Essay on bright work

One of the complaints I’ve heard of regarding the Bayfield 29 is that there is too much bright work to take care of. I don’t know that it is too bad. Bow sprit platform, rub rails, hand rails, eye brows, companionway trim, cap rails, and taffrail. Sounds like a lot; but most of the pieces are easy to deal with.

Still, the complaint rages on. I’ve been slowly moving around taking care of the previous owners neglect, and just completed the first coat on my cockpit wood (rough shape, hasn’t been touched since I bought the boat). I think I have the solution to dealing with the bright-work with a minimum of pain.

First, if you don’t already own your boat, buy one where the trim wood is in rough shape. Not fall of the boat rough, but former finishes are flaking off rough, or at least where the bright-work is not actually all that bright. This is helpful in that it works to set up realistic standards. Buy a yacht with gleaming varnish and you will feel honor bound to maintain it. THAT is a pain, and takes away too may good sailing days, and I’m certain what the above complainers are talking about. Skip that altogether.

Second, when you scrape off the old junk (the first time will be a bit unpleasant; but get into a rhythm and hopefully you can get it done it a day or two) don’t worry so much about bringing it down to bare teak. If you want a perfect job, perfect prep is important. Lower your standards to “good enough” and the stress is significantly reduced. If the old varnish doesn’t want to come off the wood, why fight it? Get a good scuff on it and move on.

Third, skip the traditional varnish altogether, which seems like way too much work. I’ve been using Cetol. The original, orangish version. The darker tint I suspect helps with UV protection. But even if it doesn’t, it seems to work toward evening out mismatched wood. It’s also easy to apply and long-lasting. I’ve heard complaints that it isn’t as pretty as regular varnish. Well, boo hoo. I’d rather be sailing than messing with it constantly.

Fourth, don’t worry too much about the instructions on the can. Oh, sure, if you want to do the best job possible I would follow the instructions to a T. But my standards have already been lowered. Besides, it’s not easy finding a day with no rain, proper humidity and temperature, but just cloudy enough to keep the boat out of direct sunlight (or at least early in on a morning without dew). You want the best job, I think you need to apply inside a shed. Forget best, and go with good enough.

Fifth, keep up on it. This is not a big deal as Cetol seems to last pretty well. Once a year scuff it up with a Scotchbrite pad, dust it off, and reapply. The whole boat can probably be done in a single day.

Sixth, go sailing and don’t worry about it again until next season.

Lower your standards. If it looks halfway decent from a boat length away, I’d say you are doing pretty good.