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Varnish

This was one of the days you dream about. Wind 13-15, temp 72F, crystal clear sky. About 1430 I said to my wife, “I have to go out on the boat. Wanna go?” She really did, but couldn’t – had stuff to do.

I got the boat ready and cast off. Went 200 yards and turned around. The engine was surging suspiciously. Fuel, obviously – filter? No. . . that’s the way it acts when it’s low on fuel. I eased back into my slip and didn’t even tie up. Dug my two jerry cans of fuel out of the lazarette and put all 11 gallons in the tank. It holds 13. That pretty much confirmed the symptoms I was experiencing as low fuel. Like many sailors, I have a fuel gauge on board, but it doesn’t work! It used to, but was never very accurate. I’m pretty sure I can bring it back to life with a little cleaning and adjustment of the float mechanism, but it’s not one of the more fun maintenance items, and if you carry extra fuel, it’s not really a problem.

Back out the creek, out into the bay (no engine surging now), out of the traffic area. There are white caps, the wind is SE with lots of fetch kick up the chop. I set reefs in both sails before raising, and off we go at 5+ knots – late season hull fouling taking half-to-three-quarters of a knot off our speed.

I love the way the reefed headsail sets. The shape is perfect!

With the reefs I was comfortable and controlled, but hard on the wind, we were heeling a fair amount. Out 5 miles past the pound nets. Not many other boats out today. I passed one other sailboat. He was on the opposite tack, sailing down my reciprocal course. We waved. By then we were out in the open bay and shore breeze had stopped affecting the wind strength and direction, so our angle of heel was less.

I tacked, and followed the other boat back the way we came. The afternoon was getting old and the wind was consistently more moderate as evening drew near. Still, the reef was a comfortable way to sail.

Sailing back down the outbound course, opposite tack.

We crossed the channel, out of the traffic lanes, and hove to. Dropped and bagged the sails and motored towards the creek entrance.

Backing in with a little trouble – wind on the stern, I kept having to bump back into forward with opposite helm to get lined up – then we were parked, tied up, cleaned up, closed up.

I took a few photos of the varnish-fortified Cetol teak.

As it turns out, the shiny bits are hard to capture with a cell phone camera. I’ve gotten lazy – I used to use my dslr for all of this stuff.You know you have the right boat when you keep looking back at her as you walk away.

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Hey, this is a different view for me –

Without the tiller pilot, I can rarely leave the helm. Note the fishing rods along the starboard side of the coach roof.

It’s really cool to get out of the cockpit and stand on the bow while motoring. I can do this under sail also, if the wind is moderate. Not a big deal I guess, just novel for me.

I’ve been on the bay several times lately – not sailing so much, as the wind has been very calm – but drifting, and. . .  fishing! Yes, another novel thing for me to do. I fished with my dad all the time growing up, but haven’t done so for years. When we moved from Jacksonville to Washington DC, I got rid of all my fishing gear, seeing that the kids we grown up and I didn’t have that much interest in it beyond the kids’ interest. But I’ve gotten my line wet several times this year (acquired some gear at the second-hand store near me). Sadly, my skills are less than poor. I haven’t even gotten a bite this year! Truth be told, I was never a very good fisherman and things very obviously haven’t changed in the intervening years. Oh well. . . actually, it’s kind of better if the fish don’t bite. That way my solitude isn’t interrupted. Still, my son and I are going this Saturday, and we are anticipating catching more fish than we can manage ;-).

I’ve started my fall rounds of varnishing with the nice weather. I discovered something interesting last year, and have decided to experiment a bit more with it. Last fall, I had a little varnish left over in my container, and wanting to use the same container for Cetol. . .  I mixed the two together. It was mostly Cetol, so I didn’t think a very little bit of varnish would have any effect. I was wrong. The varnish made the Cetol finish glossy. I noticed this fall that the small piece of wood finished like this suffered almost zero degradation since last fall, unlike the Cetol-only pieces. Hmmm. . .  So I mixed some varnish and Cetol and recoated all the woodwork that usually got only Cetol. We’ll see how it stands up over the next year. I like the way it looks too – it’s the dark natural finish Cetol, but has a hard glossy shine to it. I’ll get some photos of it next time I’m down at the boat.

Drifting around today, I hauled out my light-air sail and hoisted it. It’s actually (probably) a mizzen staysail from a ketch, but it’s so light-weight that it works okay as a sort of asymmetrical spinnaker with a high clew. It filled and drew well in about 3-5 knots of breeze. It’s fun to just slowly ghost along with a sail that draws that nicely. I should have taken a photo, but, well, I didn’t!

Finally finished up this little project. Always a challenge when I have to dodge rain drops. I installed the trim back into a fresh application of Boatlife teak-colored bedding compound, then installed the plugs with varnish as glue. Some folks use shellac, but varnish seems to work just as well. Gluing them in with anything stronger makes them difficult to remove next time.

Plugs set, waiting for the varnish to cure so I can trim and sand flush.

To trim, set a sharp (very sharp) chisel 1/8″ proud of the surface being finished, and gently tap. The top of the plug splits away. You can do this several more times for a curved profile to pare away excess material at the edges before you begin to sand. Just don’t set the chisel too closely to the base material, or the plug may split away below the surface. I set the beveled edge of the chisel towards the eyebrow so that plug tends to split up and away from the base. After trimming with a chisel, use a small block with 150 grit sandpaper wrapped around, and sand only the proud part of the plug, as much as possible. You will certainly sand a little bit of the base material as well, but careful attention to the level of the plug will keep it to a minimum. After all is smooth and flush, coat with your finish of choice. I use Cetol on these.

Done. Trimmed, sanded, and coated with Cetol.

No, I’m not plucking. . .

I applied the second coat of Cetol to both sections of eye brow trim today. Before all the rain and wind last week, I scraped and sanded smooth the trim pieces, and applied the first coat of Cetol. I also deepened the plug holes with my drill press for closing up the screw holes with bungs. However, I had to buy a new plug cutter, because I have mislaid the one I already own. Oddly, this didn’t work well at all. The hardware store sold me a 3/8″plug cutter, and I duly deepened the 3/8″ holes to accommodate a longer plug. However, the diameter of the plugs cut by the new cutter turned out to be slightly small, and didn’t bind into the holes at all. I rechecked my drill bit, rechecked the plug cutter. . . all the sizes matched, but the plugs didn’t fit the holes. I wound up buying some 3/8″ teak plugs at West Marine, and they fit fine.

Today I also cleaned up the coach roof edge where they will be reinstalled. I’ve found that a product called “Goof Off” works really well for this, but as I was in the hardware store today buying a new bottle of it, it occurred to me that lighter fluid might be a similar product. I know several craftsmen who use it for cleaning purposes. Regardless, I came home with Goof Off.

Materials and tools for this task.

Once back on the boat, I used a rag saturated with Goof Off and wiped in on a 12-14 inch section, then took a putty knife and scraped the loosened bedding compound. This took off about 75 percent. I re-applied Goof Off, and scrubbed it with a 3-M pad, which almost always removed the rest of the material. This entire process took about a half hour to do the port side (rehabbed the starboard side last year). So it’s clean now, and ready for re-installation of the trim.

Close-up of the cleaned vs uncleaned area.

Just a longer view of the project area.

Finally, I began the spring Cetol re-coat of the other teak trim still installed in place. I actually got smart this time, and didn’t try to do all of it at once, there by avoiding bumping into sticky Cetol as I work my way around the deck.

 

I started this project about a year and a half ago, and lost momentum. I’m finally back at it, as the port side eye brow is absolutely embarrassing now. Add to that the fact that half the bungs are missing, and it’s just in a very bad state.

I removed the screws after splitting out the remaining plugs. There was a fair amount of something in the screw head slots – not sure what it was, but probably whatever was used to stick down the plugs originally. I guess some of the material has been lost from the teak trim pieces, as many of the screw heads were not too much below the surface of the wood.  No way would a plug stay in there. That means I’ll need to deepen the recesses for the screws. Screws out, and that was the easy part. Next was to separate the trim from the coach roof. It was bedded on to the coach roof with a sealant that released pretty fairly well with paint thinner, but much better with acetone. Still, it took a patient and careful 45 minutes to slide a couple of putty knives between the surfaces.

Had to work it from both ends, as one of the screws (not an original) was too short to thread out, but too far in to easily release.

As I gently pried the trim from the coach roof, I poured a little acetone into the crack that was revealed. That allowed me to separate 3-4 inches. Finally I separated the last few inches, and the remaining screw lifted out of the hole. I was happy to get the trim off in one piece.

Now, just lots of clean up left to do.

Next step is removing the old sealant, and cleaning up the trim pieces in preparation for new finish.

Under the category of regular maintenance, I’ve finished (refinished?) several varnish and paint projects noted in recent previous posts.  I’ve built up 6 coats of varnish on my fresh re-do of the fore hatch, and reinstalled it. But this time, I also painted the under-side of the hatch, so that it’s nice to look at while we’re lying in bed. It’s also easier to clean now, with a fresh smoothly painted surface.

More coats to come, as the seasons progress and I refresh the varnish 2x per year, but 6 coats is a good place to start.

More coats to come, as the seasons progress and I refresh the varnish 2x per year, but 6 coats is a good place to start.

Fresh paint and no mildew! Just couldn't get the stains off the old finish, no matter how much I scrubbed on it.

Fresh paint and no mildew! Just couldn’t get the stains off the old finish, no matter how much I scrubbed on it.

I also completed a paint project that I’ve been threatening to do for years, and I’m so happy with the result. This isn’t one of those projects that gets a lot of public attention.  It’s another hatch under-side that only we see – our companionway hatch slider. That ugly is hidden with the hatch open, which nearly all the time when we are on board. But at night, and in bad weather we close up, and there it is. . .  scraped, scarred, mildew-stained ugliness. But in the immortal words of Inspector Clouseau, “Not anymore.”

This has got to be one of my favorite accomplishments! It has niggled at me for a long time.

This has got to be one of my favorite accomplishments! It has niggled at me for a long time.

And an on-going project – the varnish repair of the top-side of this same hatch. Occasionally, a small bubble of moisture will form underneath the varnish. I’m loath to strip and refinish the whole thing for a 1-square-inch imperfection. So I cut out the spoiled section and slowly build up the layers in that area, gently using a combination of scrapers and razor blades to shave the excess varnish as it builds up in the wrong place.

See where the repair is? About 2/3 to the right, slightly above center?

See the repair? About 2/3 to the right, roughly centered in the vertical axis.

I applied the sealer coat of varnish to the fore hatch, and re-coated several other pieces of bright work at the same time. This round of varnish re-coating will carry me through the fall until I put the boat away for the winter.

The raw wood soaked up thinned varnish (50% thinner) like a sponge. You can also see an area that I filled with thickened epoxy that was chronically problematic due to the uneven surface. Though not pretty, I think it will hold onto the varnish now.

The raw wood soaked up thinned varnish (50% thinner) like a sponge. Upper right: you can also see an area that I filled with thickened epoxy that was chronically problematic due to the uneven surface. Though not pretty, I think it will hold onto the varnish now. I keep threatening to build a new hatch because of this one’s imperfections imperfections. . .

Slider/companionway hatch decking - I've patched 2 places in the varnish, but they're not complete yet.

Slider/companionway hatch decking – I’ve patched 2 places in the varnish, but they’re not complete yet.

Another revarnished piece that's been problematic. The vent was a Home Depot purchase - it wasn't assembled with waterproof joints/glue, so water has spoiled some of the areas. I'm looking for a different solution to the wood slatted vents.

Another re-varnished piece that’s been problematic. The vent was a Home Depot purchase – it wasn’t assembled with waterproof joints/glue, so water has spoiled some of the areas. I’m looking for a different solution to the wood slatted vents.

 

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