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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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Awesome day on the water!

Very interesting to see Barcelona from the water. I got a great panorama shot of the city.
davidm_PDX | | 6 May 2012

Fantastic evening

We went on a sunset cruise with Dave (who is lovely) and had a great time. I enjoyed the sunshine and sunset while watching the coastline fade away and my boyfriend got to do some sailing, so everyone was happy!
FuzzAldrin | Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom | 22 October 2015

Amazing Family adventure

We had an Amazing time, we where able to have such a relaxing time. Dave answered all of our questions before and during our trip. We have 2 kids ages 4 and 9 they loved it. Dave gave us a tour of he boat and explained safety tips before we left, made sure we where comfortable. It was an incredible experience, Definitely recommend it.
Daniel R | Wiesbaden, Germany | 19 August 2015

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

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 | 2 January 2018

Brilliant! A perfect morning!

A wonderful morning of sun and sea, enjoyed hugely by adults and children alike (11 and 15). Dave is a gracious, knowledgeable host but not at all intrusive - very amenable when the kids wanted to stop the boat and swim. Much more personal than one of the more touristy operators who we watched setting off just before us. No better way to spend a sunny morning in Barcelona.
GemmaRLondon | London | 8 June 2018

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