April 28, 2016

Varnish time or sailing time?

IT’S A PARADOX that the best time of the year for sailing is also the best time of the year for varnishing. You can either varnish or you can sail, but if you have any willpower at all — if you want to show that you’re a real man, (even if you’re a woman) — you will deny yourself the hedonistic pleasure of sailing, and pick up the varnish brush. You know it must be done. You know exactly what will happen if you neglect your varnish.

Now, a little varnished teak on deck sets a boat off. It gives her the warm glow of a cherished object and it tempers the pale, sterile plasticity of fiberglass. But too much teak on deck is madness. It’s murder on the varnisher and the bank balance. Too much brightwork, to put it bluntly is a sign of poor judgment on behalf of the designer and the owner.

Nevertheless, if you maintain the seal, varnish can last indefinitely, says author Don Casey in his book Sailboat Refinishing (International Marine).

“Besides avoiding moisture penetration at nicks and scratches, you must protect against surface erosion by periodically applying a fresh top coat. Exposed exterior varnish should be recoated at least annually in northern climes, every six months in the tropics. Scrub the varnish to remove all traces of grease and dirt, then sand the surface with 180-grit paper (or scuff it with bronze wool) and lay on a new finish coat.”

There. It’s so easy. Now you know what you really should be doing. If you have any conscience at all, you will hate yourself next time you’re out sailing instead of varnishing.

Today’s Thought
The New England conscience ... does not stop you from doing what you shouldn’t—it just stops you from enjoying it.
—Cleveland Amory, New York, 5 May 80

“Ah, monsieur, so you ’ave climb ze Matterhorn, eh? Zat is a foot to be proud of.”
“You mean feat, don’t you?”
“Ah, m’sieur climb it twice already?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for another  Mainly about Boats column.)

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