Monthly Archives: December 2015



Exhaustive Knowledge

An awareness of what is going on with your exhaust system can keep your engine running at peak performance and avoid costly repairs.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Years back, a friend of mine, short a mate for a late afternoon, early evening six-pack charter, asked me to work the deck for him. Fishing was good and on the way back to the barn, with just a few minutes to his dock, I noticed we were riding a bit low in the water and that the bilge pumps were now discharging fairly regularly. I told him about it and decided we would check things out as soon as we were shut down and our fishermen were on their way.

We discovered there was quite a bit of water below as well as having collected forward. I asked him to hit the starter button and as the engine turned over, I was shocked to see raw water pouring out from underneath the hose connecting to the riser. Instead of being discharged out the exhaust pipe, it was bucketing into the boat. When we took things apart, we discovered the riser itself was totally corroded from the inside with very little material left being held by the hose clamps. We had dodged a very big bullet and one that neither of us would ever forget.

Just like any other critical part of your boat’s engine, the exhaust system needs proper attention to ensure safe and smooth operation. Besides the chance of being exposed to noxious fumes, not doing so can lead to severe engine problems and yes, even sinking.


Checking out your boat’s exhaust system should be a part of your regular preventive maintenance regimen. Photo: DeAngelo Exhaust Systems

We usually take the exhaust system for granted and expect there is little if anything that can go wrong. First mistake. This is a very important maintenance component and while you should call in the experts if you suspect there is a problem brewing, there are some things you can look for to help you head off the sticker shock of a major engine overhaul.

By now, we all know that when an up stroking cylinder compresses atomized diesel fuel—or when a spark goes off in a gasoline engine—there is detonation. Once that occurs, the resultant gases given off need somewhere to go. And it is during the exhaust phase of your engine’s operation that this is accomplished. Not being able to efficiently do so will result in backpressure problems, the first of many that can occur.

“Most people don’t worry about it until something goes wrong; and when it does, it can be pretty bad,” says Jorge Lang, Operations Manager at Ft. Lauderdale’s DeAngelo Exhaust Systems. “Think of it as a human being; it has to inhale, through the air intakes, and exhale through the exhaust.”

Basically, backpressure is the inability for your engine to breathe properly and as easily as it should and results in poor performance, a cut in fuel economy, and decreased speed. In addition, there can be consequential damage to internal engine parts such as valves, stems, injectors, and critical gaskets. “If the exhaust is running straight out, you have no backpressure. But if it has to go through a ninety degree turn or through a muffler, or you’re going to throw water into that gas flow, your adding resistance.”


A corroded riser, left unchecked, can cause problems no one needs. Photo: BoatUS

Given the fact that diesel engine manufactures do not supply exhaust risers with their engines, this critical piece of equipment is therefore, an after market component where improper system design and sizing, that being the diameter of the exhaust pipe, can worsen the problem. “If the material used is also not of the proper grade, what you wind up with is a lethal combination of metal, exhaust fumes, and salt water that does not get along very well,” said Lang. “We’ve seen it all; some even thinking a Home Depot pipe job will suffice.”

Poorly designed exhausts can also allow water to flow back into the exhaust manifold, especially during large following sea conditions, and make its way into the engine. “There are a number of factors that determine how long a riser will last. Some of these include the quality of the welds, materials used, if the riser holds water when the engine is shut down, and how well it is supported.” Lang also suggests a regular inspection underneath your engine bed and stringers to look for rust spots, indicating a possible leak coming from somewhere.

Just as with your other important engine parameters, it’s best to have a base line for your exhaust system including correct operating temps for both cooling and exhaust systems, the right amount of visible exhaust flow should you not have an under water system, and of course, taking regular back pressure readings from your engine monitoring data. OEM’s have different predetermined backpressure limits based on critical internal features, so it’s best to check your engine manual or have the discussion with your engine manufacturer. Remember, the higher the backpressure, the more restricted the exhaust system will be. “Exceeding those limits will lead to problems,” said Lang.

Salt Deposit

A salt deposit on a muffler indicates a weeping spot where water is escaping. Photo: Centek Industries

But what if your running bottom and props are not fouled and your backpressure is within acceptable limits? “This happens a lot, especially with boats up north that are stored for the winter,” says Mechanical Engineer and Manager of Centek Industries’ Product Design & Engineering Bert Browning. “Something may have made its winter home in the exhaust pipe and either died or made a nest or some other kind of living space.” A careful check for obstructions before getting your boat back in the water should be part of your regular preventive maintenance regimen.

“While backpressure issues can result in higher exhaust temps you don’t necessarily need to have backpressure problems for this to result,” offered Browning. You can have some cooling water issues as a result of a faulty water raw pump or failed impellers. These should also be checked regularly. If that impeller is degraded or damaged, not only will the proper amount of cooling water be diminished but, should any of the vanes break loose, the rubber material can be pushed all the way through the cooling system and severely clog the water flow. Or, you may have picked up a plastic bag or some other debris through the intake hose. In this case, make sure you shut off—and open once done—the seacock before attempting to have a look. And always make sure, just as you check your oil and fluid levels before starting up, to have a look at your raw water strainer and clean the basket if any debris or fouling is present.

Another area to check is the condition of the blue and black hoses and the clamps, especially those connected to the riser and the mixing elbow. With high temperature ratings, blue hose, rated at 350F if preferable. Any telltale problems will show up as a discoloration on some portion of the hose, usually at the clamp site. And it’s a given that hoses should be double clamped. Other revealing signs, such as those with fiberglass, gelcoated, or even Awlgripped systems, will be a yellowish-brown discoloration and ‘flaky’ deterioration. “With fiberglass, over time, the resin will ‘cook out’ and start weeping resulting in salt deposits forming on the exterior surface of the exhaust pipe,” said Browning. “Losing the resin will cause the pipe to eventually soften and compress under the clamp force.”


A well-maintained exhaust system will result in better engine performance, improved fuel economy, and less impact on the environment. Photo: Ken Kreisler

Keeping tabs on your exhaust system is as important as any other aboard your boat. Check with your yard manager during yearly haul out time and have the risers inspected as part of your maintenance regimen. Besides the fact that exhaust fumes are noxious and can cause health problems, your engine will not be running as efficiently as it was designed to do and, allowed to continue operating under diminished conditions, will lead to costly repairs.

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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Maintenance


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The average US boat owner spends fewer than 12 days per year enjoying time on his or her vessel, but pays expenses for all 365. Maintenance, dockage, fuel and storage add up quickly.

Thousands have discovered a safe and seamless way to offset the costs of boat, the online community where they can safely share their vessels with others. It creates not only an income opportunity, but also a way to enhance the overall ownership experience.

Akin to AirBnb and Uber, boat sharing created a marketplace for both owners and boaters. While relatively new, it’s taking the boating world by storm and quickly gaining traction among those whose vessels often sit for months unused.

Before Boatsetter, if someone without a boat wanted to get out on the water, they turned to a commercial charter company. It was a lucrative time for these businesses, even those with less than pristine fleets. Now, private owners have a safe and easy way to earn income by sharing their well-cared-for vessels with renters seeking a better rental experience. It creates a win-win for both groups.

cru22453h.jpgBoatsetter, the leader in the boat sharing space, touts that it offers people a way to own a better vessel. The company was founded by boaters and marine industry insiders who truly understand that a vessel is more than just an asset to its owner.

The Boatsetter model provides peace-of-mind to its owners in the form of world-class insurance from the beginning to end of every rental. It also offers the largest available network of US Coast Guard-licensed captains, something that can be required if the owner prefers. In fact, all the details from rental price and availability to final approval of the rental request remain in the owners’ control at all times.

Boat sharing is not just about the rental income that owners generate. The program also allows them to keep their vessels active and in good working order for when they’re ready to go boating themselves.

Listing a boat is similar to creating a profile on social media. Posting a few pictures, the vessel details, and setting the calendar and price is quick and easy—as well as free.

“At Boatsetter, we’ve built our reputation on creating a platform that allows people to get more out of boat ownership in a worry-free way,” said Jaclyn Baumgarten, Boatsetter founder and CEO. “They can trust that we’ve taken care of all the details.”, the leading boat sharing company, is dedicated to creating better boat ownership experiences. The South Florida-based company has career opportunities for licensed captains who want to drive their own schedules, and boaters, with or without boating know-how, who want to spend time on the water.

Contact Boatsetter, 2890 NE 187th St., Aventura, FL 33180. 844-262-8738;;

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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Dock Buzz


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Not having a maintenance plan can keep you at the dock instead of enjoying your boat.

The first of several posts by industry insider Cam Collins on his personal experiences out on the water.


Cam and Nancy Collins aboard Megabites. Photo: Cam Collins

It had finally arrived. Our 34-foot Intrepid, aptly named “Megabites,” would be shuttling my family and some friends from Stuart, Florida, to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, for a weeklong trip. All our gear and provisions were loaded. Among other things, I had brought aboard spare props, extra filters and a self-inflating life raft. I even topped her off with fuel the day before.

When I arrived at the marina first thing in the morning I pumped the fuel balls, switched on the batteries, turned the key and all I got was “click, click, click.” Yes, the dreaded CLICK CLICK CLICK! The engines would not turn over. With my wife, kids and friends staring at me, I scrambled around to try and figure what was wrong. Were the batteries going bad or did something drain them over night?

Start battery switches

The all-important battery switches: Always make sure they are in the proper position when shutting down or starting up. Photo: Cam Collins

Turns out that instead of switching my start batteries to the off position, I had mistakenly switched them to the house circuit. As luck would have it, a light was left on in the forward cabin and that little sucker drained my batteries completely. I had a spare battery on board but I needed two, so I replaced one with the spare and charged the other while everyone wondered if the guy who couldn’t even start his boat had what it took to carry everyone safely over 200 miles of ocean to our destination.

House switch

The co-conspirator for this experience was the house switch. But in reality, it was not making sure it was in the off position before leaving for the day. Photo: Cam Collins

The point is, small errors can wreak havoc on a boating experience. I had shut down the boat many times before, so I really didn’t feel I needed a formal checklist that afternoon prior to our trip. But not having a mental list impeded our big trip.

Preparation is critical when it comes to increasing the odds that our time spent on the water will be without hitches. However, amid our fast-paced, digitally distracted lives, we find we’re more often overlooking those simple checklists that could help us prepare for a great day on the water. We learn from our mistakes and I’ve made most of the mistakes that come from not having a solid maintenance plan in place and sticking to it.

I learned the hard way that staying atop of a boat’s care requires that you have a plan in place. Every boat on the water will have a slightly different maintenance regimen depending on the size of the boat, the equipment installed and how the boat is being used (e.g. cruising, fishing, wake boarding, etc.) This approach is effectively a list of things that are required to ensure that your boat is properly maintained and ready to go. Preventative maintenance is the goal as this greatly reduces the need for costly repairs.

There is a difference between regular maintenance that occurs after a period of time has elapsed or after certain systems have been used for a period of time, and random tasks that have to be completed. And as well, there are a number of ways to get reminders of when your boat and the equipment it contains need regular maintenance.

Here are few tips:

  • Create a maintenance plan for your major systems and equipment – Your maintenance plan will be roughly based upon the manufacturer recommended maintenance intervals on your equipment like engines, generators, HVACs, etc. These are typically recurring tasks that should be done after a certain period of time or use. Examples include a 100-hour service, an annual haul-out or a monthly inspection. The trick is to put a system in place that will automatically remind you and/or your service center or boat yard when these tasks become due.


    An annual haul out will keep your boat ‘healthy’ and should be part of your preventive maintenance regimen. Photo courtesy of BoatUS

  • Use check lists and reminders to maintain the basic components of your boat – Using checklists on a recurring basis or to perform a particular task can help insure that you perform things the right way in the right order. A checklist can be created for start-up and shutdown procedures, every time you store your boat and on a recurring basis as well. The following items should be included in your checklist:
    • Batteries (check ventilation, corrosion and leakage)
    • Bilge Pumps (check float switch and proper water flow)
    • Cooking Equipment and Refrigeration (spilled oils, gas leaks, ice build-up, etc)
    • Electrical Systems, Lights, Wiring and Zincs
    • Fire Extinguishers and Safety Equipment (check expiration dates)
    • Fuel and Oil System (check for leaks, odors and fumes)
    • Ground Tackle (e.g. anchors, chain, shackles, etc)
    • Inspect Sea Valves (should be exercised regularly) and Hoses
    • Count and Inspect Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and Life Jackets
    • Props, Shafts, Bearings, Rudder Fittings, Through Hulls, Strainers, Exhaust and Exposed Fasteners (check for corrosion and proper operation)
  • One-off tasks. These are the tasks we run across or think about during the day. Having a punch list or a to-do list of things that your boat needs is a common experience for boat owners. The trick is to ensure that these ideas or tasks effectively go from your brain to your list. If you think of something and don’t write it down, it will pop back into your mind and continue to nag you until it gets properly noted in task management system.

Battery maintenance is crucial to proper engine operation and includes regular charging cycles and keeping terminals clean. Photo: Cam Collins

Most boat owners know that the to-do list of things to fix, update, purchase or adjust on a boat never ends. That’s what we love about boating right? Well if you are a DIYer, you might get a kick out of working on the boat, varnishing the teak, polishing the handrails, etc. The rest of us hire or task these to-dos to others. But at the end of the day, your boat will “produce” a to-do list and so don’t ignore these items and let them fester unresolved, as it will mean more days “on the hard” and less days on the water.

We did make it the Bahamas in one piece and had an extremely memorable trip. But we also ran into some other problems while there that could have been avoided if I had followed a maintenance plan.

In the next post I will share the rest of the story and ways to use a smartphone and/or tablet to track all of the tasks that will help you spend more time on the water and less time at the boatyard.



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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in Maintenance


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Dock Buzz

Dock Buzz


Big things come in small packages and this tender can fill the bill.

The most prestigious yachts deserve an equally luxurious tender. Argos Nautic introduces its exclusive 305 model, created by renowned designer Patrizio Facheris. It sets the standard in quality, performance and status in rigid inflatable boats.

At 10′, the 305 Yachting Tender is designed to fit in tight spaces. Thanks to its unique hull design that elevates the tubes from the water, it planes in three seconds. This structure also reduces friction and improves navigation. Small but powerful, the 305 can accept up to a 40 hp outboard motor, reach speeds up to 36 mph and carry four passengers.

Exceeding owner expectations, Argos Nautic spares no expense when it comes to the details. The center console layout provides ample leg room, and features an Isotta steering wheel with premium leather option. UFlex Tilt Steering provides easy and smooth control. This is complemented by stainless steel push switches and teak flooring. Custom Italian cleats and fittings add even more elegance to this small vessel.

Yacht tender.jpg

Argos Nautic’s 305 Tender offers crisp styling and an ample list of high quality features.

A Fusion sound system means the entertainment never has to stop once leaving the yacht. Ample storage compartments enable users to bring their belongings without crowding the seating. In addition to a spacious bow locker, the 305 makes clever use of space beneath the console seat with a removable fiberglass bin.

The 305 is highly durable while still emphasizing an attractive appearance. Its hand-laid fiberglass and composite construction incorporates a textured Orca Hypalon inflatable collar. Argos Nautic utilizes the thickest Hypalon available on the market for its tubes. Dependable, long-lasting LED navigation and courtesy lights add safety. The dual layer, cross-linked polyethylene nylon fuel tank has a 10-gallon capacity for leisurely shoreside excursions.

Argos Nautic’s new 305 Yachting Tender holds USCG approval.

Contact Argos Nautic, 1572 NW 165th St., Miami, FL 33169. 786-520-4700.

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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Dock Buzz


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A simple device makes line handling safe and easy.

Making an attachment point on a line without making a knot is simple. Boaters just need the LineGrabber from Davis Instruments. With a spliced and sewn loop at each end, it works by cinching tight around a line. The more tension that is applied to the LineGrabber, the more it constricts.

Compatible with any line up to 1″ in diameter, this handy tool is made of 1/4″ ultra-high modulus fiber and holds up to 2,000 lbs. This material is tough enough to grab a chain, cleat, pulpit or handrail, and strong enough to help unload a fouled sheet.

dav22582-x3hLineGrabber can be used to take tension off a jammed line, secure a rescue line, add a secure attachment point to a rail or stanchion, lead a static line in any direction, or grab chains and railings. Perfect for rafts, boats and kayaks, it can help secure an anchor or create a temporary mooring. In addition, LineGrabber can attach to harnesses, pulleys or gently to car tops where a loop is ideal to clip to.

Owners simply use a basic Prusik hitch to tie or adjust LineGrabber in seconds. For any size line from 1/2″ to 1″ in diameter, users loop the LineGrabber twice around and through itself each time. Cinching it tight then creates a strong, secure attachment point. For lines smaller than 1/2″ in diameter, the LineGrabber can be looped around three times.

Contact Davis Instruments, 3465 Diablo Ave., Hayward, CA  94545. 510-732-9229; Fax: 510-732-9188.;

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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Products





Frequently Asked Questions About Marine Exhaust Systems

The experts at Centek Industries offer some advice on this vital component.

At Centek headquarters in Thomasville, Georgia (USA), company experts frequently answer questions about the design, engineering and manufacturing of custom marine exhaust systems. Centek’s engineering staff has more than 80 years of marine wet exhaust system design and innovation experience. Centek is the only registered engineering firm to offer fiberglass exhaust components that are Lloyd’s Register Type approved and meet or exceed ABYC-P1 standards. Centek has also earned a Certificate of Conformance for ISO 9001:2008, for the excellence of its quality management system.

Salt Deposit

A salt deposit on a muffler indicates a “weeping” spot where water is escaping.

Here are three of the most frequently asked questions.

1. How do I make my boat quieter?
This one is right in our wheel house. There are several options available when it comes to sound attenuation for both propulsion and generator engines. Centek assigns a rating to their standard exhaust products with the range going from Good to Better to Best. Generally speaking, and compared to straight exhaust, the Good rated muffler provides 15-18 dB of attenuation, a Better rated muffler gives a 22-28 dB improvement and a Best provides an improvement of 25-30 dB. These are ball park estimates and should be used as a rule of thumb. Also available are custom systems which can provide even better results depending on your specific engine and space available. For generator exhaust, these same standard mufflers and ratings are used but at the same time there are other considerations to take into account. Is the noise you are hearing actually the engine running or is it the irritating splash you hear as the exhaust cooling water is discharged overboard? If the overboard discharge is the culprit, consider adding a Gen-Sep and separate the cooling water from the exhaust gasses. The exhaust gas is then discharged to the atmosphere and the cooling water is discharged below the water line thus elimination the splash you hear when the gen-set is running.

Centek Marine Exhaust

A Centek installation offers complete access to its exhaust systems.

2. I am doing a re-power – can I use the same exhaust?
This is usually one of the first questions asked when it comes to a re-power for both propulsion engines and for generator upgrades / changes. The short answer is maybe. To get the most from your new engine or gen-set, it is important to make sure that the exhaust system is properly sized. A properly sized exhaust system provides the best sound attenuation and stays within the backpressure limits set by the engine manufacturer. When Centek engineers recommend a specific size, they take into account a number of variables which include, but are not limited to, horsepower, raw water flow, exhaust flow and temperatures, the position of components relative to the waterline and the backpressure limits. If you have a question whether or not your current system will work, call and talk with a Centek engineer and let them help guide you through the process. Also, keep in mind that Centek can supply an almost endless variety of elbows and fittings for your new project.

3. I have a leaking muffler. How can I fix it?
Often customers call in with questions about mufflers or other exhaust components that have developed a leak. In addition to looking for dripping water on the muffler body or water in the area of the muffler, another sign to look for is salt deposits on the muffler. These salt deposits appear as a white chalky substance and indicate a “weeping” spot where water is escaping. Before any consideration of a repair or replacement, first determine why the leak occurred. Almost 100% of the time, this type of leak indicates that the muffler experienced overheating due to a loss of cooling water in the exhaust stream. If the cause of overheating is not corrected, any repair is going to be short lived. Centek uses high temperature resins in all our products; however, if cooling water is interrupted, exhaust temperatures can sky rocket quickly. When temperatures reach a certain point, the resin is essentially baked out of the resin/glass matrix causing water droplets to seep from the damaged area.

JB 64

Having your exhaust system operating at peak performance will result in safer and more enjoyable time while out on the water. Photo courtesy of Jarrett Bay Boatworks.

When a muffler or other exhaust component develops a leak, the best course of action is to replace the item. A good fiberglass shop can patch a leak on a temporary basis but replacement is critical. Keep in mind, when cooling water is lost and temperatures spike, damage can occur to the internals of the muffler or component which is often impossible see.

Have a question about marine exhaust systems? Ask the experts at Centek., fax your question to 1+229.228.1270, or call 1+800.950.7653 (toll free in the US) or 1+229.228.7653. For more information about Centek, visit

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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Maintenance


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Superyacht Stuff



Today’s mega and superyachts require a lot from their on-board watermakers.

The fresh water demands on a large yacht are considerable. Beyond mere drinking and bathing, there’s often a need to fill hot tubs and pools, and use it for boat systems and routine deck washing. FCI Watermakers’ innovative Neptune series makes from 1,275 to 9,500 gallons of pure, fresh water every day—enough for the most sizable vessel.

CRN Yalla

Stunningly beautiful with dramatic lines, CRN’s YALLA is sure to be seen in all the ports of the world.

The Neptune is the industry standard for large, reliable and highly efficient reverse osmosis watermakers. Commercial-grade, non-proprietary parts and assemblies ensure 24/7 performance. It has type certification approval from ABS, CE, GL, Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Det Norske Veritas and Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.

The unit comes with FCI Watermakers’ next-generation V4 control system. The intuitive 7″ color touchscreen panel provides instant access to the Neptune’s watermaking processes. Marine-certified for temperature extremes allows for its use in often hot and humid engines rooms.

With +APC (automated pressure control), the watermaking process becomes truly touch-free. The system will start, make water, run diagnostics, shut down, complete a fresh water flush and come back online, all automatically.


FCI’s Neptune Series can take care of all the water demands for today’s bigger yachts.

Because an ocean-going yacht can find its way to the most remote corners of the world, it must contend with high levels of sedimentation and fluctuating salinity levels. The Neptune is engineered to perform in environments where other systems become inoperable or cannot achieve the required output.

When a yacht is dockside, FCI Watermakers’ optional Dockside Treatment System (DTS) is ideal. Working in-line with the Neptune, or as the stand-alone DTS+Solo, the DTS connects to the marina’s water service. Removing 99% of total dissolved solids, it provides easy, spot-free rinsing for deck and hull washing. In areas where there are safety concerns surrounding the potable supply, it removes 100% of viruses, cysts and bacteria.

FCI only builds state-of-the-art watermakers. The company’s dependable units are trusted worldwide for use on thousands of yachts, and commercial and naval vessels. It offers models with capacities from 200 to over 265,000 gallons per day.

Contact FCI Watermakers, 3782 W 2340 S “E”, West Valley, UT 84120. 801-906-8840 or toll-free in the US 800-850-0123.,


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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Superyacht Stuff


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The Wood Factor

Does your varnished wood trim or rails need some care? Here’s how to keep everything in Bristol fashion.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler


Under the right conditions, and with careful prep work, your varnish job can result in a professional look. Photo: Ken Kreisler

Back in the day, during high school summer vacations, I was a yard snipe at what was then the Schatz Brothers marina in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York, and came under the tutelage of a crusty old salt that, as I would quickly find out, knew everything about anything that had to do with boats.

On one particular early morning, while he prepped a section of teak rail, I caught the job of taping the water line.

“Commere kid, I wanna show you somethin’,” he said as we walked over to his well-traveled van, reached in, took hold of a wood box, set it down on the floor, opened the latches, and showed me a set of brushes.

“Paint brushes?” I asked.

“Nah, ya knucklehead. These are badger brushes, and they’re for varnishing.”

Badger 1

While there are many who use other types of brushes for varnish work, badger hair brushes are favored by expert finishers. Photo:

That was my first lesson in what some call the black art of wood finishing; filled with mystery, concern, and at times fear in getting it just right with a deep and beautiful finish.

To begin with, and no matter whom you ask, it truly is 90% preparation and 10% application, with both parts equally important in order to achieve the desired results. And as there are many surface conditions to deal with, such as starting with bare wood, deep gouges, checking and splitting, as well as rot and stains, that require a whole different approach—perhaps in a later installment—here we are going to deal with good, clean wood that, due to age or sun exposure, is in need of a proper maintenance coat or two to bring back the shine.


Careful and meticulous taping is essential for a great look to your finished varnish work. Photo: Ken Kreisler

Before you even deal with product or brush selection, or getting out the several grades of sandpaper and the ubiquitous blue or green painters tape, it’s important to pick the right day and time for the job. A humid, windy day is not preferred as the moisture in the air will cause your finish to dull as well as carry dust and bugs onto your still-wet surface. Cool, dry weather with filtered sunlight is preferred.

It’s now time to tape off the area. Depending on the scope of the job, length of rails or location of trim, this can be a time consuming and somewhat laborious affair that can test your back strength and patience. Go slowly and make sure your line is straight and true. I still remember the administrative cuffs to the back of my head from my tutor when I strayed off course with my taping. Trust me, as with a perfect water line, there is nothing more nautically professional looking than a razor edged varnished trim against your boat’s painted surface.

In preparation for sanding, you’re most likely going to start with 220 and work your way up as subsequent coats are applied. Given the surface already has several coats on it already, there is no need to get aggressive with sanding. You can use a sanding block or fold the paper up so you can switch to a fresh piece as you go along. Remember, there is no need to take off the entire coat; the sanding here is merely to provide a surface that will be able to accept the new coat. Once you have the entire area, or the section you are working on, scuffed up enough, tack the surface off. As you can get a tack cloth at any paint supply location, make sure it a quality one. Just like anything else for this kind of project, the better materials used results in a better finish.


Even with minimum trim, the varnished highlights makes the boat’s lines stand out.                      Photo: Ken Kreisler

Once your area is sanded and tacked, it’s time to apply the first coat. Should you be so fortunate to have a set of badger-hair brushes, you are far ahead of the game. If not, use a new, clean brush. Again, quality counts. I’ve had good results with foam brushes especially on the build up to the final two or three finish coats when I will bring out my own badgers.

Do not shake your can of varnish as this will only cause bubbles. Slowly pour your product of choice into a clean and separate container and place the lid securely back on the can, this to prevent any dust, bugs, or any other material from getting into your varnish. And should some flying pests land on your still wet rail or trim, do not attempt to remove. What’s done is done. Wait for the next sanding and the interloper will easily disappear.

During application, avoid drowning the entire brush into the container. Instead, dip a bit under half way and brush one way with the grain by ‘drawing’ the varnish on. Do not load up the brush; too much varnish will find its way up into the ferrule and stay there. Not good. And if you have to ‘fight’ the application, the varnish may need to be thinned out some. Carefully follow the manufacturers instructions and gently stir in the thinner with a clean wooden stick.


Once your wood is properly sanded and wiped free of any dust, dirt, or insects, it’s time to apply the first coat. Photo: diynetwork

When the brush is lightened up—not too much varnish left—use a featherlike touch to finish off. Continue the application until your entire section is done. Allow this coat to dry fully and then repeat, this time with 280-grit and with the next one or two coats, using 320. For the finish coat, use 400-grit.

My advice is to carefully follow product instructions as directed and do not cut out any of the preparation work. Doing so will allow you to achieve the right outcome.

If you have any questions, contact your product manufacturer before beginning as this will hopefully prevent any mistakes in the process. Or, better yet, track down an old salt in the area and, treading lightly, ask them their secrets to a beautiful varnish job.


While you may not own a beauty like this Lyman Morse built boat, should you have cause to varnish your wood trim, a well-done job will make a big difference. Photo: Lyman Morse

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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Maintenance


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Photo Op

Photo Op

Capt. Ken- To all those who have shared their photographs with you, we would like to contribute this one. It was taken on a lovely night on the Intracoastal Waterway as we were on the hook in a protected cove on our way down to the Florida Keys. We had just passed Beaufort, North Carolina, and, with night falling, decided not to go on. It was a good decision as we had a wonderful dinner aboard and sat up for an extra hour or two. It was so beautiful and made even more so as soon as the full moon came out from behind the clouds. It’s these kind of moments that are so special to us and we are sure, to all who enjoy the boating lifestyle. –B & A Kauffman, Savannah, GA

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Posted by on December 3, 2015 in Photo Op


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