While most of these wipe-on oil/varnish products are essentially similar, I'm sure that some perform better than others. Most of us are not after fine furniture finishes on our canoe trim, however, and are just happy to have easy to apply and effective protection afforded by the stuff they sell at the corner hardware. There are others still that swear by traditional spar varnish and they would be completely correct, too... for themselves.
As I mentioned above, almost anything will work if it's reapplied when necessary. I know a guy who works as a landscaper/gardener and loves old-fashion wood-handled tools. I once commented on the beautiful patina his collection had developed and asked what he treated them with. He laughed and pulled from his truck a gallon can of gloppy greasy goo from the vet's used to help prevent and treat saddle sores on horses. At work, he dunks his hands in it before he puts on leather gloves. He said it helps prevent blisters, keeps his gloves supple, and treats his tool handles all at the same time. I think if you rubbed the stuff on canoe rails every other day, they'd look better than mine do with multiple coats of Watco and probably be as well protected.
And you're right, too, that this subject is well beyond saddle sores, but those mahogany rails! Aren't they something to see? Where are the fasteners?
Hardshell Kayak Sail Rigs
The Kayak Wing
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