Grit Your Teak and Bear It

I’m currently in a private war with teak wood, and I’m using every single available tool I can think of to prevail.

The teak I’m battling consists of horrifically grey rails with peeling varnish on my O’Day 25 sailboat. Nothing says to others “Your boat is dying and you look like you’ve gone bankrupt” like ugly teak. The elements cause it to go grey at a horrible speed, and the only way to battle it legitimately is with an absolutely absurd amount of effort.

Like He-Man, I busted out my sander last week, set the knob on “Max” and blasted through my teak wood for nearly six hours straight. I went through 20 pieces of sandpaper, and watched with a devilish glee as my teak wood went from old and grey to bright. There are few things more satisfying than watching my teak go blonde.

Sweat was dripping from my brow, my hands were numb from the vibration, and when it was all over, it was like I had a new sailboat. I went home exhausted, but I went to sleep happy in the knowledge that my teak looked good.

The next day I headed back to the boat with the intention of doing some other work, only to discover in horror that my wood, after just one day, looked a little greyer than I had left it the day before. Could this be possible?

I got on my iPhone and started to do some research, and I learned that if I didn’t immediately protect the wood, then it would quickly go grey again. But how? I soon found myself sucked into a digital world of opinions, potions and theories on what to do about restoring outdoor teak wood. Bringing my wood back to life was not going to be a science, it was going to be an art.

I busted out my sander again and sanded until I nearly went blind. Then I grabbed a rag and some bleach, and mixed it with some water and some detergent and began to scrub. I could see the wood coming back. It was glorious. I SHALL SAVE YOU MR. TEAK WOOD! I SHALL SAVE YOU!

Like a brain surgeon in the middle of an operation, I scrubbed, then sanded, then scrubbed a little more (perhaps there’s a reason I’m not a surgeon), then patted dry. I checked my watch. “Good God, man! We need to get this teak protected before sundown!”

With bleach marks speckled all over my clothing, I raced back to my car and drove to the hardware store, purchased wood oil from the counter, and raced out. There was about an hour of sunlight left. I then picked up some mineral oil from my dad’s house and headed back to the boat. And then, in a fury, I began to soak the teakwood with wood oil and mineral oil, leaving a small layer of film behind.

Watching dry wood get oiled right is like watching a basketball perfectly swish through a net. It’s a perfect thing. The teak began to glisten, it looked new, and if I do say so myself, it looked like a professional did the job.

You would think that with all of our technology, all of our modern-day comforts, that we’d have this whole teak wood thing figured out. That there would be a quick, easy fix. But in a way, having to care for it so much sort of adds another layer of bonding with my boat.

At least I keep telling myself that, now that this battle in the teak war is over.

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