General Boat Maintenance Part II: Decks and Rigging

Once you are done looking after the hull of your boat, you might want to move up and check the deck and rigging of it: eventually, this is where you will spend most of your time. This is where the wind gets hold of you and generates the force that will keep you going. This is a part of your yacht that you should keep in good shape – and the following article should give you some guidance on what to do.

As it is always the case when it comes to boat care issues: the amount of time that you will have to spend on maintenance of your deck and rig mostly depends on the type of boat that we are talking about. Different materials come with different needs and there is nothing like a standard formula for deck care. Nevertheless, there are general guidelines that you should follow to make sure you yacht is in good shape and presentable.

Not every Yacht is the Same

1.) Wood-care on the decks: Especially expensive yachts use exclusive woods like teak that is barely laid out on deck. It is pricey, but looks overwhelmingly good and is a very traditional material in boatbuilding. When it comes to maintenance, however, teak and other woods have a clear disadvantage compared to modern, synthetic materials.

Wood left on its own as part of the deck, exposed to wind, rain and other nastiness, would start to rot very quickly; thus, it comes with protective layers which is either varnish, or some kind of sealing coat. Varnish needs to be applied to wood quite frequently, between annually in moderate climatic environments, and every few weeks in the tropics.

As a rule of the thumb, a wooden deck requires around ten layers of varnish. If you apply the varnish, try to match it with the specific needs of the wood you use it for: it comes as single or double-pack polyurethane varnish. Work with varnish only in a dry and warm environment.

Sealing coats often decrease the amount of maintenance work that goes into a wooden deck. Some sailors consider coats of oils, lacquer or epoxy resin solutions as a bit of a cheat – real wood is supposed to be wood with varnish and nothing else. Nevertheless, considering that you can save a great deal of work by coating you deck, you might be less of a purist.

Coating needs to be renewed once every couple of years and might last – depending on the climate – up to a decade. If you paint your wood, make sure to sand it first to increase its adhesive properties. Work only in a dry and warm environment and consider seeking professional advice for wood specific treatments.

How to care for running rigging

2.) Fittings and hardware: Fittings and most parts of the boat that use a variety of materials are particularly exposed bits. Therefore, they are most likely to deteriorate. Check deck-fittings, make sure that wood underneath is properly varnished or coated and that all screws are tight. Most metal-parts on deck are typically made of stainless steel, but not all of them – check for corrosion and treat the metals appropriately.

3.) Ropes, lines and halyards: Running rigging needs to be in good shape to allow smooth sailing. If you halyards are made of wire, check for corrosion damages; consider to use ropes that can be more durable, although they might be more expensive. Ropes need to be washed occasionally to maximize their lifetime – salt and dirt get caught in them, but you can easily remove it in warm water. Try to add some detergent. Seal the ends of all ropes, either by flaming them or with a knot.

4.) Spars: Most boats use aluminum spars these days, with wood being the classic alternative and carbon fiber the “professional’s” choice. Wooden spars need to be varnished or painted and require similar care as described for wood on the deck itself. Aluminum and carbon fiber spars should be washed occasionally to remove salt and dirt. Additionally, you might want to apply polyurethane solution for additional protection. Check around fittings for corrosion or damages.

5.) Sails and canvas: Most sails contain a certain percentage of synthetic fabrics that will suffer from the UV spectrum in direct sunlight. Dry your sails thoroughly after every use and store them under a cover. Wash them if appropriate to get rid of salt and dirt. Check for damages and don’t use sails if you discover any until it is repaired (otherwise the damage will get worse). For further details, see the article on “canvas care”.

Read the whole series on Yacht Care and Maintenance:
Part I - Hull; Part II - Deck and Rigging; Part III - Yacht Interiors

Further Reading

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More on Winterizing a Yacht

DMOZ on Boat Care and Maintenance

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