Varnishing–not as bad a job as you’d think. One full day to sand the entire surface and about 4 days to apply three coats of varnish, with a light sanding in between each coat. The resin coated boat looked pretty darn good, so I couldn’t see how varnish was going to give it more luster and depth, but it really does.
Two comments about the finish. First, if you’re inexperienced like I was, you’re going to fret about every blemish. Every overlap and tape edge will look terrible. When you sand, you’ll begin to pick up the fiberglass pattern in some areas. You can’t imagine that these will be invisible under the varnish. The overlaps, edges, and especially the subtle milky patterns shown here all vanished in the varnish. So take heart. (the photo is upside down. you can see the coaming at the bottom.)
Second, some small blems won’t vanish. These small dots (about 1/16″) appeared in the deck behind the cockpit late in the cure of the original wetting out of the cloth. They are definitely related to the pattern of the cloth. I attempted to wet them out with a stiff bristle brush the next day, but without any apparent change to their appearance. Sticking them with a pin did not feel like a bubble. They are just an unknown defect, whether there was too little resin, some issue with the cloth, or some bubble forced up through the okume, I don’t know. They are certainly in a very visible area, but when people view the kayak, they don’t see them. Enough said.
The bottom line is, careful sanding and just one coat of varnish and the boat is looking very presentable. The varnish seemed to get a little more viscous with each application. We wished we’d had some brushing thinner at the time–we’re definitely going to use some on the last coat of the Coho when we varnish her in the spring.
Total construction time for two kayaks was 7 weeks, including varnishing the Tern. Having a second kayak didn’t add much to the schedule, maybe 1o days at the most, since most of the work on the Coho could be easily interleaved with the Tern when it was curing. The project could have been done in 5 weeks, but it’s amazing how things slowed down once the coamings were glassed. The Tern (and a couple of days later, the Coho) looked so much like a finished product at that point that doing the seat and rigging just seemed to be ho-hum.