This section of teak is going to serve as our example. What we have here is one of the forward navigation lights. This is Redwing's starboard side, or green, light. This is the new teak rail that we installed in the Spring of 2007. Now, the process we went through this year is what one has to do when one skips giving the brightwork the attention it needs because say, there was an engine rebuild to get through. Normally, if the teak is well-maintained, a simple rough-up with some 150 or 220 grit sandpaper should prep the surface for some glorious shine.
Step One: Start with some crappy looking teak. And by start I mean start sanding. And keep sanding until all the grey is gone and you're left with nothing but golden, honey-looking teak. Some purists might demand you hand sand the entire boat, and that may be fine if you have, say, a MacGregor or something modern like that, but for the classic and classic-looking boats it's just not a practical strategy. You'd spend your life sanding your teak. So I use a combination of random orbital sander (to cover the acreage as fast as possible), one of those pointing corner sanders (for the corners, edges, and small spots), and good old fashioned sandpaper.
Almost there. There is still some of the old varnish and some silver teak here that needs to be addressed. And by addressed I mean destroyed.
And then, once you feel satisfied that you have sanded the teak to the best of your ability and nobody is going to steal your lunch money at the next raft up, go ahead and tape off. This is the most physically demanding part of the process. Pull some tape, rip it off, get it just next to wood, but not on it, so that none of the deck/light/winch will get varnished, and don't fall overboard. Miles of tape. Miles.
Finally, after all of that work, you can start to apply the varnish. Watch for drips (holidays), and be especially careful that you don't bump into the wet varnish.
I try to remove the tape after I finish my post-varnish, ice-cold beer. You can probably leave it for a while, but soon the adhesive from the tape begins to stick to the boat and you'll wind up having to clean the glue off. Another annoying job that you don't want to do.
Now, just repeat that until you have eight, count em, eight coats.
And here is the same with the toe rail (sorry about the toes shot):
And you are probably wondering what we do about the spring line, where it crosses onto the boat it pretty much lays on the toe rail (and destroys the varnish with its slow, constant rubbing). Well, my first piece of advice would be to do your varnishing in the boat yard when the boat is in the cradle and no lines are in the way. Failing that, you have to wait for the wind - in our case the port spring line has to be on the boat all the time, while the starboard can be eased or taken off. So the port side toe rail has a big patch on it with no varnish on it right now, and we'll get it when the wind shifts enough so we can switch spring lines. (The spring line keeps the boat from drifting forward (and for us, into the dock).)
Yesterday I spent the entire day sanding. Teak boogers! And then Alli came down (after work!) and did fully half of the taping off and varnishing. What a pal!