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Making it easier to keep a yacht’s varnish work in good condition

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What is the issue?
Most yachts have varnished wooden details that are exposed to the elements. This degrades quickly if the protective varnish coat is damaged and water is allowed to work its way into the wood.

Why address this?
Caring for wooden detailing preserves the yachts appearance. This is important not alone for pride of ownership but also affects the vessels valuation. If you chip the protective coat the water quickly damages the wood causing black spots if the wood is later recoated.

The only way to remove these black spots is to sand the damaged portions out of the wood. This means cutting deep down into the wood grain until you get beyond the area that the water has penetrated. As water damage typically penetrates very deep into the woods' fibres this will amount to a large amount of work and is likely to entirely disfigure or attenuate the item.

How to address this?
The key to maintaining the brightwork’s varnish is to protect the established varnish coat. Chips and bangs happen so you need to keep on top of it. Once this happens the outer veneer will be broken which breaks the paint film's protection and allows water ingress. This will quickly lead to wood damage that will be indicated by black stains. Once this happens it is very difficult to recover. Never does the phrase a stitch in time saves nine apply so well as it does to varnish work.

Off the shelf nail polish
Photo: Michael Harpur
However, you would need to be inhumanely disciplined to take out the brush and varnish tin for the odd bang or scrape. It is not the painting that is the problem, rather it is just too much hard work cleaning the brush off afterwards. The trick is to make this occasional varnish work very easy to accomplish so that remedial work is carried out in time.

A neat approach to this problem is to buy a clear nail varnish jar that contains a brush, and empty out its contents. Then clean the jar with mineral spirits or acetone, but this is not entirely necessary. Once this is complete refill the jar with your external UV rated varnish.

From that point on, all you have to do is unscrew the top and you have a brush ready to touch up the damaged portions. When complete all you do is screw the brush back into the container. As this is such an easy task now you can easily fit it into a regular maintenance routine so that you nip the damage in the bud before water damage becomes irreparable.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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