Sure, I could slop on a coat faster, but its important to make sure that it lays out as flat as possible, that there is no debris in it, and that there are no runs or sags. It takes less time to work clean that it does to correct errors later. This is an important aspect of craftsmanship that is often lost on beginners: that its faster overall to take a little extra time early than it is to race through and have to spend a lot of time later, correcting.
There were a lot of details to get done before I could brush out a coat of varnish: clenching any tacks that were not quite tight enough, trimming down the top planking for the gunnel rabbet, cleaning sanding and picking out any little brass shards from the canoe tacks, and, finally, sanding all the ribs to 220 and vacuuming out the dust.
Scheduling the varnishing is a tricky time in the shop, you can't rush it, and dust is the enemy, so while its drying I have to be careful not to make more dust. Difficult to do in a wooden boat shop!
Tomorrow I get all the fun of hand sanding every rib and all the planking in between the ribs. This will take a couple of hours. There really is no faster way. I've tried sanding it with power tools, but on the first coat of varnish one a new canoe, power sanders leave all sorts of deep scratch marks.
If I'm lucky, I'll have the next coat done early enough for a second coat to be "hot-coated". Timed right, the subsequent coat will bond to the first without any more sanding required. If I'm not ready early enough to hot coat, then I'll get the next coat on the next morning.