View Full Version : Varnished Spreader Tops how long will it last?

Jay Greer
04-21-2009, 01:53 PM
Well, the last time we varnished the masts and spreader tops on our H28 "Bright Star" was some fifteen and a half months ago. Not wanting to wait so long as to need to strip again, we did an inspection to check on the condition of the varnish. My wife Anne is a lot lighter than I and so she gets the pleasure of seeing the bay from aloft. Needless to say, we could have gone another three or four months before the varnish surface on the spreader tops became critical. But,
it is a simple job to sand tac and apply two or three fresh up coats of, you know what brand of varnish. We are only doing the spreaders at this time and will do the sticks in July when we return from Port Townsend.
http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9da00b3127ccec6bf1983e2e900000040O00QYsmrNy5bsQ e3nwg/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D720/ry%3D480/
http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9da00b3127ccec6be3ea0820d00000040O00QYsmrNy5bsQ e3nwg/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/
http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9da00b3127ccec6bf882da29700000040O00QYsmrNy5bsQ e3nwg/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

Bob Cleek
04-21-2009, 02:24 PM
Lucky you! Port Townsend's weather is a lot easier on varnish than a lot of other places, as I'm sure you know. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty... and varnish!"

Some years back, not having the luxury of a "live-in boat-("N word" deleted)," I bit the bullet and painted just the tops of mine white so they at least looked varnished from below. It was a slipperly slope. Now they are all white. It was time for a strip and refinish, so I let the whole mast go and it looks like hell at the moment. Time to pull the stick and truck it home to the shop for a complete refit. Sigh...

Andrew Craig-Bennett
04-21-2009, 02:36 PM
A good deal depends on what your spreaders are made out of!

Boatbuilders are very much inclined to make them out of spruce (for lightness) or ash (for strength) and both these timbers will rot in no time flat once the paint goes.

There is also a tendency to make them flat on the upper and lower sides, whereas an oval cross section gives better strength for weight and does not allow drips to sit on the upper surface.

When I bought Mirelle I was shocked to find that her spreaders were made of teak, a most unsuitable wood, being heavy and not particularly strong...on the other hand, she is a gaff cutter, not an offshore racer..

25 years later I have come to realise that this is not such a bad idea at all.

And I use Coelan on them - fit and forget for four years at a time!

04-21-2009, 02:51 PM
How strong does a spreader need to be. Seems like its mostly a longitudinal compression load.

04-21-2009, 03:44 PM
Not knowing any better.....I painted mine with low viscosity epoxy, then sanded and varnished, but painted the tops white also.....every year when we inspected the rigging from the top down, she got new varnish and paint....never a problem.

Jay Greer
04-21-2009, 05:15 PM
Actually this was a bit of a testimate for the longevity of a certain brand of varnish that ,unfortunatly, is now very hard to find.

04-25-2009, 04:32 PM
I think it's a pretty good testament for the varnish too. It would be even better if it had been in Florida. Enough coats (8?) and she should last about a year though.

Jay Greer
04-26-2009, 09:57 AM
Originaly there were eight coats applied. The fresh up consited of two. Each new coat from sanding to varnish applied took about 45 minutes per mast. That, in my opinion, is not too much time to spend for yearly maintenance. In July we will varnish the sticks. This consists of sanding on the way up and tacking and varnishing on the way down. This takes about two to two and a half hours per mast. Again, it aint no big thing!

04-26-2009, 10:38 AM
I always pulled the stick.....seemed a lot easier for me and I could inspect all the wiring ends at the same time.

Jay Greer
04-26-2009, 12:49 PM
Actually, I prefer to varnish a stick in the boat as it is less hassle. It is also a lot cheaper than hiring a crane to pull the stick. However I will pull a stick after five or six years in order to get a full inspection. This means pulling and thoroughly cleaning the standing rigging as well.

04-28-2009, 10:51 PM
im going to be bringing DECATUR back up to mourilyan harbour (from sydney) in a couple of months. at which point in time i will have to renew the varnish on both masts.
her masts were varnished before stepping and just prior to launching in june 2004. i used 8 coats of international goldspar. on one mast i brushed it on and the other i used those sponge type brushes. the varnish has aged well given that she spent a lot of time in the tropics..BUT..i treat my varnished masts like i do my sails...when not in use they get covered. easy for a gaffer anyhow!!!
i made covers for the masts which has no doubt extended the life of the varnish.
i will use the same varnish again. the picture shows the green mast covers. i used sunbrella same as for the sail covers.

04-28-2009, 11:37 PM
My spruce spreaders are Seattle Gray Brightsides on top & varnish below. The color is 'cause that's the hull color, so there's always some kicking around. Plus she's from Seattle...

The boat's in Maine, so the weather/sun is similar to yours.

I get 4 years on the paint, 2 on the bottom-side varnish (actually - it's the edges that - not surprisingly - go first). Stick goes 2 years with no problem - though I try to give her at least a coat or 2 every year - but sometimes the launching rush means that doesn't happen. The stick takes exactly a quart, so it's a fair bit of work.

I always figured the birds don't care if the tops are varnished - just like the fish won't notice a dutchman under the bottom paint. :cool:

Oh - Epiphanes