Suitable Varnish For Toerail, rudder, deck handles and deck "V"
15/07/2019 at 6:45 pm #18535
I’ve recently purchased my first boat, a GRP GP14 for my 2 boys to sail at Carsington Sailing Club. It appears to be in very good condition, although it does need some floorboards (I see there is a lot of good advice on here about those, so will not go into that here), and much of the exterior wooden parts need varnishing, although the bench seats are in very good condition.
I am after advice on a suitable varnish to apply, any necessary preparation and anything to be wary of, such as whether the varnish could adversely affect the hull if it came in contact with it.
The boat was a bargain and doesn’t owe anybody anything, and we are not after racing it or performing a showroom restoration, so cost, availability and ease of application would be key things we are looking for.
Thanks in advance
15/07/2019 at 8:01 pm #18538
You don’t give a date or a model designation, but from your description I presume this is one of the early GRP boats, somewhere around Mk 1, Mk 2 or Mk 3. With deference to the age of the boat in particular, and the possibility of mating surfaces between the wood and the GRP being unsealed, I would avoid 2-pot finishes; they are marvellous in many ways, but by design they are very hard and fairly inflexible. So if the moisture level of the timber varies, 2-pot finishes will crack as the timber swells or contracts, and that then lets water in under the varnish.
That still leaves a considerable choice. My personal favourite is a varnish primer on sanded bare wood, and the primer which I use these days is International’s “Clear Wood Sealer Fast-Dry” (and what a mouthful of a name that is …), followed by Schooner (not to be confused with Schooner Gold). Four coats of the primer, and it really is fast-dry; in good conditions at this time of year you can apply all four coats in one day. Then anything from two to 6 coats of the Schooner, the more the better. That will give a stunning high gloss surface, probably about the best of the one-pot conventional finishes. Judge for yourself from the photo attached.
At the other end of the scale, one highly respected option is not to use varnish at all, but an oil-based penetrating finish such as Deks Olje. That doesn’t require the same skill or care in applying it, and it can be almost literally slapped on. The technique is to keep on applying it, wet on wet, until the wood will absorb no more, and then allow it to dry. Then, if you wish, you can overcoat it with the corresponding gloss product, which will give a varnish-like finish. The product was allegedly developed for Scandinavian fishing boats, which had a hard life, and whose owners could ill afford a lot of cosmetic labour in varnishing their boats. I myself tried it at one stage on a vintage wooden yacht, but I am not convinced that overall it is any less labour than varnish or any longer-lasting; however some others sing its praises to the skies.
Between these two there is International’s Original Yacht Varnish, and their Schooner Gold; an enquiry to their excellent Technical Helpline some years ago (after I tried the Schooner Gold and was displeased with it) evinced the information that the product is aimed at those who want a reasonably good result quickly, but that if I liked the standard Schooner I would probably not like the Schooner Gold! My issue with it was that it doesn’t flow out anything like as nicely as the standard Schooner, and the Technical Manager agreed with me. Having said that, this will be less critical on your boat because you are not looking to varnish large areas, so any limitations in how the varnish flows out will be less conspicuous.
One word of warning; don’t fall for the fact that International also make a product which they misleadingly name “Yacht Varnish” as part of their domestic range, which is sold at DIY supermarkets, etc. It is not the same product at all, and the small print on the tin even says “Not for marine use”. I ask you; a “Yacht Varnish” which is “Not for marine use”!!!
I happen to be most familiar with International Paints’ range, but I am sure that other specialist manufacturers are equally good. Hempel, Blakes, Epifanes, Awlgrip, etc., are all good.
Decades ago my favourite conventional varnish was Spinnaker, made by John Matthews. We don’t see it on the shelves so much these days, but it is in fact still available; however it is no longer made by the original manufacturer, and the rights are now held by an Italian company. It is so long ago that I used it (regularly in the late sixties and early seventies), and got superb results with it, but I have no way of establishing whether it is still made to the original recipe.
Hope this helps,
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15/07/2019 at 8:29 pm #18541
Thanks for the very prompt and comprehensive response.
In terms of my boat, I am not sure of the age at all, and have emailed the seller to find out. It has a white GRP hull, light blue GRP deck, side buoyancy tanks that do not make it to the aft tank and rounded tubular reinforcing inside. It has the name Pinta on the back and was previously at Carsington SC in 1998 as per the berthing stickers on the back. The newer main sail has the number 7468 while the older main has the number 2834. I can’t find any other markings on the boat itself, sorry.
The 3 sails (2 mains and a genoa) all have a stamped bell and hand written number (269? and 324) , date (4/7/74 and 23/5/86) and signature (H?? H????? can’t really make out the name). I’m not sure if that is enough to date the boat?
15/07/2019 at 8:48 pm #18543
The only part of your question that Oliver didn’t address was that of varnish damaging the hull; it won’t, although it would be sensible to use masking tape where there is a risk of overlapping from the wood to the GRP. If you are going “cheap and cheerful” you will presumably not be intending to strip every thing back to bare wood. However, make sure that any existing varnish that you overcoat is fully adhering and take any that is not back to the wood. I bow to Oliver’s greater experience and skill with regard to superior finishes but any decent quality exterior varnish might suffice. In the days before the reduction in volatiles I had a friend who always used normal Dulux, arguing that his front door was subjected to more weathering than his GP hull.
15/07/2019 at 8:55 pm #18544
I think we will mask off the hull and deck in the immediate vicinity as this will make it a much easier process for applying the varnish, especially if the sealer is that fast drying.
Thanks again. Robin.
15/07/2019 at 9:29 pm #18545
Norman is absolutely right that the varnish won’t damage the hull, but that for purely cosmetic reasons it would be sensible to use masking tape. I had indeed intended to say that, but the thought got waylaid while typing!
From your description of the boat I take it that she has an aft buoyancy tank running across the boat under the stern deck. If so, that fixes her as a Mk.1 boat, which were built from 1967, and effectively superseded by the Mk 2 from 1969.
16/07/2019 at 2:03 pm #18549
I have had a private email from Graham Know, which I post here with his permission.
I regularly read the forum but am reluctant to be more directly involved. I just happen to have read the latest post from Robine at Carsington. As it happens I will have known the boat concerned. The number 7468 does indeed relate to Pinta, it’s name when it was at Hollingworth Lake many years ago. I think the date will be 1969/70 as this would tie in with my club records. It is amazing that it is still around and loved! It did once belong to a good friend of mine!
16/07/2019 at 7:33 pm #18553
Wow! Thank you for posting that Oliver and for Graham sharing the detail.
Pinta does indeed have a tank all the way across the rear under the aft deck with 2 tubes to the outside.
The main part of the rudder and centreboard are both white painted wood, so what should I use to protect these?
16/07/2019 at 8:10 pm #18554
I would use Toplac, but as Norman pointed out you could get away with standard Dulux.
But Toplac will make a nicer job, and hopefully longer lasting.
16/07/2019 at 9:57 pm #18557
you mention that you need floorboards, these are essential in the Mk1 grp boats as the hull is not particularly thick being just a single layup of grp, to finish the floor boards you can use varnish with a sprinkle of fine sand while the varnish is still wet to give a non slip finish or you can use a nonslip deck paint from the International range to give some colour to the finish.
Ig is a long time since I sailed a Mk1 grp boat numbers 7039 and 7044 were boats I campaigned when they were in their prime, both had problems with leaks into the side tanks where the tubular ribs pass through the tanks. Also check that all of the screws holding the keel band are in place as these pass through the hull and will allow a significant amount of water into the boat if missing
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