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

Lifestyle

  • Prev
My name is Alexandrine GOVAN, mother of a 5 years old girl and I found your contact on internet. ...
John Booth, who passed away just a few weeks ago was one of the most amazingly gifted and ...
We left Vero Beach on Saturday morning with Alicia, a boat from Sweden, following close behind. The ...
At the end of last month, Canadian sailors gathered on the Palma Beach in Palma de Mallorca, Spain ...
In 2019, C-TOW celebrates its 35th anniversary of providing 24/7 “Peace of Mind Boating” for ...
West Vancouver Yacht Club reports that following an independent certification process the Georgia ...
It has been hot in the Abacos this winter. Whoever said this area was cool this time of year must ...
Unfortunately this is not a picture from a boat but was taken on the evening of February 27, 2019 ...
On March 1, Tom Ramshaw of Stoney Lake Yacht Club was honoured with the most prestigious National ...
Vero Beach, aka Velcro Beach, lived up to its reputation again. Our original plan was to be there ...

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...
ILCA is seeking new builders to complement its existing network of manufacturers, the International ...
Nelson Gilbert (1854-1921) began building canoes in Brockville in the 1890s, a time when the sport ...
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 ...

Grand Banks 60 SkyloungeThe Canadian market has always been a tough nut for yacht designers to figure out. Summer days get really hot; other days are downright cold. There is always the chance things could change in the blink of an eye and let’s be honest, who among us hasn’t stepped off the boat wearing shorts, flip flops and a warm jacket? Canadian yachting has always been a world of contradictions, which is why designing cruising yachts for this market has never been easy. It’s not like Florida or the Med, where weather is dependable throughout the year.

 

 

Read more about the Grand Banks 60 Skylounge............

 

ILCA DinghyAustin, Texas, USA (25 April 2019) – In the wake of last month’s termination of its contract with its European builder, the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) announced today that, from 25 April 2019, all new, class-approved boats will be sold and raced under the “ILCA Dinghy” name. This change will have no impact on existing ILCA-authorized boats and equipment, which will be able to race alongside ILCA Dinghies in all class sanctioned events.


“It’s a big change for a racing class that hasn’t seen anything like this in our almost 50- year history,” said Class President Tracy Usher.

Read More about the ILCA Dinghy............

Destinations

  • Prev
NW Explorations, a Bellingham, Washington-based yacht charter, brokerage, and marine services ...
If you haven’t cruised the Rideau Canal before, you have missed a special treat and even if you ...
At the 2019 Vancouver International Boat Show I had the pleasure of meeting up with Allyson and ...
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 ...


The DocksBy Katherine Stone

Docks are well-lit and wide to accommodate dock carts.

Steeped in tradition that goes back to one of the oldest towns in Canada west of Quebec City, is Penetanguishene. This bilingual community of 9,000 is located in the middle of Huronia on the southeasterly tip of Georgian Bay in Simcoe Country, Ontario. The name is believed to have been derived from Algonquin (also believed to have come from the Wendat, Abenaki and Ojibwe tribes) meaning “place of the white rolling sands”. 

Read more about the Hindson Marina..........

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
Edited by the Quebec Marine Association under the direction of L'Escale Nautique (producer of the ...
Blue Guard has announced the general availability of the BG-One, a solid-state bilge pump switch, ...
With the introduction of the Ion Power Basic, a safe Lithium Ion battery formulated with Lithium, ...
Finding a car brand that you enjoy while it does what you need can be tough, as they can be ...
Yikes! No boat refrigeration? You’ve Got to be Kidding me!! But then again, true campers don’t use ...
The Walker Bay Venture 14 claims to be the world’s first luxury Explorer Sport Tender. It is ...
Mercury Marine is pleased to announce the launch of the new MerCruiser V8 6.2L 370hp Jet Ready ...
My history with the Cayenne goes back many years, as I was at the launch of the original vehicle ...
Last month, Mercury Marine has announced the launch of the 400hp Verado outboard engine, the ...
Featuring advanced, intuitive 3D controls, Zipwake Dynamic Trim Control Systems deliver a more ...