waterproof surface but it has added to her stiffness.
It is inevitable that a wooden boat, as
it works and flexes when afloat, will eventually develop leaks.
Unfortunately, because of its
complex structure it is rarely easy to be sure of the source of the
The drip above the head of
your bunk may have entered at the other end of the cabin to deck joint.
It might be tempting to try
sealing the leak on the inside but this will only either trap the
moisture within the structure or divert it elsewhere.
There are patent 'medicines'
which are supposed to cure creeping cracks but they rarely do more than
temporally stop minor leaks.
The only true cure will be to
strip off and re-caulk/seal all those deck/cabin side moldings, seals
around portlights or even the covering boards if that is where the leak
is likely to be.
In the meantime you can always
sleep under that umbrella.