Baggy Wrinkles

Baggy Wrinkles
S/V Nautica, Hull #614, Built at Whitby Boatworks Ltd., Ontario, Canada 1977, one of the most recognizeable Carl Alberg designs. A masthead sloop displacing 9000 lbs, keel hull, Yanmar 15 hp diesel, LOA 30.27 Beam 8.75, Draft 4.29, roller furling headsail, tiller, berths for 4, interior teak bulkheads, teak cap rail and cockpit teak coamings, 12 volt lighting, aluminum mast support, Harken self tailing winches, in its day was designed for customers as a Cruiser-Racer, the Alberg 30 remains a Classic design of the modest Alberg inventory.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

An old sailboat is never without a to-do list.  When La Belle Vie settled into her new home she admitted to having a variety of things to fix.  There was the toe rail, the rub rail, the transom taff-rail, the deck, the shrouds, the..., well, I could just go on and on.

Overwhelming?  Not at all.  Normal.  The Cape Dory is the perfect retirement job.  Much to do, time consuming, and worth every minute of effort. 

So there I was in the garage with all the bright-work from the vessel scattered about in my garage.  It was late winter, about 45 degrees outside, and inside, it was almost 50.  The varnish needs about that much to function.  After sanding each piece of teak with 80 grit, then 250 grit and then 400 grit, I was nearly ready to begin the varnishing.  The wood was weary when it arrived.  I examined each piece for integrity.
As I fingered through this pile of weathered teak I imagined who might have sailed on La Belle Vie in years past.  I could almost hear the gleeful cries of kids, wrapped in orange coast guard life vests.   What they must have imagined of the sea and the wonder of sailing?  The bright-work had heard these cries, the laughter, and probably felt the hands of many enchanted sailors and would-be sailors.

But for now, those cries had stopped.  And the bright-work was weary, tired, and grey.  I began working each piece.  I peeled the grey back.  Some owners laud the weathered look as a true sailing vessel, but as I brushed the grey away I saw the genuine beauty of teak.  At points the wood had been worked on and I left some of the original varnish.  At other places I bore down harder to bring out the pinkish flavor of the wood. 

One of the coamings, pictured above, had had short scrapes in the surface.  It looked as though someone had worn a life jacket with a metal clasp.  The abrasions ruined the coaming and it had been varnished over but not sanded clear.  I wondered who that was that would have done such a thing?  How could they just hurt the coaming sail after sail with disregard to the vessel?  Unthinkable to me.

It is funny how I began to wonder about all the people who had leaned back on these coamings in 39 years of sailing.  And then I realized that La Belle Vie could only speak through wear and tear.  She had done well for her years but she needed care.  She needed fixing.

The Epiphanes varnish is Danish.  It is terribly expensive at 50 dollars a quart.  But thinned, it was able to varnish about 7 to 8 coats of matte finish on all these pieces.   The more I varnished the better she looked.  I felt as if I was bringing her back to life.

The varnishing with Epiphanes was really quite easy.  The method was apply the varnish every 12 hours and  no sanding between coats.  If you wait 72 hours, you must sand with 600 grit. 

People often talk about varnishing like it is a pain in the neck.  I found the process was simple once the sanding work had been done.  Yet too, I found the application was well worth the effort.  The wood is designed to show through with a matte finish, unlike shiny gloss which shows every imperfection.  And I had purchase the matte by mistake! 

After applying to the coamings, and re fitting the bright-work aboard the vessel, she beamed: