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Making matchsticks...

One of the major projects we identified when we bought Jorvik Rose was that she would need a new weather deck before we set off on our adventures. When she was built in 1990, she had a teak plank deck laid over her GRP and balsa core moulded deck. Now, having held up now for 25 years, the deck is worn and letting water in. We already saw signs of this when we removed the interior headlining panels in order to re-cover them (more of this when we get around to working in them as this is a project in itself!).

Typically, teak decks come from the hardwood rainforests of Myanmar (Burma) and have to be labouriously fitted as individual planks and glued & screwed to the deck. When it comes to fitting a new deck, this raises some issues....

  1. Teak is not environmentally sustainable, as it is a very slow growing hardwood

  2. There are some 2,000 screws to remove from the deck

  3. Having some 2,000 screws in the deck of a boat is not so practical to keep things watertight

  4. The adhesive is holding the old planks firmly in place

Having researched yacht decking for over a year and investigated many different options (from plastic 'fake teak' to paint with grit in it), we finally settled on what we think will be a great, long lasting, environmentally friendly and ecologically sound material - cork. No, we don't need you all to start sending us your used wine bottle corks, although we are aware that some of our friends may already have a large collection....! We found a company in the Netherlands who make cork decks and have been using them for a while on superyachts and passenger ferries with great success, so this is what we decided to go for. You can read more about it on the manufacturer's website.

For us, the cork seems ideal, as it overcomes all the issues with teak and is much nicer underfoot in the tropics, not getting as hot as teak or the alternatives.

Anyway, back to making matchsticks.....

In order to fit the new deck, the old deck has to come off, so we finally bit the bullet and headed to Lymington, prepared with battery drills, screwdriver bits, hammers and chisels. Planning to start with a small area of the coachroof, we started to tear the deck off. Most of the screws here stil had the teak plugs in, so these had to be chiselled out. We then found that the deck had a mixture of Philips and Slot head screw, just to make things interesting. Fortunately, most of the Philips screws came out easily, although one or two refused to move as the heads were damaged. The slot head screws also had epoxy filler so needed some more work.

I expected that the screws would be the tough part and had naievely hoped that the deck would come up in nice easy strips. As can be seen, this was not the case and we started to make matchsticks, as well as blisters and bruises. I can tell you that hitting your hand or fingers with a dead-blow mallet really hurts!

On the first day we managed to get the small piece of coachroof decking removed (the small square above) but unfortunately also damaged the gelcoat in the process. As of now Jorvik Rose is on hard standing, and next to us in the yard is another yacht, a Moody 60, "Bluefin of Hamble" which is owned by Barbara and Ron. We met them and were invited over for drinks, which turned into dinner and lovely conversations.

The next day, we had a bit more success and managed to complete the remaining coachroof sections and caused significantly less damage to the GRP.

As we had plans for the weekend (another car boot sale), we taped up the holes and covered everything in plastic before hitting the road home.

Returning the following Monday, we came equipped to stay several days in order to make some progress. Jack from Berthon was also on hand to repair the damaged gelcoat and work on filling the screw holes.

Starting at the stern, we slowly had a bit more success, as well as a lot more blisters and bruises.

Barbara, from Bluefin, is a great cook and periodically supplied us with tea and cake which was great for morale and Ron very kindly gave us some cotton gloves which really helped with the blisters. Needless to say, by Wednesday evening, I had had enough and needed to go back home to soak in a hot bath to try and ease the aches. While we were home, I finally remembered to grab our oscilating multi tool which has vibrating blade attachments.

The next day, we set to removing the deck with the oscilating tool - well, finally we found a technique to get the planks off in lengths larger than matchsticks! I was quite mad at myself for forgetting this tool before. What was a real chore suddenly became something satisfying, as we peeled of longer and longer planks. Progress at last!

By Friday we had made great progress and treated ourselves to a curry at the local Indian restaurant in Lymington. Afterwards, we met up with Barbara and Ron and a few of the marina locals at the marina bar and had a few drinks before heading to bed. After a good night's sleep, it was time for our last day of deck removal before we headed off on holiday to the US. We had a productive day and managed to get quite a lot more deck removed, before we cleaned up and taped over all the holes. We took home a carboot full of teak decking to recycle and are happy that we are now nearly half way with the deck removal. I estimate that we probably need another two weeks of work to get this removed and then the next stage can commence.

With some time off, my blisters are healing and our bruises are disappearing. This is slowly turning into a major refit, but we have plenty of time and are enjoying our time off - working outside in the sun is lovely.

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