Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Wooden Boat Hatches, Oil or Varnish?

One of my recent posts proved to be quite controversial, regular readers will recall I have been renovating the hatches on this old boat – and I covered them in strips of a teak-like wood (oily and red). Between each strip I had rubber compound caulking. Now the controversial bit was what came next – varnish, oil or nothing at all?

French friends suggested nothing at all, the oily wood can look after itself and it eventually matures to a silver-grey. Well, yes I’ve done this with the green oak bits of the house I am renovating, but for a boat? Well I always think grey weathered teak make a boat look uncared for, so, oil or varnish? Well, much of what I read suggested oily woods don’t like varnish, the natural oil make adhesion difficult. Then I read an independent article in Classic Boat magazine about oil produced by International Paints but I misnamed it – called it ‘Woodcoat’ when in fact it is called ‘Woodskin’. I had used it on other parts of the boat so decided to use it on the hatches as well. So far so good – except a number of readers suggested that it would not be as good as varnish.

Well its done now and I guess time will tell. Practical Boat Owner Magazine, about a year ago, suggested that you can varnish over Woodskin, so this may be a solution if I need to use it. The main criticism seems to have been that a hatch laying flat and facing the sky is more exposed than other wooden elements of a boat and that only varnish with strong UV protection will do the job. So far I am pleased with the results but here is a word of warning for anyone considering using the same process. Oil soaks into wood but not into rubber caulking. As a result I found that whereas the Woodskin was dry to the touch within a few hours of application on the wood, it stayed wet and sticky on the rubber for several weeks. In fact I think it would still be sticky had I not wiped and cleaned the rubber strips with white spirit.

Meanwhile, as I have been sanding and polishing Gel coat, another boat only 100 yards away has been getting a make-over too. This beached and abandoned fishing boat drew the attention of a local artist ‘Cadeon’ who said he wanted somehow to capture the spirit of her youth --- He’s done a pretty good job don’t you think?