PS Advisor August 2006 Issue

PS Advisor: 08/06

Back to the Washboard
e’re retired now, so, we’re able to take a couple of extended cruises a summer aboard the 40-foot sloop we’ve had for two decades. When we’re off cruising for a month, dirty clothes pile up. It would be nice if we didn’t have to hunt down laundromats or soak stuff in a bucket and festoon the lifelines. Have small washing machines become practical yet for sailboats?

Herb Connelly
Vancouver, B.C.

Combination washer-dryers are common on big RVs, where a hook-up of electricity, water, and wastewater disposal is available. ´Twould be oh-so-nice aboard a boat to throw in dirty clothes, push a few buttons, and have the machine spew out stuff with that great fresh scent that would make folding and stowing a pleasure.

But for boats, an automatic washing machine’s appetite for water and electricity is what dooms them for any but big yachts, which often have substantial gensets.

West Marine carries two front-loading models made by Splendide, the make that is perhaps the most popular for RVs. (Front-loading washers are hot stuff these days because they use less water.) There’s at least one other company, Majestic Appliances, that makes small washer-dryers.

Here’s what you’re up against: The smallest Splendide is the 1.6 cubic-foot Model 2000S. It measures 33 1/4 inches high, 23 1/2 inches wide and 23 3/8 inches deep. It weighs 150 pounds. And, of course, it must be vented. The electrics are grim: 120V, 60 Hz, 13 amps, and 1300 watts. Water? It uses 12 to 20 gallons of water each load. More bad news is the price: $1,185, not including installation, which only the intrepid would attempt. That these machines carry only a one-year warranty is also cause for some concern.

So, dear Connellys, it’s still either a laundromat or rub-a-dub-dub...the old washboard blues.


A Varnish Primer
I’ve just bought a beautiful old Dutch-made ketch with a steel hull, but lots of lovely wood above the sheer line. You’ve talked often over the years about how to get a perfect, glass-like coat of varnish. To get me going can you summarize briefly?

Neal Wilson

It’s 90 percent surface preparation and cleanliness.

The varnish work will be only as good as the surface to which it’s applied. If you don’t like the looks of the surface when you’re through sanding (with perhaps several grits), varnish won’t help it. If you go for an electric sander, get a random orbit model; they’re much better than conventional sanders. There’ll still be lots of hand sanding, and for some of that, use a rubber block. If you don’t mind aged and darkened varnish, just smooth the surface—don’t cut through the old varnish—and give it some "tooth" to make the varnish adhere. Pay attention to joints, corners, and edges. That’s where varnish often fails. If you start stripping part of the varnish (taking it down to lighter, new wood), you’ll probably wind up stripping all of it. However, you needn’t do it all at once.

Finally, for cleanliness, use a tank vacuum cleaner with a long-bristled brush, and be meticulous. Then rub over the surface with a bare hand to pick up any fine dust. We’ve found this works better than a tack cloth.

Varnish in a protected area, if possible. If outdoors, do it early on a dead calm morning before the dust gets kicked up. The type of brush doesn’t matter much; the only advantage of an expensive badger hair brush is that it carries more varnish and makes spreading a little easier.

If the job isn’t as perfect as you like, start all over: Lightly sand and brush on another coat.

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