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Gallivanters 05-31-2006 09:16 PM

Bristol Finish?
How do you maintain the brightwork on your boat? Yacht Club Showboat? Natural Cruiser Silver? Varnish? Oil? Cetol? AwlGrip? Nothing at all?

I'm curious if there is a consensus as to what works best and to what degree most boat owners worry about maintaining the appearance and finish of your boats.


besemo 05-31-2006 10:52 PM

Very simple - but maybe there are more sophisticated way today, I really wouldn't want to know:

1. Scrape off all old varnish down to bare wood (use varnish remover) but do not scar wood - this alone will teach you the value of plain and unfinished wood - but if you insist...

2. Sand wood with very fine paper and dust it

3. Take one third of varnish and two thirds of thinner and paint over wood

4. Let dry and have a beer

5. Sand wood with (see 2.)

6. Take 50% Varnish and 50% Thinner and paint over wood

7. see point 4.

8. see point 5.

9. Take two thirds varnish and ...(see points 3. and 6.)

10. - 11. See points 4. and 5.

12. Take 100% Varnish and paint over wood - let it dry, sand the wood, dust it and repeat point 12 at least three times (but don't let anything stop you, if you feel like applying more coats of pure varnish)

13. Have another beer

14. Curse yourself after detecting black spots where you didn't scrape of original old varnsih)

15. Repeat sanding and putting on new coat every six months or so.

16. Depending on influence of sunlight and willingness to taje on hardship, repeat starting from point 1 (!) every year or at least every second year

17. Give up and buy a plastic boat with no wooden parts at all

JeanneP 05-31-2006 11:32 PM

Peter worked very hard to remove all external wood on our boat. Besemo is right about what needs to be done to repair peeling and discolored varnish.

Varnish breaks down in UV - sunlight. So it must be lightly sanded and varnished every 3 to 6 months in the tropics if you want to avoid it peeling and chipping. If that happens, back to cleaning it down to bare wood and starting all over again with 7 or 8 (or more) coats of varnish to restore luster and protection. Even though cruisers supposedly have all the time in the world to maintain their brightwork, I don't know many cruisers who care to spend the time varnishing their boat. I saw one lovely boat in Austtralia that had had covers made for all the teak rails, every bit of exterior wood except for the decks themselves. Most obsessive, looked to be horribly expensive, but probably worth it if the varnish lasted for more than six months between coats.

Cetol came out about 10+ years ago, and made a huge difference in brightwork maintenance. Because of the formulation and pigment in Cetol, it doesn't break down so quickly in UV. some people object to the ugly yellow color of Cetol.

Going bare wood, if you have teak. That's what most cruisers do if they're out long enough. I don't have the reference, but one of the sailing mags I used to read had an article about the care of teak. About all I remember is that overly aggressive cleaning and bleaching of the teak is going to wear it out long before its time. For more on that, somebody else will have to contribute because we never had, nor ever would consider, a teak deck. Give me white fiberglass any day.


JamesHaylett 05-31-2006 11:54 PM

Hi Gallivanters,

As besemo described it already very clearly ( ignore point 17 haha); i only have a very small addition to make.

Shall we name it point 2.5?

mix the varnisch with a little boiled linseedoil.

Ik keeps the varnisch flexible and the "pigmented" varnish

provides for a UV filter.

Then to point 3........ and on... and on..... and on.....

Hi Besemo,

Go tupperware? What is then the excuse

to have every half hour a beer?



S/Y jamesHaylett

The Netherlands

besemo 06-01-2006 06:23 PM


Originally Posted by name='Converted Post'
Originally posted by JamesHaylett

Hi Gallivanters,

As besemo described it already very clearly ( ignore point 17 haha); i only have a very small addition to make.

Shall we name it point 2.5?

mix the varnisch with a little boiled linseedoil.

Ik keeps the varnisch flexible and the "pigmented" varnish

provides for a UV filter.

Then to point 3........ and on... and on..... and on.....

Hi Besemo,

Go tupperware? What is then the excuse

to have every half hour a beer?



S/Y jamesHaylett

The Netherlands

Hi Jeroen,

why ignore point 17 - I consider it very good advice. But - I myself prefer steel boats - so with rust and all there is always an excuse for the beer. Since I don't own a boat right now I learned to drink beer without or with non - boat - related excuses.




Auzzee 06-01-2006 07:09 PM

Has anyone tried the US timber coating products sold under the ULTIMATE banner. I have emailed the manufacturers, but they have not responded. I saw an article about them, written by the 'contra king', in Latitudes and Attitudes. He seems to think it is the best timber clear coating ever invented. But I think he is driven more by the freebie factor than objectivity. Can anyone enlighten me...I love my timber dorade boxes, hatch covers etc. and really want to keep them bright'n'shiny'n'new. I am therefore well versed in most of the steps in the 17 step plan...but I am getting a bit damned sick of constantly repeating the clean and oil routine.


Oscar 06-02-2006 06:49 AM

Know how much work the varnish thing is....not going there.

Tried the Cetol thing (actually Woodpro which is not yellow)....holding up OK in protected areas otherwise....>/sad.gif

Sanded cockpit grates down and used boiled linseed oil. Give it a wipe with another coat about four times a year, takes five minutes. Salt water seems to attack it somewhat, but the new coats soak right in. One of the things I like about it is that it is very smooth, but not slippery. The grates look cared for, as in not neglected. They are in no way "bristol".

I think the experiment is a success, and will be expanded to handrails on deck.

I also use it to wipe down interior wood. It appears to keep the mold at bay.

JamesHaylett 06-02-2006 03:59 PM

Hi besemo,

Well, i had to say it because i own a wooden lugger.

Sometimes i dream about the maintenance of plastic boats

and wake up as a happy man, look around at all the wood that

surrounds me, overthink the "to do" list, drink some coffee

thinking "maybe i should switch to plastic?", get depressed

and then take a look at the beauty of the boat and grow back happy again.

By the time i am abusing my sanding machine, i'm back

to full happiness again.

Especially when SHE takes me out for sailing. Love the traditional

seagoing (and forgiving) capabilities and the gaff rig.

About beer, ever tasted the dutch brand Grolsch? mjum



S/Y jamesHaylett

The Netherlands

Oscar 06-02-2006 07:39 PM

Hoi Jeroen....what kind of wooden lugger do you have? Zeg 't maar in het Hollands. ;)

If I was a liveaboard with nothing to do but care for the boat, wood would be a definite possibility. Reality is that I also have a pile of bricks to care for and teachers to pay. And oh yes, there is that minor matter of my employ. Then again, flying airplanes is alnost as much fun as sailing.

Nausikaa 06-03-2006 11:49 AM

Hi All,

Jeroen's tip about mixing boiled linceed oil is a good one. When I was a navigating cadet in the Far East in the early 70's we had three Chinese painters on each ship who only took care of the brightwork and the painting of the ship's plate arround the officers' accomodation. They made a magnificent job of 'graining' the steel to make it look like wood. I know there is a special name for this technique but it escapes me for the moment.

Regarding brightwork, I have had very good experience of a Norwegian product called Owatrol. You sand to bare wood, as if varnishing, and then apply Owatrol which flows easily and dries to a fairly hard surface; but not as hard as varnish so it does not crack if it is hit by something heavy. Once applied, an annual or twice annual treatmetn consisting of a light sanding and reapplication is sufficient to keep the brightwork in good order.

One tip: irrespective of the product you use, it is a good idea to cover bright work as much as possible to avoid u.v. deteriation. Just be wary of trapping moisture instead.

All the best,



donnalange 06-06-2006 12:19 PM

Has anyone got information on the coating "Bristol Finish"? It is a 2 part polyurethane type. I need to finish over it and wondered if there was any information out there regarding over layering. Thanks

Gallivanters 06-06-2006 10:53 PM

Hiya Donna,

I'm certainly no expert, but...

I used Bristol Finish on new teak in my boss' Whaler and found it pretty easy to apply and looked great for one season. One season only.

Maybe it was because it was new timber in the tropics - but it developed a few cracks, water got under it and soon needed serious attention.

This is where I decided to never again use Bristol Finish (or any epoxy type exterior finish) because it was hard as nails to maintain and even harder to remove.

My boss demands a mirror finish which requires me to hire a crew to sand and apply five coats of varnish to all vessels between seasons.

On our own boat - I use Decks Olje #1 & 2 in the shaded cockpit area and I let anything exposed to direct exposure weather to silver.

Bristol Finish brand teak treatment? I learned my lesson on that one the hard way and steer clear of it now.

Congratulations on your inspirational voyage. Solo non-stop from North America to New Zealand via Cape Good Hope - WELL DONE!

When are you coming back to St Thomas? I'd like another dance, okay.



JamesHaylett 06-06-2006 10:59 PM

He Oscar,

A lugger hull (oak on oak), and a ketch gaff rigging with topsail.

Displacement 22 tons (incl. ballast that is). Only one winch (anchor), everything is done with old fashioned tackles.

Kijk maar eens op Hier vindt je de Nederlandse

OGA website.

Leuke verzameling hobby's heb jij!!!



S/Y JamesHaylett

The Netherlands

Oscar 06-08-2006 02:45 AM

Nice picture, Jeroen. You mean cutter rig right?....(two jibs not two masts).

Waar lig jij?

JamesHaylett 06-08-2006 07:24 PM

Hoi Oscar,

Nop, she's a ketch, but you can't see the mizzen from the picture.

But she has indeed a staysail and a jib before the mainmast.

Without any winches especially the jib is a B*T*H to handle.

Does anybody has any experience in flying a mizzen staysail (or jib)

on a traditional boat?

Het is niet zo'n geweldige foto, ik hoop deze zomer iemand zo gek te krijgen om een paar rolletjes vol te schieten.

Hoe kom jij zo in de US terecht?

S/Y JamesHaylett

Jeroen bender

The Netherlands

donnalange 07-06-2006 05:46 PM

Hi Kirk, Great to see you! How did we miss that dance? tanks for input on Bristol Finish. I did sand it all down before I left NZ and applied a coat of epoxy to hold it all til I get back. Will have to sand again and go from there. The other concern I had was working with a wood called Brazilian Cherry. A mahogany like wood coming from south america. Given the way I rebuilt that deck hull joint using the wood as a mold to the fiberglass, I have to be real careful to maintain the wood. Can't afford for it to get ruined. Guess I'll succomb to the land of varnish. Hopefully, this second half of the circumnavigation will be less to wind. The finish will have a better chance. Plus, can't get the feckin bottom growth off the topsides all the way to the rails on the starboard stern. who'd have thought. GREAT to have been back in the Islands!! big hugs, Donna

SeaVenture 07-23-2006 04:49 AM

We bought our Hudson Force 50--lots of brightwork--in 2003 after it had sat untouched in the Mexican sun (San Carlos) for 3 years. I'd varnished my NC-based sharpie and was looking at having to redo her mahogany after only one season in the sun, so I was amazed at Sea Venture's outside teak. The owner had applied generous coats of Cetol and it still looked quite good. Now, I admit, the Cetol will never be as gorgeous as varnish, but I'm heading back to NC next week to redo Puff's varnish--and she's getting Cetol. Purists will wince, but I've far too much wood to maintain to care! Like would probably be easier without it, but I can't help it: I love the look and I've gotten used to the slight tint of Cetol Light.

The boys in San Carlos stripped the wood before we left--as a favor I assume, but I only had time to put three coats on while in La Paz before Sea Venture moved north to the CA Delta. Last spring I sanded and reapplied the Cetol--a good three coats plus one of clear. It still looks great. Before we leave this fall, I'll put on another maintenance coat.

We get compliments galore, even from the motor boats that clog the marina. I can't wait until her insides are as lovely--but we're still redoing all systems (or rather Michael is). The main thing he's doing now is giving me a u-shaped galley in the lower salon to take the place of one designed for midgets in the pilot house.


krissteyn 07-27-2006 04:28 PM

Had a post a while back with minimal response - COELAN is a german product that came to my attention from circumnavigator SCOTTY-ANNE .

Swears by it - but I have had no other positive response.

supposed to be better BUT ???

Auzzee 07-27-2006 07:12 PM

Hi Kris, I also have been considering the brightwork problem. I have read the many glowing reports regarding COELAN on the net, but it appears no one outside a small radius of the germanic countries has ever seen or heard of the product. I am tempted to try to import a few litres, but would really appreciate firstly hearing from someone who has actually used the stuff in a tropical cruising situation. Regards. David.

Gallivanters 08-05-2006 09:51 PM

Hi Everybody!

We've just returned from being Dirt Dwellers (as Capt Fatty puts it) for six weeks of living ashore looking after a squillion dollar villa. Life is good!

Anyway - we used the time to perforn a haul-out and attend to things we cannot do on the boat while living aboard.

And - I'd like to let everyone know that we got GREAT results by re-finishing our teak & holly cabin sole with an inexpensive product available from Ace Hardware. It's a McClusky product called GYMCOAT and is a single part polyurathane specifically formulated for finishing basketball courts & gymnasiums.

We all know how much abuse a school gymnasium is subjected to.

Only $18 per quart which was plenty for three complete coats on a 49 ft boat.

If you accidentally drop a wrench - it'll dent the wood but will not crack the coating!

It dries overnight but it requires two weeks to fully cure.

It comes in gloss and satin finish and looks GREAT!

GymCoat for your cabin sole - you'll love it!


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