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Old 10-22-2019, 10:30 PM   #1
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Taiwanese Trawler Deck Construction

Hi All!
I've been looking at getting my first trawler and have kinda focused on several 40 - 50 ft Taiwanese sundeck models in the 1985 - 1990 vintage. I was wondering what material was typically used when they constructed the decks. Specifically was it cored balsa wood or some other type of cored material? I like the layouts of the Marine Traders, Jeffersons and Californians in particular. I'm aware of the potential problems with water intrusion in these decks so will be cautious in that regard. Are balsa cored decks a particular problem?
Thanks!
George
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Old 10-22-2019, 10:42 PM   #2
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WOW! This is oft discussed here -so search it out. The opinions of most here is that teak decks are a plague on humanity if they are installed Taiwan style they are sure to fail and must be removed. Usually they are screwed with plugs into a top thin layer of fiberglass that usually sits on a layer of plywood which in turn sits on a thin layer of fiberglass. The multitude of screws leak rain water or any deck water and go into the plywood or whatever and rot it out and now you have weak stinky decks which many times continue the leaking into the boats interior.
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Old 10-22-2019, 10:48 PM   #3
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Yes, I've read a lot of the threads about the teak deck issues. I was reading the current "To Duflex or not to Duflex" post this evening and there was a discussion about balsa cored decks and foam cored decks. Seemed to not like the balsa cored decks. Was wondering which might be better and which style was typically used on the Taiwanese trawlers.
Thanks,
George
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Old 10-22-2019, 10:54 PM   #4
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Many great boats have balsa cored hulls and decks and cabintops including many very costly ones. In Taiwan Trawlers its the teak screwed thru them that's the problem. Some PVC foam cored hulls do not last long if its underwater . Its all how quality control was done. This is a different issue than Taiwan teak Decks!!
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Old 10-22-2019, 10:56 PM   #5
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Many C&C sailboats are going strong without a problem after 40 years and the entire boat is balsa cored. These boats are primarily Ocean racers. Some are 61 ft long.
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Old 10-22-2019, 10:58 PM   #6
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Thanks GeoLeo. I think that answered my question. As usual, I will need a good survey with particular attention paid to the known Taiwanese trawler issues including the deck condition.
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Old 10-22-2019, 11:03 PM   #7
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Unfortunately there isnít really any sure way to know what was used as core in the Taiwan built boats, apparently they used whatever they had on hand at the time in some yards. And it really doesnít matter what was used, what matters is does it have teak decks and how was the deck maintained. If it has teak decks it almost certainly will have some wet core unless they have been repaired. As to maintenance, how were things bedded on the deck. Were the holes reefed out and thickened epoxy filled? Most likely not. Are you handy and willing to take on a wet core deck? It isnít difficult technically but it is hard grunt work recoring the deck. My boat only has teak decks on the hardtop covered sundeck, fortunately. Even then with the fiberglass decks forward the bedding had not been done properly or maintained properly so there were several places that had been recored when I bought it.
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Old 10-22-2019, 11:08 PM   #8
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Thanks for the added info Comodave. Useful stuff.
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Old 10-22-2019, 11:13 PM   #9
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After refinishing my teak decks on the sundeck this last winter, I wish I didnít have even that much teak decking...
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Old 10-22-2019, 11:17 PM   #10
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Smile

It does look nice though.
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Old 10-22-2019, 11:38 PM   #11
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Not when you spend hundreds of hours on your knees working on it.
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:06 AM   #12
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I’m sure this will draw the ire of some purists but the teak on my GB42 was in poor condition and was torn out by the previous owner. Holes were patched and the surface was primed with Awlgrip. Thankfully the Fiberglass on my boat deck is pretty stout and no underlying damage was noted by the Surveyor. It’s now been finished with Awlgrip and textured.

My point here is sometimes you get what you pay for. It appears that some Taiwanese manufacturers had inconsistent quality in their builds.
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:19 AM   #13
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gjweston, the "Taiwanese Trawler" may not be consistent on deck construction, even within brand. My 1981 China/ Hong Kong boat has foam core decks. Take each one as you find it but yes, most likely construction is two fibreglass layers sandwiching teak offcuts between. Quite a few boats will have had the teak removed replaced with painted non skid f/glass, and the "real" deck underneath repaired. It is not a cheap job, look out for one of those.
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Old 10-23-2019, 08:43 AM   #14
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In my limited experience Taiwanese built trawlers vary GREATLY in build quality and materials used. It depended on what yard and even what CREW was doing the work. It seems many (most?) of those built in the 70's-80's used "local" wood between the decks. This usually means some kind of tropical hardwood. Fortunately, its much more rot resistant than balsa which in my experience was used on higher end boats and usually in those cases is properly encapsulated. (Balsa is extremely rot prone if it gets wet)

All that said, teak teaks done the old fashioned way (with many many screws) have to be maintained properly otherwise they do start to leak into the core.

For me, when I started looking for my trawler, if it had teak decks I would move along.

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Old 10-23-2019, 09:54 AM   #15
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I personally would guess that no Taiwanese trawler from the 60s-90s used high tech materials...meaning they used plywood not foam....


Exceptions? Sure a few but not a lot.


My 1988 Albin used teak plywood...and although wet for years before I bought her....the teak ply actually wasn't rotten...just de-laminated from the glass where people stepped down from the flybridge...the rest was solid and dried out nicely when I took off the teak screwed down decks.
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Old 10-23-2019, 08:40 PM   #16
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You canít have 1,000 holes in something thatís walked on and expect it wonít leak eventually no mater what high tech materials are used....
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Old 10-23-2019, 09:23 PM   #17
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I have a 1986 marine trader sundeck. No teak decks. Mine are fiberglass. No soft spots. I do not know if there was a rehab of the decks before my purchase 3 years ago, but guessing, it’s original. I personally rolled and tipped all the decks and topside and if it was a rehab at some point, then it was a stellar job.
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Old 10-23-2019, 10:09 PM   #18
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My old teak deck was leaking thru a few screw holes last year, found this out when I switched from covered to uncovered moorage. Dumb? Maybe. Covered was hitting $500 a month, a bit steep!
Anyway, removed the screws, on butts, which were moving around. Poured some penetrating epoxy into the screw holes several times and watched it vanish, then put the screws back in and pulled the butts back down. The leak was forward and running aft right around my bunk of course.
That did stop the leak but anticipating further such issues, I opted to paint the teak with Gluvit with tint, then painted it with thick brown porch and deck paint, two coats with non skid on the second. It don't leak and its holding up pretty well.
No way am I going to spend the required dollars or further ruin already bad knees (nearly 30 years of shipwright work) doing it the right way. These old tubs just aren't worth it.
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Old 10-23-2019, 10:57 PM   #19
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Our boat only had teak decks on the mostly protected sundeck but the glass decks on the bow has a zillion stress cracks due to too thick gel coat. I sanded the deck smooth to get the non skid pattern off and painted it with Kiwigrip which covered all the stress cracks and now looks great and is very non skid.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:21 PM   #20
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Sandpiper, a Taiwam built 1976 Bluewater Pilothouse has a solid fiberglass hull. But the decks, roofs and everything else above the hull is glass over mahogany plywood.

Inside and above the hull, it is constructed like a wood boat with mahogany frames, deck beams, stringers.

I was fortunate that the PO deleted teak decking except in the cockpit when he ordered the boat. He also deleted the teak railings.

The teak deck in the cockpit is fastened with screws directly to the plywood with a black elastic adhesive. I'm not sure if polysulfides were available then, but it looks like it. It could also be butyl too.

The differences between the various trawlers construction methods were largely due to the primitive boat building industry in Taiwan during the 60's and 80's. Builders were switching to FRP and slowly evolving their building methods as knowledge and techniques improved. First boats were FRP hull and glass over plywood deck and topsides. As mold building technology advanced, more and more topside molds were developed and coring became necessary for strength weight and cost.

Almost all Taiwan trawlers from the 70's and 80's use either plywood or end grain balsa coring in the decks. There were reports of the Taiwan yard using regular plywood for coring instead of marine plywood when the American manager was not in the shop.
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