Decks take many forms, each offering a different set of benefits and drawbacks aside from its nonskid qualities. The six types of boat decks we tested include some favorites, as well as a couple that aren’t exactly classics.
We chose the marine pile you might find in runabouts, freshwater fishing boats and pontoons. It’s soft and has a quieting effect, a big help on fish boats. However, it can trap moisture, leading to mold and rot on plywood decks. Though they show dirt and stains, light colors remain cooler in summer months than dark colors.
This pattern ranks high among fishermen for its ability to clean up well after being fouled with tracked-in dirt, slime and such. However, it is tricky to repair if chipped. Aggressive patterns can stab at bare feet, though this one used for Grady-White soles is comfortable, even on tender tootsies.
SeaDek (seadek.com) custom-made decking uses machined, stain-resistant, nonabsorbent EVA foam to simulate teak with a bit of cushion. There’s little maintenance, and a square yard weighs about 12 ounces, much lighter than teak. Dark teaklike colors can get hot, so SeaDek also offers lighter hues like holly and gray.
Some believe teak offers better traction than any modern nonskid. The key is to let it weather, washing it only with salt water. Teak oil ruins its nonskid properties. Untreated, it will turn gray, and some find this aesthetically unappealing. Teak decking is heavy and susceptible to stains from oil, fish blood and squid ink.
3M Safety-Walk 700
Grip tape is found on some aluminum boats. We used 3M Safety-Walk 700 series 4-inch-wide tread ($4.99/foot, westmarine.com), which is akin to course sandpaper, tough on bare feet and aesthically questionable. The black tape gets hot, but cooler white is available in a less-aggressive tread.
This gelcoat version of grip tape is found on many boats. Ours was sampled from the gunwale of a Grady-White. Chips and scratches can be tricky to fix but easier than with diamond nonskid. Some grit patterns tend to retain dirt and can also be painful on bare feet, though the G-W pattern felt quite comfortable without shoes.