First Sailboat and I need some help

This is my very first sailboat, ‘McAllister Designs’ ‘Pintail 12’. I think it turned out pretty nice for my first boat. I am not quite done yet with the details, but I am finally getting closer.

I need to know what to seal the boat with. I would like to end up with a nice finish. As you can see I have my stain applied already. Should I seal the boat with Helmsman Spar Urethane by Minwax? As you can see I have a spray can of that on hand. Suggestions or comments?

I am not the greatest with wood working, although I am happy with the outcome of my labors with the Pintail 12. Could someone explain to me the proper way to finish? Should I seal, then sand and seal again? Should I use brush on rather than spray on? Any and all help would be most appreciated!

Can not wait to finish her and learn to sail!

Thanks in advance!


Sounds like a great choice to me.

I am happy with the outcome of my labors with the Pintail 12.

And with good reason.

Could someone explain to me the proper way to finish? Should I seal, then sand and seal again? Should I use brush on rather than spray on?
Spraying is always easier than brushing, and usually gives a better finish. Make sure the can is well shaken, and you don’t try to spray it on too thick. 3 thin coats is better than one thick one. Sand between coats with 400 grit paper. After the final coat dries for 3 or 4 days, polish it out with rubbing compound.


doug said it perfectly! i would emphasize the final rub-down… you might try really fine wet/dry sand paper… you have a beautiful boat, and you want that final paintjob to reflect that! well done, she looks lovely!:zbeer:

She looks beautiful Rick… Doug’s advice is spot on and that is my varnish of choice too. A work of caution though… experience has shown that although the brush on version of that varnish has no effect on the foam, the spray on version will dissolve any foam it contacts. Presumably it is the propellant or thinning agent.

So if you choose to spray be sure to mask over the open cockpit. I brush on for that reason but careful spraying will give you a great result if you can keep the dust specks away.


Thanks all for the comments :slight_smile:

Doug - what rubbing compound would you suggest I use?

420sailor - thanks! Got her this far and would hate to do something to screw the finish up. Appreciate your comments!

Graham - Thanks for the warning about the spray and foam. In this case however it should not be a problem, I skinned it on the inside as well. Wood inside and out :smiley:

I really like her Graham, thanks!

I will take everyones advise and hopefully do a good job on the finish. I shall take my time and just have her sailing by late spring.

Thanks! :smiley:

rpage, i would use as i said really fine [250-500 grit] wet/dry sand paper – use it wet! then i would use your regular toothpaste as a rubbing compound… weird, but it works! after that if you really want to get it smooth use something like starbright boat polish - expencivo, but is incredible for getting a spotless shine!

I have heard of using toothpaste before now that you mention it. Just something I dont think about. Thanks for all the help!

I use 3M products that come in progressively finer grits: Rubbing Compound, Polishing Compound, and Finish Restorer. You can get ‘em (or other brands’ equivalents) at almost any auto parts store. The auto parts store is also a good place to get the 220-and-finer grits of wet/dry sandpaper that 420sailor recommends (my experience is that they are hard to find at the Home Center.)

yes, i second the 3M products. their hand glaze is the s–t:scared:
it even removed cloudy scratches from my old motorcycle wind screen.

a second option would be the meguires medium cut and final glaze.

i tried the tooth paste method as a yoot (youth) based on what my brother-in-law said. trust me, it pales in comparison to proper polishing compounds.
that goes for jewlers polish as well.

I have an auto parts place pretty close to my house. I will check out the 3M products. Sounds like everyone agrees that is the way to go. Thanks for all the advice and comments. I appreciate all the help!

Be warned, once she is done I will be posting a thread called “how the heck do I sail this thing?” :lol:


that will be a good thread…i’m in the same vote…will get some ideas sunday, and will add to your post, what i have learned.

The only thing to add to every one else’s good advice is that you don’t want to polish the bottom. Sanding lightly with 600 or 800 grit paper is the most you’ll need there.

As for sailing it, see if you can find a pool, or a pond with grass all aound, and a light breeze. Put fresh cells into the boat and transmitter, and put the boat in the water. Stick in, booms in; stick out, boms out.

why should the bottom be a satin finish. when i clear-coated my boat, the whole thing is glossy , and then waxed. is this no good?

Polishing the bottom doesn’t help any. Whatever you normally do to finish it will be fine, but you don’t have to go any further than that- unless you want to wax it lightly. Polishing only works at model shows.

Some people seem to think that a highly polished surface will go faster than a satin surface. On big racing boats, they will actually sand the bottom. Just keep it clean, and an occasional wash with a rag to get the dirt off is all the maintenence it will need.

Polish the crap out of it if you want to, then wipe with a paper towel that has been dampened with spray-on teflon, McLube, WD-40, or Armor-All before launching. Do same between heats if you are in racing spirit.

Sanding/polishing of little boats should not be confused with big boats - they are a world of difference apart. Besides, many big boats have an anti-fouling paint job if kept in the water during season. Since our models seldom are in water more than 2-3 hours (a day) there is little chance of marine growth. In fact, I would be more concerned about cellophone candy wrappers on a keel or rudder, than whether the hull is polished or sanded. Until someone can post definitive documented evidence showing drag differentials between polished and sanded hull bottoms, I would say the jury is still out on this. If some are inclined to dismiss a foil shaped keel due to small boat size and low top boat speeds I would also be inclined to dismiss posts that suggest polishing/waxing/sanding provide marked speed differences.

Of course, this is opinion and personal view and always subject to change if documented facts are presented ? :cool:

Another question…

I have applied one coat of Helmsman Spar Urethane by Minwax. This is the spray like I had pictured in my first message. The question is, how long should I wait till I sand? On the label it says that you can apply a second coat 1 hour and 30 minutes after the first. However, if you can not apply it then you must wait 72 hours before applying the second coat. Should I be sanding between coats after it is totally dry, the 72 hours?

Keep in mind that I have never done this before and I would rather ask than make a mistake. :smiley:

Thanks in advance for any insight you all can provide!


Apologies in advance for hijacking this thread … maybe somebody who knows what they’re doing should move the bits about polishing a hull elsewhere …

… a perfectly polished hull can induce unwanted surface drag … designers have been experimenting with all sorts of proprietory surface preparations, none of which are smooth … some are dimpled, some are pimpled, some have linear striations, regardless the idea is to reduce the effect of drag against the hull… the reason it hasn’t yet been widely seen is because it is f@#ing expensive … once price sorts itself, you’ll see even club racers adopting the treatments …

… I’m with those, therefore who say don’t polish … make it fair and smooth and then stop at 400 or 600 grit …


Go ahead and sand (lightly–you are only knocking off any irregularities, and giving the next coat something to grab on to) after an hour between coats. Keep in mind that the varnish will not be totally hardened, and will therefore load up the paper rather quickly.

Final finishing should wait for at least the 72 hours after applying the final coat.

As far as gloss goes, once you have gotten your sailing skills to the point that you never make a tactical error, never mistune your sails, and are sailing against the top sailors in the country, THEN the surface finish of the hull will make a discernable difference. Until then, the nut that holds the control stick far, far outweighs how glossy the hull is.


I have been using Polycrylic clearcoat, because it’s water-based, and has no solvents, no fumes. I can apply it in the house with no problems, and it will harden rather quickly, so you can build up some thickness or sand it after a couple hours with little buildup. I also use it inside and outside, with 1/2 oz. cloth, to seal my footies. I even used it last December to seal the kitchen table, and nobody even noticed because there was no odor.

It has all the good points of the spar varnish, with no solvents or fumes, and even cleans up with soap & water.

What are your thoughts as to why a glossy hull makes a difference on a sailboat? After you become the perfect sailor, of course. :sly:


Hi Rick… with the brushing version of the same varnish I apply one coat per day lightly sanding between coats. I suspect the different instructions with the spray version is again to do with the propellant… they are rather awkward working times.

Final finish wise I stay with the last brushed coat with no extra operations, for no better reason than I want to go sailing. If the slight brush marks mean anything with regard to a ‘faster’ finish re Trevor then all the better :slight_smile:

But I totally agree with Doug that it hardly matters until all major and minor errors are ironed out of your racing.