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Mast maintenance


2 Apr 2019 | Last update: 28 Jun 2019

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

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Fantastic relaxing sail!

Bernardo the skipper was wonderfully knowledgeable and friendly - made the 3 hour sail most enjoyable! Water was clear and fresh! Highly recommended for some relaxation, water and fun during the hot, hot summer!
DPLosAngeles | Los Angeles | 29 July 2015

Great Sail with Dave

We sailed with Dave in June of 2015 and had a great afternoon with him, so when we found ourselves back in Barcelona (July 2017), sailing with Dave again was a must do. We had another great afternoon with Dave. Sailing in the Mediterranean is a great way to see the city. We went for a swim, five miles out; the water was amazing. Highly recommend a sailing trip with Dave.
Larry G | | 18 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

Perfect romantic evening

I planned a private sunset sail with my partner as a surprise while we were on holidays in Barcelona. it was perfect! Dave was wonderful, the boat was perfect, it was lovely to sit, eating some cheese and watching the sun set and the lights go on around the town. A very special experience - highly recommended! Thank you again Dave for a memorable evening
Mima_Pope | Darwin, Australia | 21 October 2015

Highlight of our Barcelona weekend hen party trip !

Dave is a very friendly and helpful person and our tour was beyond our expectations. We surprised our friend for her bachelorette trip and this was def the highlight! Absolutely fantastic! We had an amazing 3 hour boat ride on the beautiful gemini boat. I can highly recommend this tour! If you want to enjoy a special boatride with your special one(s), this is for.
Michal_travels | Berlin, Germany | 11 July 2018

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

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