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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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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

Fantastic Experience

Highly recommended for a group of friends/family. 3 hours was a perfect amount of time to cruise the harbour and the captain really gave us space so it felt like our own boat. Much preferred to the large catamaran tours with 50+ people
mitchpittaway | Toronto, Canada | 18 July 2019

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

Didn't Make The Sail, But Still 5 Stars

Unfortunately we had to cancel our trip the same day because two in our party had a medical emergency and went home. Dave was incredibly easy to work with and responsive and gave us our deposit back without issue. We really appreciated it. We were very bummed to miss the boat trip, but if we are ever in Barcelona again we definitely will put it at the top of the list. Thank you very much again, Dave.
Neeners815 | Jersey City, New Jersey | 4 September 2018

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

A lovely way to spent an afternoon!

The whole thing was very straightforward; we emailed Dave asking about certain time slots then reserved one on his website and paid a 30 Euro deposit. We arrived at the dock ahead of time and identified his boat. Dave himself was lovely and very interesting to talk to. It was a bit choppier than we would have liked but what a lovely way to cool down. It was very hot when we were there, about 30 degrees so we enjoyed the break on Dave's boat. All in all a good experience!
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