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Replacing Teak: A Cockpit Refit

A meticulously maintained and pristine teak cockpit conveys a great deal about a boat. Its appearance is a source of pride for most captains and crew, particularly when it has been thoroughly cleaned in anticipation of the owner’s visit. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, teak offers a multitude of advantages. It reduces glare, enhances sound insulation, provides better traction, and bolsters the overall durability of the cockpit, which is one of the most frequently used areas on a sportfishing boat. Interestingly, there are various synthetic alternatives that mimic the appearance of teak, and the yachting industry is increasingly adopting these alternative materials. Whether sportfishing boats will embrace these new options remains uncertain. Currently, natural teak remains the preferred choice.

For those contemplating a cockpit refit, whether it involves replacing or adding new teak elements, we have consulted with a few reputable teak craftsmen to assist you in optimizing your next teak refit project. It is important to note, however, that teak prices have surged threefold over the past few years due to rising demand. Therefore, it is advisable to prepare for potentially higher costs, especially if you have experience with deck replacements in the past.


The cost of replacing or adding a teak deck and covering boards will depend on several factors:

  1. The size of your cockpit and the amount of teak needed to complete the job.
  2. The amount of cuts or labor needed—obviously more labor is needed for a mezzanine and multiple hatches.
  3. Repairs needed. If replacing existing teak decking you always run the risk of finding rot in any portion of the sub-deck, especially in and around hatch areas. Be prepared for the discovery.
  4. New hardware to be replaced. Ex: rod holders, deck latches, shocks, hinges.
Teak panels


  • Application: Teak panels or teak strips
  • Factor in costs to repair rot
  • What style covering board? Flat or crown
  • How wide is the covering board?
  • Confirm new rod holder brand: Boltless, swivel, traditional
  • Rod holder positions & angles & reinforcement
  • Hatch refit: Watertight with gasket, locking, non-locking
  • Latch hardware and shocks
  • Hatch hinges: Sizes
  • Hatch insulation: Yes or no
  • Merritt or Carolina style deck
  • Sand every two years for max longevity


When it comes to replacing covering boards, it’s essential to consider the available bolster style options. There are primarily two main choices: a flat bolster or a crown bolster. The crown or radius bolster option not only adds a touch of style but also enhances comfort, making it the preferred choice in today’s market. Conversely, a flat bolster provides a clean and streamlined appearance. The number of visible seams on a bolster can serve as an indicator of the quality of the workmanship, with fewer seams being a desirable trait. Additionally, it’s crucial to minimize variations in the teak grain to maintain a consistent overall appearance. If you observe other boats, you’ll likely notice a range of quality in their teak covering board cuts.

Noticeable seam
Noticeable seam
Clean, seamless looking teak
Clean, seamless looking teak


The addition of new rod holders can significantly revitalize the overall appearance of your cockpit. Currently, boltless rod holders are the preferred choice, and there are numerous manufacturers to select from. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and ensure that you have sufficient support and reinforcement on the backing of your rod holders, particularly if you intend to use heavy tackle. The placement of the rod holders, the degree of rod angle, and the extent of “kick out” for each holder are also vital considerations. To prevent any unexpected issues, it is advisable to discuss your options thoroughly with your installer.

Boltless rod holders
Boltless rod holders


When you’re in the process of replacing your teak deck, it presents an excellent opportunity to upgrade and replace your latch hardware. There are various options available, with Southco Inc. being the preferred hardware manufacturer for experts like Craig Mitchell of Teak Shiek, who specializes in teak decks at Viking Service Center. Mitchell recommends the use of three-inch flush “dog down” latches for the majority of deck latch replacements due to their appealing appearance and excellent functionality.

In addition to latch hardware, it’s important to assess the condition of hinges on your deck hatches. Ensure that you have sturdy hinges capable of supporting any additional weight from the new teak deck, especially if you’re adding it to an older boat. Additionally, re-evaluate your hatch shocks to confirm that they are adequate for the job. If you don’t use shocks, make sure that your hatch hinges provide sufficient clearance when the hatch lid is fully open and resting on the deck. Insufficient clearance can easily lead to bent hinges, so opting for semi-flush hinges is typically the best choice.

Southco, Inc deck latch
Southco, Inc deck latch


Many boat builders have embraced the Carolina Deck design, which incorporates a small “gutter” around the edges of the teak deck, typically a couple of inches in width. This gutter serves several practical purposes. First, it simplifies the cleaning process, as it’s easy to chamois and allows water to drain off quickly, preventing puddling on the deck. Second, from a maintenance perspective, it makes sanding the teak deck more straightforward since there’s no need to protect the hull side while sanding. This design offers practical advantages for upkeep and aesthetics.

In contrast, the “Merritt” deck style opts for a traditional appearance by aligning the teak deck flush with the hull side. While this design may have a classic appeal, it can be more challenging to maintain and clean in comparison to the Carolina Deck with its integrated gutter. Ultimately, the choice between these deck styles often comes down to personal preferences and the specific needs of the boat owner.

Two-inch gutter around the perimeter of the teak deck, aka Carolina Style.
Two-inch gutter around the perimeter of the teak deck, aka Carolina Style.


The good news is that with proper maintenance, your new teak deck and covering board can endure for as long as 12 to 14 years. A general guideline is to have them professionally sanded approximately every two years. Overly frequent sanding may reduce their overall lifespan. However, it’s essential to avoid a significant mistake: never clean teak with the grain. Cleaning in this manner unintentionally removes the softer teak and gradually creates deep grooves in the grain, which should be avoided for optimal teak deck longevity and appearance.


A more recent trend in boat construction involves the use of teak panel decking as opposed to hand-laid individual teak plank strips. These teak panels are available in various sheet sizes and offer the advantage of saving both time and costs during installation. However, it’s worth noting that some argue that nothing adheres to a boat’s sub-deck quite like individually hand-laid teak strips.

Derek Lynds of Derek Lynds Custom Yacht Works highlights that most of his teak deck repairs involve teak panels. This is because panel sheets can sometimes leave gaps on uneven decks, allowing moisture to penetrate and potentially leading to rot issues over time.

When considering this aspect of your boat’s construction or refit, it’s important to have a discussion with your installer to understand the specific type of application they are planning to use. This way, you can make an informed decision, taking into account the trade-offs between the convenience of panels and the potential long-term benefits of hand-laid teak strips in terms of durability and moisture resistance.


Derek’s perspective is quite insightful: “God grew the wood, and you never know when one will crack.” This highlights the inherent unpredictability of wood, even when it’s used in the most carefully executed installations. While many installers stand behind their work, once a job is completed, it can be challenging for them to offer warranties. The nature of wood is such that when you glue or adhere a board to a sub-surface, the board will naturally expand and contract in response to environmental conditions. Over time, this repeated process can potentially lead to board cracking.

It’s also wise to consider the timing of your new teak decking installation as one of the final exterior projects in your refit process. This precaution helps prevent accidental damage from other vendors working on the boat.

Lastly, thorough research and the selection of an installer with a strong reputation and expertise in teak decking are essential. You have the flexibility to be as involved as you’d like in the decision-making process. In the end, having confidence that your cockpit deck has been installed correctly is invaluable, especially when you spend countless hours fishing and enjoying your boat.

Thanks to Derek Lynds Custom Yacht Works Ph: 772-201-9576 and Craig Mitchell of Teak Shiek Ph: 561-531-0684 as references for this article.

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