No Longer a Slave to Teak

by Charlie Courtney

(From the February, 1997, GOFC Newsletter)

Last year I discovered a new product, Cetol, that greatly simplified teak care and saved me many hours of maintenance. At this time last year I actually had considered removing the teak from my boat because it required so much time to maintain. Then I read a posting on the Internet about this marvelous new teak finish that lasted like iron.

Cetol Marine is manufactured by the Dutch company Sikkens and distributed in the U.S. by Akzo-Nobel (the highway salt people) through marine outfitters such as West Marine and E&B Marine. Cetol is not a teak oil, however, but a finish that "builds up". The end result looks like a good varnish job rather than oiled teak, and it does add a slight orange-brown tint to the teak. Some teak purists will find this appearance objectionable, but my boat is a hard-working fisherman, not a show quality antique. Prior to Cetol its teak often became dirty and mildewed less than a month after it was cleaned and oiled. Now, as each month passes with no additional maintenance, the slightly tinted, varnish-like appearance of the Cetol finish looks better and better to me!

Unless you have your heart set on a genuine oiled teak appearance, I strongly recommend that you refinish your boat's teak with Cetol. The teak does take a bit of preparation before you apply Cetol for the first time, although the task can be simplified considerably if you remove as much of the teak as possible from your boat before working on it. Last winter I removed and completely stripped my boat's teak using a strong, non-environmentally correct, two part teak cleaner. Then I sanded the teak to a near furniture grade finish. Finally, I applied the Cetol with an ordinary paintbrush — 2 coats of regular Cetol followed by 2 coats of gloss Cetol. The gloss coat adds considerable durability and ultraviolet protection to the finish, but it could not be used on the lid of my in-deck bait well where people walk. I had to apply 4 coats of plain Cetol there because the gloss coat gets very slippery when wet. The plain Cetol finish in this high-traffic area is not as wear-resistant as the gloss and probably will need a light sanding and re-application of 1 or 2 coats this winter.

I am really impressed with how it all worked out. First of all, Cetol is one heck of a lot more durable than anybody ever said it was! One year later the original Cetol finish on my boat looks as new as the day it was put on (except for the gouge on the bow pulpit where I snagged a railroad crossing gate, but that's another story). My boat is stored under a tarp when not in use, and some users report having to add a coat halfway through the summer for boats stored uncovered. Prior to Cetol, it seemed that I spent half my life cleaning and oiling teak — Charlie's Pride II is decorated with nearly 100 square feet of teak. Since I applied the Cetol last winter, my teak has had exactly zero maintenance and still looks great. After each fishing trip I simply wash the Cetol-treated teak with soap, water and the deck brush just like the rest of the hull. The fiberglass hull now takes more maintenance than the teak — I still gotta wax the fiberglass from time to time!

If you are fed up with maintaining oiled teak, then Cetol is the way to go. Just take the time to prepare the teak properly and you will be very satisfied.


One year after writing the above article, and two years after initially applying the Cetol teak finish, it finally became necessary to refinish some of the Cetol-treated teak. The finish on most pieces of teak was still in great shape. However, a few areas exposed to heavy wear, including the in-deck baitwell lid, gunwale covering boards, and stern quarter seats, suffered enough abrasion and/or gouges that bare teak was exposed in some places.

Refinishing was simple. First, I thoroughly cleaned the teak with a mixture of Joy dishwasing detergent and bleach. Then I lightly sanded the old finish with fine sandpaper. I made no effort to remove all of the old finish. Instead, I simply smoothed the worn surface of the surviving finish. Finally I added one coat of base Cetol and two of gloss (three base coats and no gloss to the in-deck baitwell lid). Voilą — as good as new!

Charlie's Pride II looked so good that another angler made me an offer that I couldn't refuse. Now I have Charlie's Pride III, a 1990, 25 foot Hydra Sport center console that sports lots of small pieces of teak trim. Guess what I will be doing this winter!

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This page last updated 30 June, 1998
Charles H. Courtney (