Repair and Maintenance of a Drascombe Lugger

Renovating the Teak Gunwales

This page describes the construction of the teak gunwale on the early Luggers and then describes the renovation of the weathered teak gunwales on Sospiri.

Early Luggers tended to have the gunwales constructed from two complete unbroken lengths of teak. However, the ever increasing cost of teak forced a modification in construction techniques where instead of a single piece of teak, each gunwale was made using several lengths scarfed together.

Sospiri is an early Mk 2 Lugger with each gunwale constructed from a single length of teak with a slot in the undersurface. This slot neatly accommodates the GRP of the top of the deck moulding and the top of the hull moulding (See sketch below). Both gunwales are in good condition which is very fortunate as replacements to the same specification would be prohibitively expensive. However, it was quite obvious that, like the other teak components on the boat, the teak had been left untreated for some considerable time. The wood had weathered to the characteristic grey colour and green lichen was developing in the grain.

Sketch cross section of gunwale showing attachment to hull Sketch illustrating how the Teak Gunwale is attached to the topsides

The gunwale consists of a single length of teak, almost square in section, with a slot cut into the bottom. It is cleverly designed both to protect the tops of the GRP deck and hull mouldings from impact and water ingress. The mouldings are partially bonded together with a sandwich of bonding putty between them. A slot in the base of the gunwale accommodates the top of both mouldings and further holds them together. A series of bronze wood screws secures the gunwale in place, gives it additional resilience against splitting and ensures that the GRP mouldings are held securely in place.

(Click on image for larger view)


A full discussion of the options for treating teak is given elswhere on this site (See Teak, coating). In common with the other teak components it was decided to sand away the weathered teak before coating with Burgess Marine Woodsealer.

It would be possible to remove the gunwale from the hull by unscrewing all the bronze screws and easing off. However this is a fairly major operation and would probably involve replacement of at least some of the bronze wood screws. It might also prove difficult to relocate the gunwale which would possibly straighten out once released from the curve of the topsides.

It was therefore decided to treat the gunwales in place on the boat. This was carried out as follows;

Photo of teak gunwale in course of treatment The starboard Teak Gunwale under treatment

At the top of the picture a short length of the teak gunwale has been sanded, and then coated with the Woodsealer. The bottom of the photograph shows the original condition of the teak which has been weathered to a characteristic grey colour. Green lichen is growing in the cracks of the grain.

(Click on image for larger view)

Project started March 2002 and completed June 2002