Tag Archives: Cetol

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.


About this time of the year each summer, I finally begin to catch up with all the maintenance tasks that are lower priority in the spring. Spring is the time for larger projects, recommissioning, and getting the boat into basic cruising mode. Early summer is the time for renewing varnish and Cetol, and starting in on smaller quality of life projects. Early summer is appropriate for wood finishes too, as the weather is more reliably fair, the rain is more predictably in the afternoon, and it’s pleasant to be outside.

I’ve finished up my early rounds of varnish and Cetol. I’ll go around again in late fall and protect with fresh coats for the winter. Wood finishing isn’t for everyone. Some folks (okay, a lot of folks) are impatient with it, and look for ever easier ways to keep up appearances, yet reduce time maintaining fiddly little bits of exterior wood. In fact, I have a marina neighbor who replaced his teak hand rails with stainless steel sections in an effort to reduce the maintenance time. I understand this. Most folks have a limited amount of free time, and typically don’t want to spend it refinishing teak. I’m lucky in this respect: I like doing the work, I have enough time to give it, and I like the way it looks. It’s one of those traditional yachtsman’s skills that is so satisfying. But even I have a limit. Love of teak and wood finishes can be an ogre of a task master if allowed to take obsessive control of one’s attention.

I maintain control of my obsessions by limiting the amount of “really nice” finish I apply to several pieces – not all them, though. Hand rails, companionway hatch runners, and eye brows are notoriously difficult to keep perfect, repair, and varnish, so I tolerate a measure of imperfection with these, and I use an easy-to-apply/maintain finish on them. Cetol is the perfect answer for these pieces. I’ve varnished the hand holds and rails before, and it looks great for a while, but it’s too much acreage to maintain like varnish requires, and because of access, too difficult to keep after.

On the other hand, I keep the larger flat pieces with easy access bright with varnish. Pieces like the anchor platform, companionway hatch decking, swash boards and fore hatch are easy to keep looking nice, and the bright finish really dresses up the boat as a whole.

I don’t tape with masking tape. Nope. I free-hand with a foam brush, and follow up with a solvent-dampened rag for mistakes. I don’t like the tape residue, and doing a proper tape job takes a very long time. Then you must keep track of the time the tape has been applied and pull it off before the sun cooks it into your gelcoat. So, I get some Cetol on the gelcoat. That’s okay. Most of the time it wipes right up, if I catch it in time.  What I don’t catch is pretty easy to remove with a scraper, so I just don’t worry about it. But truth be told, I’m pretty careful, and don’t leave too much where it’s not wanted anyway.  Okay, here are a few photos to demonstrate how much imperfection I’ll tolerate, and how the bright pieces turn out.

Eye Brow.  Note the mottled, imperfect finish.

Eye Brow. Note the mottled, imperfect finish.

The appearance of this eye brow is good and bad, or rather imperfect. That’s because I won’t scrape and sand the the whole piece bare when I have to repair the finish. I scrape off the pealing finish all along the length of the piece, then sand with 100 grit paper, brush and wipe down with solvent, then apply Cetol. The yellower, brighter sections you see are where it was applied to bare wood – all the finish had been removed there. The darker sections, of course, are where there is still old Cetol that’s well adhered. However, the entire eye brow has a freshened look about it, and from several feet away, you can’t really see the imperfections. Would perfect, shiny varnish over freshly sanded wood look better? Absolutely, but this is satisfactory, the wood is protected, and it’s not ugly like a spoiled and neglected varnish or Cetol finish would be.

Companionway hatch rail. Spot-repaired, and the whole piece was over-coated.

Companionway hatch rail. Spot-repaired, and the whole piece was over-coated.

The hatch rail was scraped and sanded where the old Cetol was pealing. Then the entire rail was sanded and coated. After a couple of seasons, the newly exposed and refinished wood will darken too. I’ll recoat this rail several more times this summer – it only takes a few minutes.

A larger section of scraped/recoated hatch rail.

A larger section of scraped/recoated hatch rail.

You can see Cetol incursion onto gelcoat in the above photo. A scraper will take it off with little fuss, and I’ll do the side of the rail again as well, picking up the run with a scraper blade.

Drop boards and companionway decking.

Drop boards and companionway decking. The drop boards are red oak, as is the anchor platform (below). The middle board (above) will eventually need to be taken down to bare wood and bleached because of water incursion through the vent  join. Apparently, I didn’t take enough care to seal every bit of it when I built it originally.

I keep these under varnish, obviously. They’re easy to keep fresh, and look nice with this finish. As you can see, they aren’t perfect either, but they look reasonably nice, and it doesn’t take too long to keep them that way.


Hand rails and eye brows.  Again, not perfect, but not unattractive either.


A tough but rot-prone wood, it is important to keep the varnish on these red oak pieces repaired.

I keep learning about varnish. Up until recently, I used mineral spirits to thin it by about 10 percent. This makes it flow much better, and let’s it level out to a mirror-like shine. I recently purchased paint thinner, which is a different formulation from mineral spirits. It flashes off a bit faster than spirits, and I think can be used to thin the varnish a bit more than 10 percent.  My experience with it today provided the best flow characteristics and leveling I’ve ever gotten – a good bit better than mineral spirits. Lightly sanding (or bronze wool) between coats will improve the gloss of the new coat.

Finally, my home-built hatch, restored from having the dinghy break the window, and freshly varnished.

Finally, my home-built hatch, restored from having the dinghy break the window, and freshly varnished.

I keep thinking I’ll build a new hatch and apply all I learned about it’s construction with a new effort.  But, this one seems stable now, and though imperfect, looks fairly nice under fresh varnish.

I’ve spent parts of three or four days freshening all the wood finish, and I like the effect over-all.  Any additional time spent trying to achieve perfection, however, would tip the scales towards too much maintenance and not enough sailing.

Gotta keep these things in perspective.

I’ve done no boat work since my last entry.  We’ve been out of town –  drove to Florida for a family reunion, with a stops in North Carolina to see my daughter and granddaughters – one brand-new (see below).

But there is a lot of work to be done on the boat.  Must-do projects include:

Engine mount lag screw – When I repowered 6 years ago, the tech didn’t evaluate the engine bed. Consequently, he fastened one mounting bolt into a portion of the engine bed that had rot, and wouldn’t hold the threads.  I did a make-do fix at the time with a gap filler and a larger lag bolt, but the time has come to do the job correctly.  That means over boring the hole, filling with epoxy, and tapping the cured epoxy filler for a machine screw.  Lots of work on my hands and knees in the bilge.

Finish sanding the hull and repainting with antifouling – Just plain work.

Recommission engine – Routine, but takes about half a day to get all the systems ready to test run the engine.

Flush and rinse water system – not hard to do, but must be done thoroughly.  Didn’t do such a thorough job last year and grew a water tank full of scum.  That took several hours to remediate, so I’ll be sure to do a better job this year.  It was quite smelly and unpleasant.

Finish sanitation system installation – Last fall I replaced the entire system (except for holding tank). Replaced all hoses, marine toilet, and diverter valve.  I re-plumbed the system so I can empty the holding tank at sea.  Trying to save a dollar, I bought a used hand-operated waste pump for emptying the holding tank.  All the hard work is done, but the pump needs a rebuild kit, and then installation to complete.  It is usable without the pump (keep the diverter valve towards the closed system), but it’s an unfinished job at this point.

Routine varnish and Cetol – I varnish a few parts and Cetol the rest.  Cetol is much easier to keep looking reasonably good.

Dismount anchor platform and pot mounting holes – When I installed the platform last fall, I epoxy sealed the bolt holes.  However, I don’t like idea that there is a small chance the holes aren’t completely sealed from moisture.  So I will dismount the platform, overbore the holes, fill with thickened epoxy, and redrill the correct size.  All this for peace of mind.

Sorry for the poor quality phone pic

Install new alcohol stove – I’m officially done with camping bottled propane gas.  Again, all for safety and peace of mind, I don’t want gas on the boat.  My wonderful wife gave me an Origo two-burner stove for Christmas.  So I’ve identified the best place for mounting, and need to do that this spring.

Fabricate a seahood – This isn’t a must-do project.  It’s really a “one of these days” project.  I don’t want to go off-shore without one, and it makes washing the boat down much cleaner inside, as the water on deck will no longer make its way below through the gap between deck and companionway hatch.

And now for something completely different:  Moon set over the creek.

View from my sunroom

This photo is looking right across the creek from my house.  As you can see, the water was glass, with the objects above reflected, and the moon curiously more orange than what you see in the sky.  I left the photo fairly large so that when you click on it you can see that the black dot by the moon is actually a bird.

And I have to show you a photo of my granddaughter, born on Saturday.

Miniature Human – incredible!


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