Power & Motoryacht

Varnish: High Tech Or Old School?

I was a lousy sailboat captain. Sure, I could sail pretty well, navigate, dock without smashing things up too badly and avoid arrest in foreign ports. So what made me a poor professional captain? I am brightwork-challenged. And the 55-footer I skippered for four years had plenty of it: varnished cabin-trunk sides and cockpit coamings, teak decks with varnished margin planks and toe rails, varnished deck hatches and dorade boxes, varnished bits and pieces that I can’t even remember anymore. It was hell for me, and it’s a good thing I discovered steel commercial boats, or varnish might have driven me to get a real job.

My battle with brightwork took place more than four decades ago. Although I always used a top-of-the-line varnish, usually from Interlux, the finish seemed to last just a little longer than it took to clean the brush, especially under the hot Florida sun. Maintaining brightwork was an exercise in futility—I’d rather roll rocks uphill with Sisyphus than be condemned to endless varnishing.

Things are mercifully different today. There are one-and two-part polyurethane varnishes, and even a three-part varnish. Supposedly they all dry harder, last longer and can be recoated quickly, without sanding.

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