On sailing and boat restoration websites, this is one of the most hotly contested issues and discussions. I like to characterize the refinishing opinions of the discussants into the following:
The Nihilists– These folks have given up. They hide behind the false claim that ‘grey teak looks better.’ They even try to class it up by naming it the ‘Nantucket finish.’ This isn’t great for the wood. Teak is hardy, but without protection it dries and the plugs pop out.
The Plastics– They believe that teak should be replaced with synthetics. Synthetic teak or stainless steel surely lower maintenance, but it only looks good from a distance, really large distance.
The Hippies– ‘Just put a little oil on it man.’ As much as I try to support this ‘organic’ approach, it is problematic. I found that the teak turns an unattractive dark brown and the oil collects dirt. Now if it smelled like Patchouli, I would convert.
The Orange Peels– This scurvy-free bunch of old salts have figured it out and few disagree with them for fear of internet reprisal. I have removed enough Sikkens Cetol to know that it is a really strong product and it doesn’t come off easily. However, it has an orange tint and becomes hazy over time. It eventually will peel. The use of this just sikkens me.
The Epifantatstics or Epifanatics– This crew’s love of varnish is greater than their love of sailing. If you see one, ask them a simple question, ‘How many coats?’ Anything north of 12 and you got yourself a serious addict. It really brings out the teak’s rich colors, but varnishing is a task that never really ends.
Whatever teak personality you have, on thing is for sure, production boat builders in the small to midsize market no longer adorn their vessels with lots of teak. Well-treated teak stands out in a sea of chalky white hulls.