Monday, April 1, 2013

Boat Bright Work

My sailing vessel GIRI, a Folkes steel hull 39.9 foot cutter, has a little bright work on the outside.  I am thankful for that.  Because of the sun and sea wood needs to be varnished almost yearly. It's bad enough that boats need bottom painting that frequently.  Fiberglass boats generally have the least maintenance, followed by steel and then wood.  The amount of maintenance to keep up a wood boat truly makes one appreciate the advances of civilization.
Often "bright work", the varnishing of boats has been considered a 'pink' boat job.  Mostly the girls do that while the guys work on engines.  I've always liked doing bright work as well as engine work but the bright work of my ex wife, her being a painter, was definitely superior to my rough and tumble trade.  
I'm not so into appearance as alot of yachties, especially the weekend racers, who love drinking at the prestigious yacht clubs.  My boat is and always has been a 'working boat', a 'cruiser' as opposed to a 'racer'.  I even had a commercial fishing license on it at one time.  I do the bright work to protect and preserve the wood.  Beauty is a side product of maintenance of function.
Sikkens Cetol Marine is a local old standby.  There are prettier and maybe better products out there but for the price and durability Cetol suits me just fine. I've used cetol at least a half dozen or more times with excellent results.  It's a favourite with fishing fleet, cruisers and even some of the racers.  It's a darker finish though buying the standard I saw there are several different finishes now.  It's popularity and success have allowed it to expand the offering.
To do bright work you have to sand off the old varnish.  Every few years I sand down to the wood but in between I just sand off the peeling and blistering older varnish.  It's a quicker job though not as pretty and not as 'skoocum'.  
I love the little electric hand sander and everyone I know who does their own bright work has one just for this purpose. The sand paper comes in sizes to fit them, two clamps holding the paper in. I get extra sand paper to use in the places the electric sander doesn't fit.  After sanding it's a good idea to tape. As with painting its easier to prevent splotches with painters tape than to try and clean them up after.  
This easter monday was and still is a perfect sunny day.  I was working on the boat by 10 am sanding all the woodwork then wiping it clean with a wet cloth.
Then I applied the cetol varnish with a foamy paint brush.  They're cheap and I think for this kind of work even better than the bristle brushes.  
Naturally Gilbert the cockapoo walked over some of the woodwork and brushed by another place. I feel his fur kind of bristling and think he may end up getting another hair cut sooner than planned.  I only sat on a pretty well dry area as I was applying a second coat.
Ideally one applies several coats of varnish.  I did two today, that being a bare minimal.  Ideally in northern climes one does 5 coats of varnish whereas in the tropics one has to do 8 coats.  I'm lucky if I get three coats on doing it myself.  I plan to do more but already today I've done 5 hours of work and ready to call it a day.  I'm on vacation.  I only used a quarter can of cetol so can keep it around to put some on during the summer when I've more time and just want to do touch up.  
Any maintenance on a boat is an improvement. The last brightwork done on this boat was 2 years ago when 5 coats were put on.  I've just extended the life of the wood another half year or year.  Brightwork is best done every one to two years but boat work is a never ending proposition so I just do whatever comes next.  Jim called and the new autopilot is in so he'll be installing that this week.  Tom said he'd be able to get the boat out and put a new prop on after Easter so if all goes well I'll be able to get the boat out in a couple of weeks.  
Now that the brightwork looks good I'm really tempted to paint the upper deck.  The painting is the easy part. It's grinding away the rust that I like less. Below decks is all wood, mahogany, and it's been years since I varnished that. Now there's another project.
Right now I'm going to have another coffee and rest on my laurels. The bright work looks pretty. That's for sure. Even for wood this old it's given it a sense of life.  I love wood when the work is done.


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1 comment:

Douglass Blanchard said...

“Beauty is a side product of maintenance of function.” I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one. What's the point of having a great-looking boat if it only stays docked because you can't take it out on the water? Maintenance may be a tough job, but if it means keeping your boat functioning at its finest while out on the water, then it's well worth all the hard work.