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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

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Excellent option for a relaxing and romantic experience in Barcelona

My wife and I enjoyed a sunset cruise in July. Although the weather was warm in the city (roughly 90 deg F), the temp was definitely cooler on the water, even with limited breezes. Marina easily accessible from the old city. Great views, smooth sailing, comfortable one-of-a-kind sailboat, and a personable and cordial skipper. Slight downside on supposedly "limited" bathroom facilities, but if you plan ahead . . . :)
Christopher S | Chicago, Illinois | 24 July 2015

Best sailor and best boat in Barcelona

I did sailed on Gemini in december 2012 with some friends, the experience was great.
ReyGuigu | Lyon | 27 February 2013

The Jewel of Barcelona!!!!

My husband and I have just returned from 3 weeks in Spain. The top memory of our trip is our 3 hour sail with Dave, the owner of Classic Sail Barcelona. It was definitely the most memorable moment of our trip. Try something new and outside of the regular tourist trips. You can go as a group, a couple, or just by yourself. Dave will do everything he can to accommodate your needs. How many people get to sail on the Mediterranean? Don't miss this relaxing, enjoyable, and memorable trip!
Judith C | Cuenca, Ecuador | 13 November 2018

Sail Gemini!

The environment was more like a friend taking you out on a boat, rather than a cookie-cutter tour boat. Dave the skipper was an excellent guide, pointing out sights on the water and across the Barcelona cityscape, and even let a couple of us take a turn at the tiller (no scrapes, thankfully!) I recommend this to anyone who wants a REAL experience out in the waters off Barcelona.
Andrew M | Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | 2 August 2014

Champagne & the Sea

What a wonderful and relaxing three hours out on the sea with friends! This is an amazing company to use as you can do what you want, it isn't like the big stuff companies that lay everything out for you. We brought our own champagne and food for a picnic on the boat, it was lovely! If you have a group of 4 or more would highly recommend booking out the entire boat, it is just lovely!
Lacey J | South Boston, Massachusetts, United States | 18 August 2015

Lovely morning on the sea

A group of 5 of us spent a lovely 3.5 hours on the water. Dave was really friendly and welcoming, made us feel safe and let us bring food and drink aboard. The wind was very low that morning so we spent some time jumping off the boat and swimming. The whole experience was so much more characterful than most other boat trips I've been on. HIGHLY recommended.
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