I have never found water based coatings to be worth a damn. Water based house paint isn't as good as oil, etc., but the EPA likes it. Water based varnishes I've tried all turn color, usually yellow. They have to be done every year, just like varnish and have to be stripped to bare wood more often.
I had a yard, did all sorts of jobs, varnish was a small part. Usually done on fancy commercial boats and see hard use. On bare wood, a couple coats of West System resin with clear hardener and about 3 coats of a varnish or varnish like UV coating can last 2-3 years with touch up if needed in damage or wear spots. An then it just needs a sanding and a couple new coats. You get the 12 coat deep look w/o 12 coats.