May 10, 2018

Old Varnish Tired varnish on a cockpit floor

In the early spring, just after launch, with the hustle and bustle of engine checks, antifouling, polishing and marking sling-locations behind us, boaters soon turn to the aesthetic: How does my boat look at it sits at dock.

Many will consider scrubbing the decks, sprucing up the bimini top, addressing some nicks and cracks in gelcoat….and, ‘what should I do with that peeling cracking wood that is turning more grey every season?’. I’ve noted that many people (myself included) often turn to other, less labour intensive projects, before addressing the varnishing, or brightwork on their boat.

The terms ‘Varnishing’ and ‘brightwork’ are often used interchangeably – but this means, really simply: any wood on a boat, covered with an opaque finish.

What looks best? Some prefer their wood to look natural and oiled. Others prefer a high-gloss varnish with a distinctive shine. Others systematically choose to leave certain parts of their boat uncoated, in order to achieve that ‘weathered’ look. Whichever look you prefer, some of the steps in achieving the desired results are the same – and it shouldn’t be a daunting task for the average person to take care of preparation, application and maintenance of their brightwork, if they choose to.

Freshly Sanded The same cockpit floor sanded with 80 grit sandpaper

Varnish is often chosen for woodwork, as it gives the ‘classy’ look, especially as modern fiberglass boats are designed with the wooden trim, handholds, doors and coamings to be accent points. Varnish is the chosen material for many, since it’s relatively durable and offers relative ease of maintenance.

What type of varnish will you choose? There are many brands and many preferences. I tend to suggest that you get what you pay for. Cheaper varnishes tend to be thinner and don’t stand up as well in a marine environment. More expensive varnishes tend to be thicker, go on smoother, stand up better to weather, and offer greater wood protection. Some varnishes also contain a stain, which will colour the wood, to the owner’s preference. Another deciding factor is the advertised UV protection of the varnish – often an important concern to areas of the boat that are open to direct sunlight.

Before: Preparation is key. In my experience, 1/3rd of the total time in doing brightwork will be taken up with preparation. A few tips:

• Remove all the old varnish, dirt and surface scratches
• Sand until smooth, but make sure that the surface isn’t left wavy – continually run your hand over areas that have been sanded to check for uniformity
• Scrape with the grain – never across it. Always be conscious that any marks left in the wood by the scraper will be difficult to remove
• Start with 80 grit sandpaper, moving with the grain. Once an area is fair and smooth, move to 100 or 120 grit.
• Some manufacturers recommend sanding to 220. I tend to stop at 120. 120 grit allows the varnish to sink into the grain nicely – 220 grit tends to close off the grain, preventing the varnish from penetrating
• Once the wood is sanded smooth and fair – use a vacuum and tack-cloth to remove ALL the dust and debris. Varnish won’t stick to dust.

Preparing the wood before applying the varnish will help the varnish to properly adhere to the wood, and will ensure that any surface scratches, dirt and grey/bleached wood is removed. There are a few ways to do this, but here are the two methods that I use most:

Heat gun and scraping – using heat with break down the bond between the old varnish and the wood, allowing the varnish to be removed with a hand scraper. Make sure the scraper is sharp, with a good clean edge. This is my preference for rounded edges (coamings and hand-rails), where sanding may round or distort the shape.

Sanding: I start by using a power orbital sander on the surfaces that the sander can lay flat, and follow up by using sandpaper and a sanding block, or using a folded sheet in my fingertips.

Varnished Deck The flooring varnished and re-installed

Once the surface is prepared, use a high-quality tape to tape the edges of the wood surfaces. There is nothing worse than brightwork completed with varnish drips visible on the surrounding fiberglass.

Next – use the varnish that you selected, following the manufacturer’s directions. Some brands suggest that the first few coats of varnish are to be thinned using a brush thinner. This aids in the varnish penetrating the wood.

Always allow the previous coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat. Lightly sand the finished coat, and vacuum/tack-cloth the area before applying the next coat – this helps subsequent coats to stick and form a close bond.

High-quality varnish is usually applied with many coats. Sometimes 7-10 coats are recommended. The buildup of varnish is what protects the wood and allows ease of maintenance over time.

Finally – remember that any type of varnish, even with professional application, is only expected to last 5-7 years – and this is assuming annual maintenance coats.

The finished product is highly rewarding and can really turn heads – I’ve always felt that brightwork is a worthwhile investment – but it does require considerable time and energy to refresh the varnish, along with required annual maintenance.

 

Andrew McDonaldAndrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques - Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.

Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Related Articles

Destinations

  • Prev
Following the harsh impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, The British Virgin Islands is making an ...
For the adventurous boater Bunsby Marine Provincial Park is a special place, situated due south of ...
There is good anchoring in Cowichan Bay and nearby, and salt water enough to make any boater happy. ...
We’re gliding through green-blue waters, colours so vivid and bright they hurt your eyes. We’re set ...
The Halifax waterfront has been attracting more and more large yachts in recent years. However, a ...
Ah Canadian simplicity at its finest; small town, big marina. Little Hilton Beach (population ...
Vancouver-based Big Blue Yacht Charters Worldwide owner Emma Murdoch explains that luxury crewed ...
In the 1920s, a small cove in Canoe Bay was used as a shipping point and safe-haven for rum runners ...
Here’s an update from Caroline Swann with some news for the adventurous types who may be heading to ...
The New Glasgow marina is located about six miles up the East River of Pictou in the heart of the ...

Thornbury on Georgian BayJennifer Harker

To borrow a line from Monty Python, “and now, for something completely different”.

Normally, our boating adventures are spent weaving our way amongst the picturesque backdrop of the 30,000 Islands of eastern Georgian Bay aboard our Sea Ray Sundancer 268. This time we’ve traded power for sail as friends welcome us aboard their 38-foot Irwin for the Canada Day long weekend.

We’ve set our sights on a decidedly different destination for this journey, charting a course for Thornbury. This small town, located in the southern reaches of Nottawasaga Bay, is an oft-overlooked area of Georgian Bay - but it shouldn’t be. Although we’ve explored this shoreline on countless road trips, this will be our first visit from the waterside.

Read more about the Thornbury on Georgian Bay...

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
My husband and I were visiting the Bra d'Or Lake from Newfoundland in our 39 foot Sea Ray ...
After an autumn in Canada, we arrived back in northern Florida at Adamant 1 on January 3rd and with ...
This issue, to kick off 2019, we have an unofficial Photo of the week and this, the unofficial ...
Readers give us a bit of feedback on the 60th anniversary of the Shark 24
We are home for Christmas this year. Soon we will be heading back to Adamant 1 for another winter ...
This past October we drove to Telegraph Cove with friends and spent a day of wonder cruising the ...
We have kept our subscription to Canadian Yacht Onboard as we have traveled the South Pacific over ...
Stuart Walker a legend in competitive sailing passed away on November 12, 2018 in Annapolis. Stuart ...
“In Grenada, we had about 80 cruiser kids visit our boat...by dinghy of course! Sometimes you ...
Austin Edwards told students and parents at the Saanich School’s “Parents as Informed Partners” ...

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
I have heard a lot of talk lately about trends in yacht clubs where senior membership is getting ...
To get you in the mood for cruising the Boat Show then launching in spring, here’s a boat that ...
Quite simply, the styles of boats have changed. Where in past years a buyer might have been looking ...
At the boat shows, the Ranger Tugs’ classic tugboat lines always grab the crowds, with the wives ...
Sometimes a great idea requires an encore, and French yacht builder Jeanneau got that with the ...
Tactical Custom Boats announces the sale to a North American client of a custom Tactical 77’ – Fast ...
Bruce Elliott is an inventor. And when he sold the technology he developed to build utility poles ...
One often asks of a winning achievement or a fabulous design, could it have possibly been done ...
The latest new model from Cruisers Yachts is the Cantius 42 and this yacht made its debut in the ...
The Sabre 45 Salon Express is new for 2017, making its debut at the Fort Lauderdale International ...

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 46The Cantius 46 is the latest evolution of Cruisers Yachts’ Cantius line – now there are five models from 42 to 60 feet. The new Cantius 46 is a great example of “easy boating” the way Volvo Penta imagined it and how Cruisers Yachts has executed it. The idea is that you just come on board, unlock the glass doors, fire it up, cast off, and enjoy - alone, with a spouse, or with a huge group.

Since the first Cantius model was introduced, Cruisers Yachts has continued to refine the concept for ever-greater convenience, more clever and innovative features, and also greater performance.

Read more about the Cantius 46...

 

 

 

 

Sun Odyssey 410By, Zuzana Prochazka

The revolution continues – with a twist

The Jeanneau 410 is the eighth generation of the Sun Odyssey line, but even with that long history and umpteen years of tweaks and iterations, what the French builder has done in the latest revamp will make you say, “Wait, what?”

 Last year, Jeanneau turned the sailboat deck layout on its ear with the introduction of their Sun Odyssey 490 and 440, and the concept of the ‘walk-around deck’.

Read More about the Odyssey 410...

 

 

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
You most likely operate your vessel with batteries that are rechargeable. Rechargeable batteries ...
This past decade has been a real up-and-down ride for the companies who make boating equipment. ...
Making it’s global debut at the Toronto International Boat Show the new Mercury 5hp Propane ...
Most of us have heard of fuel additives, whether it be for gasoline or diesel. But which one to ...
While the basics of boat hull design hasn’t changed that much over the years, the same cannot be ...
Yamaha targets the Canadian big-water market with its high-torque 425 horsepower V8 XTO outboard, ...
Looking for a great Christmas gift for the Offshore sailor on your list? This being a Marblehead to ...
Sail shape is long gone. They have stained, feels thin and you see broken threads everywhere. Your ...
Stripping the antifouling paint from the bottom of a boat is physically demanding and is one of the ...
The 2019 Ultimate Sailing Calendar highlights the drama and excitement of blue-water sailing, as ...