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Mast maintenance


2 Apr 2019 | Last update: 23 Dec 2020

A wooden mast spends its entire life exposed to the elements. In the Mediterranean, that means harsh sunlight, year round.

A wooden mast after a couple of years exposure to the Mediterranean sun.

Until recently, the conventional wisdom was that exposed wood should be varnished. Varnish creates a film on top of the wood. Marine varnishes have UV blockers, like sunscreen for wood. It doesn't last for long. The varnish film begins to break down, cracking, splitting, and flaking. It gets ugly real fast. That's what I used last time I cleaned the mast.

Cleaning up damaged varnish is a huge task. You can scrape it off, if your name is Hercules. You can't use mechanical sanding equipment, because the varnish melts and gums up the paper in seconds. You can use chemical paint strippers, but that's just horrible.

Or else you throw money at the problem to make it go away. You pull the mast out of the boat and hire some workers to do the task for you. I don't have that kind of money.

So let me introduce myself. My name is Hercules, and I'm starting at the bottom and working my way up.

A cleaned and sanded section.

It does look stunning when the wood is cleaned up and sanded down.

As I said, the conventional wisdom is to varnish, but that sets you up for a repeat task of Hercules a couple of years down the line.

The alternative treatment is oil. It doesn't form a film on the surface, it penetrates into the wood. The finish is stunning. But no UV protection, so it doesn't last. Oiled wood finishes are easy to touch up when they start to wear away but not if it's the whole mast turning grey in the sun.

But that seems to have changed in recent years. There are now external wood oils that incorporate UV blockers. I asked an architect friend for a recommendation and he suggested "Osmo UV protection oil 420". He uses it for external carpentry on his upscale country houses. So I got a tin of the stuff and a couple of years ago used it on Gemini's hatches. I left them exposed to the sun and the results are fantastic. It does seem to suffer a bit if exposed to lots of salt water, like the forward hatch. But the main hatch doesn't get much saltwater on it, and it still looks perfect 2 years after applying the product. That's good enough for me, varnish wouldn't survive nearly as successfully.

Oil is also much easier to maintain, you can just rub any failed patches down with fine sandpaper and paint a few coats of oil on. With varnish, you have to scrape it down to bare wood and start again.

And to my eye, the finish is even more beautiful than varnished wood.

Oiled wooden mast. I can look at this stuff all day.

Told you I can look at this stuff all day!

What our customers say

Over 250 ★★★★★ reviews

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence & Hall of Fame 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

Relaxing family excursion with a great skipper!

We had a terrific 3+ hour cruise on the Gemini with David. He welcomed my wife and I and our three boys (6, 10, 16) on board and despite the cloudy skies and chop we really had a great time. Packed some bread, charcuterie, cheese and drinks enjoyed the view of Barcelona and some interesting conversation with David. Since we couldn't jump in the Med we really just spent the 3 hours in relaxation, and it was still the highlight of our 3 days in Barcelona. Just an FYI, there is paid PARKING literally right next to the boat, just drive down Carrer de la Marina and swing a left where there is the parking barrier but the underground pay garage at Port Olimpic is an option as well. Thanks David!
Sami C | | 22 August 2015

Great wind, great sail!

Our sail with Dave on the Gemini was fantastic. Dave was quick to get us information on booking and how to locate the boat. He was ready for departure as soon as we arrived. Gemini is a classic old wooden boat that is very stable and takes the water beautifully. Our weather was perfect with lots of wind which made for a great sail. Dave stopped so we could jump in the ocean for a swim. It was a great afternoon and we highly recommend this boat. Dave was a pleasant host and let my husband and daughter help sail. It was super easy to get to using the metro.
sdeboon | Red Deer, Canada | 6 July 2018

Sailing on the coast of Barcelona

In my experience sailing can be a great and challenging adventure and it can be very relaxing chilling out. It all depends on weather and season. I have tried sailing on this boat both in rough weather and in nice summer days and I love both experiences.
Signite | Barcelona, Spain | 1 March 2013

Incredible, Holiday Highlight

2:00 start time. Even though the sky was cloudy, we had the time of our lives. The sea was warm when we got in, Dave was lovely, the boat was charming and brilliant. Whether you think you are into sailing or not, give it a go, you will LOVE it! Kids and adults alike had a truly amazing time aboard this beautiful ship with it's fabulous skipper.
Rhiannon M | Leicester, United Kingdom | 30 August 2015

Wonderfully relaxing, friendly, and informative trip

My wife booked this trip - we were a group of 9 (3 related families) - Classic Sail worked with another organization to ensure we got a boat that fit our group's size. It was clear that Dani had chosen a skipper that was fluent in English, and was just as native to Spain as could be! Bernardo was an excellent skipper - talked very knowledgeably about the culture and history of Barcelona and the buildings that we could see as we motored out from where the boat was anchored (Port Olympic). He also pointed out some of the sailing tips that an accomplished sailor would know - the ripples on the water indicating the location of wind, the tell-tales near the sail that he used to track the wind shifts to ensure the sail was oriented right. What was incredible was the extent to which he was able to encourage our younger daughter to feel confident in "helping" him sail, when we were way out in blue water, returning back to shore. Most of us got into the blue water to swim a while - and again, Bernardo had the right words of encouragement to get the faint-hearted into the water. We had a great time in the crystal-clear water, which was bracing at the first touch, but very comfortable rapidly after, not at all warm. We would heartily recommend this 2.5 hour sailing trip as a great way to relax in the Mediterranean!
Popsrao | New York City, New York | 17 July 2015

Charming Boat with a friendly skipper

I thoroughly a 3 hour cruise with Captain Dave on board Gemini. The boat oozes charm and is really interesting in its setup. As someone who only recently started sailing, i had an amazing time chatting with Captain Dave. Even thiugh the wind was very light, i had a great time. Highly recommended
Aquanauticaldbn | Durban, South Africa | 3 December 2018

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