It's the time for that annual task: sand/revarnish all the brightwork on Eolian's the exterior.
But aside from the normal work, examining the condition of the varnish on the starboard cap rail showed it was obvious that it was time - time for a complete re-do. The last time this wood was uncovered was in 1998, the summer after I had moved aboard. That time I used a chemical stripper to remove the last dregs of the Cetol that the Previous Owner had applied and then failed to maintain. The work experience was not good - it was very difficult to control the stripper, to keep it off of the adjacent gelcoat (as it turns out, the stripper attacks gelcoat too).
This time I elected to use a heat gun, and that turned out to be a good decision. Because of the thickness of the varnish after 16 years of application, with just the right amount of heat it became rubbery enough to just peel off in large sheets. Two days.
Then it was necessary to dig out the silicone caulk that had been used to seal the caprail to the top of the bulwark. (This seal was necessary because the factory did not varnish the undersides of the wood when installing it, thus when moisture got underneath the wood and soaked in, it lifted the varnish on the top. Unfortunately, silicone was a poor choice (it's always a poor choice) - it did not adhere to the teak well and allowed moisture to enter. So, I had to very laboriously dig out the old caulk, making every effort to remove even traces of the old silicone. Two more days.
With the old caulk removed, then I applied tape to delineate the area to be caulked and extruded black polysulphide (BoatLife Life Calk) and worked it into the seam with my finger, and then finally pulled the tape. If you have ever worked with this stuff, you will know that unless great care is taken, it will end up everywhere. I had a package of paper napkins handy and a gallon of paint thinner on hand, frequently wiping down my hands. It is messy work, and along the deckhouse the access is terrible on the inside of the bulwark - there is just barely enough room for me to lie on my side in there, meaning that all the work has to happen with my arms extended over my head. Three more days - I should finish this step today.
Next will come a wash of the teak with oxalic acid to remove the water staining, a light sanding, a wipe with thinner to remove the teak oils on the surface, and then finally, finally, four or five coats of varnish.
Hopefully this will hold for another 16 years. The people in the slip next to us (transients - they've been here for part of this) are wondering whether we ever take the boat out, or if all we do is maintenance. While there is more maintenance on a "Classic Plastic" boat than a modern boat with no exterior wood whatsoever, we think the results are worth it. And really, we are only talking about 3 or 4 days a year (with a big effort every 16 years).
For us, it is worth it.