To varnish or not to varnish… a few helpful hints from my teak brightwork adventure

Kevin Curran, an experienced American cruiser, writes blogs on his experiences to help other cruisers. He asked us if we'd like to share his recent experience where he looked at the pros and cons of varnish v Cetol:

There comes a time in every boaters life when they need to decide between cetol or varnish. I have put a lot of thought into this question…and I have an answer.

My reasoning is simple. Time has value. That's the most succinct way to put it…

I use a cetol finish on my external teak because I want to spend my time out sailing in the open ocean as opposed to in harbor re-applying varnish.

This past week, I sanded down all my teak trim, cleaned it up and then applied 4 coats of sikkens cetol marine natural teak. It looks perfectly fine.

Here's the trade-off.


  • Cetol is easier to apply than varnish (put on 3-4 coats, no work in between coats)
  • It's easier to remove than varnish
  • It lasts 2-3 years before you need to re-touch (varnish lasts 6-12 months)


  • In general, varnish has a deeper and richer look vs. cetol
  • Some people complain about the orange color in cetol

So, here's the story with the orange color… (click on the link for the rest of the story and more photographs)

Nav at Home
West System Afloat
Listings Added
West System Afloat