Maluhia’s Mani Pedi

Varnish Prep

Looking at the calendar it was time for a mani pedi, but not for me. This time it was Maluhia’s turn for some pampering. Her brightwork, gelcoat and stainless steel maintenance were on our radar. A mani pedi for Maluhia includes a lot of sanding, polishing, waxing and buffing that goes into the routine maintenance program that makes these surfaces shine.

Clear Coat

Brightwork is the maintenance and up keep of a vessels exterior and interior bright finishes. Part of what gives Maluhia her character is her fine teak trim. Located along both sides of the hull are two teak bumper rails. The teak cap rail extends around the top deck of the boat. Above the portholes on both sides is another decorative strip of teak. Four teak handrails serve as handholds while walking on deck.

Cap Rail

Inside the cockpit another decorative piece of teak sits underneath both of our large genoa winches.

Cockpit Teak

Two cubby holes inside the cockpit are enclosed with a small piece of teak trim. Maluhia’s hatch and hatch boards are both 100% solid teak.


Hatch Boards

A boat with beautiful brightwork is both well cared for and visually attractive adding to its long term value. But no matter which finish you choose (varnish, oil, or bare), the beautiful ascetics of exterior wood on a boat require routine upkeep and maintenance.

More Teak

Before we shipped Maluhia from Wisconsin to California the previous owners had meticulously varnished the bumper rail, cap rail and decorative strips of teak above the portholes.  Six months later we set out to do the refresher coats, along with the intention to finish the rest of the varnish.

Shiny Hatch

The process for doing the refresher coats looked something like this;

  1. Clean brightwork with Murphy’s Oil Soap and water
  2. Remove easy fittings
  3. Tape
  4. Sand area lightly with 320 grit paper
  5. Vacuum
  6. Wipe with mineral spirits
  7. Apply Varnish
  8. Wait a Day
  9. Apply Varnish
  10. Wait a Day
  11. Remove tape
  12. Replace fittings

The handrails, companionway slats, hatch cover and cockpit were lacking their luster. To look as good as our refresher coats these areas would need to be stripped of their remaining varnish and sanded down to bare wood. Varnishing from bare wood is a process of applying a minimum of 8 coats and maximum of 10 coats, and sanding in-between each coat with a progressively finer grade of paper. The first three coats of varnish can be applied on consecutive days but after that each coat needs a minimum of 24 hours to cure. As you approach the final coats it doesn’t hurt to wait a full 48 hours.


Once we were settled in La Paz we ran into Zeke who offered his services to us. Varnishing is a tedious and time consuming job. Memories of doing varnish refresher coats still haunted our minds.  This time we decided to let someone else deal with all the fun. We hired Zeke and his wife to update the varnish on the entire boat.

Cap Rail Aft

Unfortunately after bringing Maluhia into a saltwater environment we started noticing small signs of rust on her stainless steel rails and fittings. Even though we wash the boat with soap and freshwater every chance we get, polishing the stainless is another part of regular boat maintenance. It’s not uncommon in Mexico to see boat owners polishing their stainless steel on a daily basis! You might think they are crazy, but their boats sure look nice!

Zeke polished all of Maluhia’s stainless steel to its natural mirror finish.

Shiny Stainless

In addition, to brightwork maintenance there is also fiberglass maintenance.  The smooth shiny surface on top of the fiberglass is called gelcoat. The fiberglass top sides of Maluhia were showing some signs of oxidation. Prolonged exposure to the sun and air can cause oxidation to the gelcoat which make it look weathered, dull and faded.

Zeke buffed, polished and waxed Maluhia’s topside and hull restoring a healthy looking shine! He even took our dorade vents (the tiny little chimneys on the topside of the boat) and repainted them.

The Hull Reflection

After all of the work, Maluhia’s mani pedi was complete. She looked bright and shiny just like she was ready for prom!


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