Should I be worried about scratches?

I was test-rigging my Eastport Pram in my backyard today, and immidiately got some scratches on the mast. Probably from the gooseneck, but who knows really.

I understand that the boat will get surface scratches all the time, and I am not concerned about them because it is covered with epoxy. The mast is, however, just varnished with no epoxy (that's how I understood the instructions). Should I be concerned about water damaging the wood through the scratches—and if yes, how on earth do I prevent the spars from being scratched?!

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RE: Should I be worried about scratches?

Yes, you should be concerned and should touch up the scratches. No, you can't prevent them so just be on the lookout and fix them as they happen.

For a bit more protection, strip off the varnish down to bare wood, apply several coats of epoxy and re-varnish. For ultimate protection, strip off the varnish, glass the spars (4 oz will do), fill the weave and re-varnish.

Realistically on a small day-sailer like this, leaving it only varnished, checking for scratches after each outing and fixing them ASAP before the next trip will make the spars last as long as the boat, expecially if you can store the spars indoors. The other stuff just moves the labor from maintenance to construction. 

Don't forget to post launch pictures.



RE: Should I be worried about scratches?

Thank you, Laszlo!

Touching up scratches after each outing sounds brutal. Is it what you guys are actually doing?!

RE: Should I be worried about scratches?

fwiw....most of us are not revarnishing after every trip.   there is a scratch that is on the surface of the varnish....and scratches that go though to the wood.  its the latter that deserve more attention.

that said, the damage is typically not the scratch, its when a scratch is allowed to get wet and sit...and then subsequently stains (gets a bit moldy) and gets discolored.   so that is an important part of the equation, as laszlo suggests, too.   so for me, as an example, i am going to be very agressive to address a scratch on a kayak when it is below the waterline, becuase if i leave it open and go kayaking, the water is going to intrude into that and make the wood wet.  topsides, not so much.

since a spar is typically above the water line, you can probably get by with a good clean-up end of season if you store the spars dry between uses.

anyway, the important thing is to enjoy the boat.  spars can have cosmetic imperfections and still be beautiful.  so enjoy using the boat and don't overstress on the scratches.


RE: Should I be worried about scratches?

Hi Andrew - I stitched a leather collar round the mast where the gooseneck rubs to prevent damage to the mast. I haven't sailed it yet so I can't say how it performs but it looks neat enough.

(Leather from an old handbag, then waxed!)

RE: Should I be worried about scratches?

I don't think you should be worried at all about scratches in varnish. 

Wood is marvelous stuff. Drive on a country lane and you will see old barns with untreated pine siding that is (in some cases) more than a hundred years old. The exterior of my cabin is entirely natural pine batten-and-board siding. I built the first section in 1988 and have only had to replace one board in 33 years. As long as you keep wood mostly dry (in this case with a 12" roof overhang) and allow it to dry thoroughly between storms, it will last longer than you will!  

Your mast and spars would be just fine with no epoxy or varnish at all. They would attain a lovely patina with age . . . and they might give you a few splinters at times! Varnish or epoxy will glue down the spinters and is worth it for that reason alone. But scratches just won't matter. Ever! (Unless you leave your spars damp all of the time, and in that case even epoxy or varnish won't help!)

I'll close by noting that the standard advice is to leave the handles of oars unpainted. That gives a better grip and helps prevent blisters. Here is a link to a photo of my home-made pine oars, going on five years old now. Oars (even oar handles) are wet much more often than spars.

RE: Should I be worried about scratches?


Yeah, I forgot to say anything about the severity of the scratches. I assumed that you were only asking about scratches that went through the varnish into the wood.


I'm a little leery of not protecting a mast with some kind of coating. It has to stand up to stresses that land structures don't experience. Good point about oar handles, but don't forget that the rowers hands deposit skin oils on the wood. Actually rowing warms the oils and forces them into the wood pores. It's in effect a hand rubbed oil finish, not really bare wood.


RE: Should I be worried about scratches?

 " Touching up scratches after each outing sounds brutal. Is it what you guys are actually doing?!  "


Its kinda like checking the air pressure in your tires not every time....... before TPMS.  No we don't .....after each outing. The key is put in "storage" in a dry place. Wet once and a while isn't going to rot the wood that fast.  In my sailboat days that was often on the rack on the trailer pushed back into the garage or the barn.  If it is chafed. Then there needs to be some anti-chaft pad placed there. 

RE: Should I be worried about scratches?

Hi all,

Thank you for all your opinions! I guess I shold not be surprised that they cover the entire spectrum :) I'll definitely keep them in mind going forward.

Tim J,

Love your leather collar! I was going to put some low-end protection for the high-touch parts of the mast. Perhaps just some electrical tape?


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