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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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Great dip in the Mediterranean

I booked this classic sailing trip with Dave for our honeymoon back in the summer 2015. I promised Dave to give him a 5-stars, comments and recommendations so here it is.
vspeang | Greater London, United Kingdom | 1 January 2018

Excellent romantic excursion

My fiancée and I went on a sunset cruise with David. It was an incredible and memorable experience. David was very easy to work with and responsive beforehand, providing advice on what to bring. The actual trip was fantastic. It was a bit rocky to start, which seems to be typical during the early evening in Barcelona. We took some anti-nausea pills before heading out so we were fine, but I'd recommend this for anyone who is prone to seasickness. However about halfway through it calmed down a ton. The sunset itself was unreal. Barcelona doesn't have a great view of the sunset in the city since the sun sets over the mountains but out on the water you can see everything. The trip was so romantic and is something we are going to always remember.
Dave B | Boston | 31 July 2018

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.
Silentninja100 | London, United Kingdom | 4 September 2013

A flawless Barcelona Experience, beautiful sailing adventure!

We have nothing but good things to say about our sailing trip with Dave. We created this Trip Advisor account just so that we could write a review for this experience. We went on a morning excursion that took us about 2 miles off the Barcelona coastline and lasted around 3 hours. The harbor was actually closed when we started but he still took us out for the full experience despite the delay. Very accommodating when I got a little sea-sick and was more than understanding, which was a huge positive for us. We slept in the sun for quite a bit of our journey. If you're worried about having to carry a conversation or awkward silences, don't be! He was very charming and conversational when needed but gave us our space as well. We will definitely be doing this again next time we are in the area!
Kipdsumner | Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany | 13 July 2014

HAPPY SAILING

If you want to go sailing for a few hours on a 1940s sail boat then do this. I came across another provider with good reviews but it was a modern catamaran which didn't interest me.
DalBelloV | Barcelona, Spain | 20 July 2018

Chillin on the Mediterranean Sea

It was quick and easy to book this trip. The boat was easy to find and captain Dave was the perfect host. Unobtrusively providing a wonderful outing for us and allowing for us to truely enjoy relaxing in the boat and taking in the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea. Absolutely beautiful! I highly recommend this!
Julia H | Austin | 3 August 2018

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