• Reflections on Refinishing

  • Jimmy Carter turned off the lights in the White House – personally!
    Ronald Reagan delegated everything – even wars. Some said Nancy actually ran the country.
    Somewhere between Carter, the micro-manager, and Reagan, the eternal optimist is the sweet spot. As most successful managers know – the trick is to understand that which needs constant monitoring and that which does not.
    As a boat owner this differentiation of management style is important when you select the yard to which you entrust your most valuable material possession.
    To illustrate, let’s consider your boat’s appearance. I don’t mean that graceful clipper bow or the triple-tiered flying bridge. Those features you’re stuck with unless you have a masochistic tendency to change reality.
    No: I mean things like her paint job, bright work, or teak decking – things that trigger the WOW! factor in others when they first see your precious toy.
    Many owners think that ‘varnish is varnish’ and ‘paint is paint’, so long as it’s marine grade. WRONG! But, wrong only if you truly care about your boat’s appearance. If you don’t – stop reading this and head over to Home Depot, where the paint’s on sale. Because, as one of our old-timers likes to say: “This isn’t the yard for you.”
    Paint and varnish do retard aging and they protect against deterioration, whether fiberglass or wood. But, properly applied, they also dramatically improve appearance. And – let’s be honest – the real reason you want a great looking boat is to impress your friends.
    The best way to achieve the warm-belly-feeling that accompanies a new paint job is to delegate the work to professionals – not to a handful of recent immigrants who can’t even pronounce the word ‘preparation’, let alone understand its importance to the final outcome. Dutch Wharf’s crew of five refinishers has a combined total of 100 years of marine paint and varnish experience – all of it in the New England area.
    Their work for you begins with an honest assessment of your hull, superstructure, decks, wood trim or other areas of concern. Some vessels will only require one or two maintenance coats. Others will need to be stripped, sanded, filled, stained and/or repaired to insure proper adherence of the new paint or varnish. You will be apprised of their findings prior to work commencing – along with an estimated cost.
    Once the surface(s) have been properly prepared, the vessel is ready for taping or masking to preserve the adjoining sections of the boat. The primer and/or sealer coats can then be applied. The number of coats will depend on the smoothness of the underlying surface. Between coats, sanding will always occur and taping will be replaced. (It’s never wise to leave taping in place through numerous coats of finish. The finish will invariably be damaged when tape is pulled after the product has completely dried.)
    Typically, our crews work in tandem: one man applies the finish followed closely by his partner who smoothes any ‘ripples’ and catches ‘dry spots’ while the product is still wet. Proper lighting of the work surface is critical to finding any problem areas.
    Once the agreed upon number of coats has been brushed or sprayed and the final masking removed, our own version of Jimmy Carter steps into the picture in the person of Paul Jacques, the yard owner, who personally inspects each boat with a magnifying glass.
    To Paul, refinishing is like religion – when you’ve got it, you feel it in your bones. Paul gets refinishing! The tiniest blemish (sin) does not go unaddressed.  No matter the cost, no refinishing job leaves the yard until Paul is satisfied. Sometimes it requires an entire redo of a section (rarely the entire job) all at no additional cost to you.
    Five years ago one of our principal varnish suppliers moved their manufacturing operations to England. Somehow the formulation got modified and the product was less than perfect. Seven boats were refinished that winter season using the flawed varnish, resulting in a finish that did not survive the summer. Dutch Wharf stood behind its work and completely refinished the seven boats the following winter, including stripping and sanding. The manufacturer provided new, improved varnish but the yard ate the labor costs.
    That’s integrity and that’s what discriminating owners have come to expect from Dutch Wharf. Our initial price won’t always be the cheapest, but – in the long run – it’s always the best.
    So… where does Reagan fit into all this?
    That’s you. – You’ve delegated the hard stuff to the experts!
    Nancy would be proud.