Tecktalk - Varnishes And Other Topics

March 1999 Telltale page 8 - by Tom Winlow and Marcel Laroche.

Well the number of cards and letters has been a bit underwhelming. I was expecting some folks to contribute to this with your favourite bit of good advice. Perhaps sailors hibernate.

Some of you may be varnishing bits of the boat in the basement, living room, or wherever the dog won't shed on it. There is a myth around that says you can't varnish teak, or that you need to remove the surface oil to get the varnish to adhere. The official term for this is "Hogwash". Spar varnish is made with Tung OIL and sealing the wood with oil rather than thinned varnish is an excellent way to get a superior finish. The idea is to saturate the teak, mahogany, whatever with the oil and sanding dust to seal the pores and to provide a smooth base for the varnish coats. My book says put on three coats of oil allowing each to dry to the touch and sand the last one wet with 400 grit wet paper. Buff this sanded coat off before it gets tacky. Then after this has dried you can BEGIN varnishing. If you are finishing inside wood, then repeat this once more and use 600 grit paper for a beautiful oil finish (no varnish). Real nut cases can do it a third time with 1000 but the white coat people will probably show up half way through so it's really optional. For outside wood, a good varnish schedule is ­ Coats 1,2,3 (not thinned if on top of oil) lightly sanded with 220 grit and 1 day drying between. Coat 4 is heavily sanded to redo all ridges and bumps. Coats 5,6,7 are sanded with 320 grit with two days drying between. Coats 9 and 10 are optional. You know those classic boats you see at shows. This is how they get the depth and definition. This comes from an excellent book: Brightwork by Rebecca J.Wittman.

I credit Mario Poirier with saving me from a real mess. He recommended that I check the cockpit drain hoses. I did and sure enough, they had become detached. So that's where that water in the bilge comes from. I recommend you look at every through hull and hose on the boat at least once a year and make sure that nothing is working loose. This also applies to fuel hoses. Those clamps do vibrate loose after a while and loose hoses are a prime source of leaks, both fuel out and air in ­ the scourge of diesels. Also carefully look for cracks, especially at the clamp area and if you find them ­ replace the hose. Its old and tired and will fail at the most awkward time.

I was surprised to learn that it is a good idea to change the oil in the engine in the spring as well as the fall. Condensation can impair the oils ability to properly lubricate. Also synthetic oil is better that natural. It's not like it costs much. No need to change the filter in the spring.