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Starboard – Wonder Wood Alternative

Last May, sometime after most of us had splashed our vessels I was walking in the dock area having a look at the rigging on some of the boats tied up in their slips. I like to see how others have rigged their vessels. This is the way I find better ways to rig my own boat. (There is more than one way to skin a cat).

As I walked off the dock on my way to where I parked my van there was a cruising power boat still on the hard with the boat's skipper working on his swim platform. The swim platform had stainless steel frame and supports with what was either teak or mahogany slats making up the platform surface. As I watched the disassembly process the DIY mechanic muttered to me that this was the third time he was replacing the wood on this swim platform.

I suggested that he replace the wood slats with slats fabricated from "Starboard". My experience is that Starboard will never rot or show evidence of weathering. I was surprised when he acknowledged that he had never heard of "Starboard". The penny dropped providing me with the subject for another GLAA Newsletter monograph.

A decade ago when I purchased VIVA II from Bob Turrell the vessel was thirty-one years old. The old girl was in remarkably good shape; however the taff rail and combings exhibited evidence of rot. These were my first project in what has become an ongoing vessel refurbishing. At the time I knew only of boating approved woods hence made the replacements matching as closely as possible the woods originally used by the OEM boat manufacturer.

Things have changed. In the ensuing ten years that I have sailed VIVA other replacements have been made. My next project was a pair of winch pads. In 2001 I spent a couple of winter months with the Duchess visiting her daughter in Port Charlotte, FL. I got into a conversation with one of her neighbors who worked as a chemist-formulator for a plastics manufacturer located in Northport, a neighboring community. Originally Northport was called North Port Charlotte. As a retired chemist I gladly accepted his invitation to tour the King Plastics Corp plant the next day.

Originally I assumed that King Plastics Corp was a plastics molder of patio furniture and swimming pool accessories. Wrong! During my visit to the facility I learned that King Plastics Corp manufactured only sheets of plastic in thicknesses ranging from ¼ inch to more than 1 inch. Sheets were 52" x 96" and made in a variety of colours. The off-white shade called Seafoam White is a dead ringer for the colour of VIVA's deck.

At the end of my plant visit I was presented with a sample piece of ¾ inch sheet in Seafoam. From this I fabricated a pair of winch pads. Starboard can be worked with wood working tools just as if you were working with plywood. That first piece I cut with my Makita 7¼" saw; I drilled holes with my power drill, routed the edges with my Craftsman router, and sanded the surfaces with a random orbital sander.

I since have fabricated a couple of hatch covers and this winter I will replace the cockpit seat hatches.

The neat thing about fabricating with Starboard is that it needs no painting and/or varnishing.

The new wood combings and taff rail require annual Cetol attention. All of my Starboard fabrications show no evidence of weathering at all. I only wish I had known about Starboard when I did the taff rail and combing replacements. VIVA's toe rails are wood. When they need replacing I will replace them with Starboard.

To learn more about Starboard visit the website

There are a number of links that will prove worthwhile.

You don't need to purchase full 52" x 96" sheets. West Marine lists Starboard in their catalogue available in several thicknesses and a couple of colours. They sell full sheets, half sheets, quarter sheets, and one eighth sheets. Although West Marine does not stock Starboard in all locations, since it is a catalogue item they accept orders and will have it available within a week to ten days. The Oakville store has been supplying my regular needs as well as those of several friends.

Pricing is similar to board-foot pricing of teak. Specific gravity is similar to teak. It just barely floats in fresh water.