DON CASEY REPLIES
In theory, quality teak needs little care and may be left to weather to an attractive silver without damage. However, in reality, aboard boats that spend most of their lives near populated shores, untreated teak tends to turn black from air pollution. Most of us scrub away the black, but each scrub also removes some of the surface of the wood. Unless one is really diligent, oiling may not be helpful as the oil also turns black. Unfortunately, over time scrubbed teak goes rough, then goes away—something I have experienced firsthand, having replaced a number of pencil-thin handrails and too-thin-to-fasten cap rails. Aside from the aesthetics of brightwork, varnishing avoids this loss of wood. For a boat you intend to keep, I view exterior varnish as a pay-me-now-or-pay-me later propostion. After the initial application of not less than six or eight coats, maintenance should be limited to a quick scuff and a fresh coat once or twice a year.