Once in a while someone will publish an "Everything I learned from building my last boat" post on one of the building forums. I love those posts because they can be packed with good advice. Usually while talking with people who are just getting started on their first boat I'll realize just how much I've learned about building over the past few years. I'll have so much to say and find it impossible to distill everything into a few good pieces of advice, except for maybe "Do your research. Read the building manual thoroughly."
I've been asked before what kind of varnish I recommend. I don't think it's that important exactly what kind of varnish you decide to use. More important is the application technique. On my Joel White Pooduck Skiff I sanded with 220 grit before and in-between coats of varnish and vacuumed and wiped off the dust with a lint-free rag dampened with mineral spirits. I like to roll traditional marine varnish on with a thin foam roller and tip it off with a good badger hair brush. I used to use those cheap disposable chip brushes because I never liked cleaning brushes but later learned from experience that it's definitely worth it to pay more for a good brush and spend your time cleaning them.
It is very important to use fresh varnish for the final coat. The final coat of varnish is the only one that really counts. All the previous coats just smooth out the surface and build up the layers. Varnish starts to go bad as soon as you open the can, so the while the first coat usually flows on like a dream, the last coat from the same can might end up a nightmare, with little particles in it, and spreading too thickly which will create runs, drips and sags. I recommend opening a new can just for that last coat. Another thing that people do that I'm just trying now is to fill the opened can with propane from a handheld torch before closing it back up again. That keeps the oxygen out. I got a canister of Bernzomatic for about $13, which is less than half the cost of a can of varnish.
Here is picture of the brass half oval rubstrip installed on the stem and keel. It is screwed in place and attached with 3M 5200 bedding compound, which provides a flexible and permanent bond. I just discovered that 3M 5200 now comes in convenient small tubes (instead of caulk gun canisters) and in a fast curing formulation (the original formulation took a week to cure).
Lastly here is a picture of the swing-up half of the rudder after a couple coats of marine primer.
With the weather getting warmer and days longer I'm really getting tempted to try this boat out on the water with oars before the rudder and spars are done.