Teak is a tropical hardwood that has been used in boatbuilding for over 2,000 years. It’s strong and resistant to rot and changes in moisture.
However, according to a recent report by the Environment Investigation Agency, there are grave questions over the sustainability and sourcing of teak.
Jessie Rogers, of Jeremy Rogers Boatyard works in her family yacht building firm, which makes the Contessa 32 and has a serious focus on finding environmentally friendly teak alternatives.
She explains that in some applications synthetic teak, such as Flexiteek and Permateek, is really effective for decking and toe rails but there are some jobs when a real wood solution is required.
The yard uses Kebony and will also try cork and Lignia, a modified Radiata pine, which has been used to good effect by Spirit Yachts.
Accoya is another modified Radiata pine using a greener acetylation process, and although this wood has been around for many years it is not often used in the yachting market as it’s not the ‘correct’ colour to be a teak alternative, being more white than the orangey hue of teak when varnished.
Sykes timber are working with a plantation in Java to bring on stream sustainable plantation teak, grown on a 40-year cycle, so that could certainly be an option to consider.
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The short-term approach at Jeremy Rogers Ltd is to encourage customers to use beautiful teak alternatives such as cherry, walnut or maple for interiors, for example.
As for teak, in the short term and while stocks last, they say it should be treated like gold and used accordingly; repairing an existing set of toe rails could be an example of where it might be justified to use.
“Some people use synthetic wood, but real wood is easier to clean and you can sand over it,” he said.
“The advantage of teak is that you can use it with or without oil and just leave it. Other people take up their decks and replace them with non-skid gelcoat.
“While we find the majority of boat owners still prefer teak for decks, mahogany and white cedar can be used inside the boat and we use local sawmills to source this.”
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This feature appeared in the March 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.
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