Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Narragansett Bay
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Sanding is universal, but depending on what is on it now (you say varnish, but some use that term for everything), a chemical stripper or scraping could help, then sand. If the old brightwork has failed, it is common to have water penetration and small amounts of mold growing in the grain. This is particularly true under a blister that holds water.
Sanding dust can mask these and you think you haver it looking good as new, but when you put new finish over top, you might see black stains or streaks in the grain. You may also need to bleach the wood or clean it once the current finish is off. Oh yea, then sand some more.
Final thought is to be absolutely sure you get every bit of sanding dust off the boat before applying the finish. By stock in a tack cloth company.
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In the harsh marine environment, something is always in need of repair. Margaritas fix everything.