Larry, you must be a great guy to hire to do the work (and if only I was at Hartge, I'd be glad to have you working on my boat). BTW, I like Harge, they do have a good reputation, but they are too expensive for me (I am not from six figure world, unfortunately). I bought my current boat at Harge actually
I wonder if you've seen it before.
But here you talk about how you went about doing a varnish job, and by your description I can tell you that this is not what I've seen from majority (like 9 out of 10) people doing boat work. What I would have expected to happen in most cases, is that varnish would have been painted onto the old varnish without removing anything, without rebedding and without any regard as to how well it is done. The bill would have been the same - $75/hr or so. So, while you do what you do well and care about doing it right - many do not. That's the problem. Whats worse - often it is impossible to even get anyone to do the work - many so called pros aren't even interested in your money (and even worse is when they start a job and leave it unfinished).
Simple example - I need to have a wiring snorkel made. All it is is a piece of 180 degree bent pipe, with one side welded to a flat round flange. If i knew how to weld and had a source of round flanges - I'd make it (I found a source for pipe elbows and I can cut it). But here I am, on a 7th machine shop, asking about this simple thing and more than ready to pay pretty much whatever they ask for it. And yet so far I usually call once, get a vague promise of doing something, and then call 10 more times and nothing gets done. That's the marine industry I see.
So far my one real positive experience with marine pros was with Mack sails out of Florida. They asked only a few necessary questions, did a quick and quality job, charged less than local lofts and all this was done very promptly. I would highly recommend them to anyone. That's my positive list. At the same time I have a long list of places I would highly recommend against.
So, that's my rant.