A Sea Sprite Makeover

Sometimes what a boat needs most is a really, really thorough scrubbing. Just about every marina has at least a few such boats that haven’t been cleaned in a few years, the bright work is covered in grime, various critters have nested, and the running rigging is grungy and perhaps even a bit tattered.

Sea Sprite 23

This project involved a 1980’s Sea Sprite 23, which the client used for family day sails. But the teak bright work had gone gray and mossy, and the fiberglass deck was covered in grime. He wanted it “restored to is former glory” so his family could enjoy sailing without the boat looking like something off the set of the Adams Family (his words).

Sea Sprite 23

Sea Sprite 23

At a minimum, a restoration would require a deep cleaning of both the fiberglass and the bright work to get rid of several years of grime. To get a better sense of how much work would be involved, I started with a “demonstration project” consisting of a deep clean of just the foredeck (any limited area would have sufficed). In addition, I removed the teak tiller and refinished it with TeakGuard, a water-based teak sealer. TeakGuard is fairly easy to apply and does a fine job of sealing weathered teak where epoxies and varnishes would require substantial sanding. Together, these two “mini projects” would give me and the client a good sense of what a complete restoration would look like, and how long it would take.

I planned to start with boat soap, water and a nylon scrub brush and take it from there. Both the hull and the teak responded beautifully even to such mild cleaners. The gray teak softened to a lovely beige, and the fiberglass took on a warm glow. More stubborn spots that didn’t respond to boat soap—tar, blood or whatever—came out readily with either a surface prep or Interlux 202.

Foredeck prior to cleaning

Foredeck after cleaning

After cleaning the foredeck I experimented with Collinite, a fiberglass compound that you can apply and wipe off by hand. However, it yielded only very slight improvement, and I concluded that soap and scrubbing alone was the way to go.

In my workshop I cleaned and refinished the tiller to see how it would respond to the TeakGuard, and confirm the results with the client.

Tiller finished with TeakGuard

Starting with the bright work, I cleaned the rest of the boat over the course of a few days. The bright work released quite a bit of dirt, so it helped to rinse this clean first before turning to the deck. Here’s a picture of the starboard coaming that shows how dramatically even ordinary boat soap and water was working on weathered teak.

Partially scrubbed coaming

Then I cleaned and rinsed the bright work using TeakGuard’s Super Cleaner, and applied TeakGuard to the bright work: 2-3 coats on the first day followed by 1-2 coats the next day for a total of 4 coats. Initially TeakGuard flows out like a stain (using foam brushes), and at least on aged teak the first coats tend to run and drip. Drips left for even a few minutes will stain fiberglass. Clean water and paper towels can clean up if drips are caught quickly; otherwise, solvent wash is often necessary. It’s tedious at first, but I found that each additional coat tended to flow out more evenly and drip less than the previous one (no sanding in between).

Here’s the finished result, along with partial replacement of the running rigging, some of which had deteriorated beyond repair.

Finished project from bow

Finished project from cockpit

Finished project showing replacement running rigging