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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!

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Classic Sailing Barcelona Yacht Charter

An excellent afternoons sail with Dave off the coast of Barcelona. It was an absolute joy and would thoroughly recommend it whether you are experienced or not. It was lovely to leave the hot city behind and have the sea breeze on your face.
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Trip Highlight!!

We had a wonderful time!! Gorgeous views of the city and a fun time on the boat. We took all 5 of our kids ranging in age from 3-17 and everyone felt it was the best part of our trip. Would definitely recommend
kscottsmith5 | New Canaan, Connecticut

Wonderful start to our vacation!

I traveled to Spain with a group of friends and we began our trip with an afternoon aboard the Gemini! The day couldn't have been more perfect weather-wise, and David was kind enough to shop for us for our drinks and munchies, as we had just landed in Spain and had no time to do it ourselves. He found a spot for us to jump in the sea to cool off .......and for me, it was one more check off my bucket list to say I swam in the Mediterranean! I only wish we'd had time at the end of our vacation to sail on the Gemini one last time! Thanks for a wonderful day David!!
Robin H | Iowa, United States

A beautiful old boat, a wonderful experience

Dave, the skipper and owner of Gemini is a thoroughly lovely guy whose love of his boat and sailing is very evident. The trip was relaxing and we learned much about the boat and sailing and just enjoyed being away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We would thoroughly recommend this trip. The fact that dave is Scottish means there is no language barrier which further enhanced the trip.
Lou_Jenkins | Bury St Edmunds, United Kingdom

Lovely way to spend a couple of hours

Our group of 11, including 6 children aged 9-12, had a wonderful trip. Captain Danny was very friendly and let all the kids have a go at skippering the boat, which was one of their highlights of visiting Barcelona!
Melsybabes | Warlingham, United Kingdom

Our 1st sail in the Mediterranean

I'll preface this post with: just so you know my wife and I race, cruise and sail our own boat and sailing the mediterranean is a long time dream and we do plan to come spend a good couple of years on these safe and fun protected waters between Africa and Europe divide.
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