Three years after decking a boat with SeaDek padding, what have we learned?
In 2018 Local Knowledge welcomed SeaDek as part of the BDOutdoors team. The only problem with a relationship this new is that there’s no possible way we could have hands-on experience with SeaDek over the long term. That means there’s no way we could talk factually about just how this stuff holds up over the years, how easy it is to maintain, and how much we may or may not like it after having it underfoot for years on end, right? Wrong! As luck would have it, another relatively new member of the team – yours truly – installed SeaDek on a 22’ Glacier Bay three years ago, and has been fishing hard atop this stuff ever since.
My boat, a 22’ Glacier Bay, was all decked out in SeaDek three years ago. Here you can see one of the best things about this stuff: unlike the diamond-pattern nonskid it’s covering; this stuff doesn’t tear your knees up when kneeling on the deck.
What Is SeaDek?
In a nutshell, SeaDek is very dense, rugged, closed-cell foam padding that gets glued down onto a fiberglass boat deck. It comes in a couple of thicknesses, many colors and patterns, and can be cut to fit just about any shape. Many builders are now installing it or offering it as an option on new boats, though most boats more than three or four years old will need to be retrofitted if you want to enjoy the cushioning feel of this stuff underfoot.
Fortunately, installing SeaDek on an entire boat isn’t a big deal. Doing the DIY job on both forward and aft cockpits plus the foredeck of the Glacier Bay took just over 16 hours in total. Actually, laying down the stuff doesn’t take long at all, but first you need to prep the deck. You also need to template it, if your boat isn’t already in SeaDek’s database. If it is, their computer routers can do all the cutting for you – and you’ll have perfect radiuses and fits – or you can template the boat and send it to SeaDek, as opposed to cutting the SeaDek from panels yourself (the least expensive method, and the one I chose).
One other consideration to make when deciding whether to do this job yourself or enlist the help of a pro is longevity. The fiberglass prep (an uber-thorough scrub-down followed by wiping with an ammonia-based cleaner and then acetone) may require more or less effort depending on how old your boat is and what may or may not have come in contact with the deck through the years. As a result of my own sub-par prep, which I thought was quite thorough at the time, I found that several pads I installed popped up after about two years. That’s not a tragedy since 3M makes a spray-on adhesive that does a great job of re-sticking it to the deck, but it has led to some extra work down the line.
What’s It Like, Living With SeaDek?
So, what do I think about SeaDek after having it underfoot every time I step on my boat for three years running? With the cushioning effect, my bad back usually feels about 25-percent less wear and tear at the end of a day of fishing. Kneeling on the deck is at least 80- or 90-percent more comfortable. And on long offshore runs when both beanbags are in use and there’s an odd man out, laying down on the deck – which used to be suicidal – is now do-able.
Another big advantage of having SeaDek comes when we’re fishing in the shallows, and stealth becomes important. If someone drops a leadhead on the deck, what used to make a loud fish-spooking “crack” now makes a quiet muffled noise. When someone drags a tacklebox across the deck, again, the noise level is drastically reduced.
Another perk of re-decking your boat with SeaDek is that you can incorporate a ruler into the mix, as seen at the bottom of this photo. Wait – bonus perk – see the bucket? Sitting on the SeaDek, buckets and coolers don’t go sliding around when you start rocking and rolling in a beam sea.
Three Years of Wear and Tear
When I first laid down SeaDek many people asked me what it would look like after a few years. I had to tell them I didn’t really know just yet, but today, I can give an honest account. Generally speaking it doesn’t stain. Toughies like fishblood and (ahem) red wine do cause staining if you don’t sluice them down, and instead let them bake in the sun all day. But just like on a fiberglass deck, these stains also bleach out with sunlight and time.
As far as ruggedness goes, it’s actually rather shocking just how tough this stuff is. Thus far, the only damage is a half-inch tear that was caused by a very angry blue crab (what blue crab isn’t very angry?) which managed to dig his claw into the foam after escaping from the bushel basket. As a general rule, people who were on my boat prior to SeaDek mention how much better the boat now looks – even after three years of wear and tear.
The bottom line? Three years in, I feel safe saying that I never want to own a boat without SeaDek again. The pain it saves my aching back alone makes it worth having, and when you add in the other advantages it provides, decking with SeaDek is a no-brainer.