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Ericson 38--Replace Line Clutches

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The factory line clutches on Thelonious II were by EZ-Lock, the Swedish company: a triple to port and a double to starboard. Robust they are, sturdy in an aluminum casing with big handles and a thumb release system. They press upon the line with sharp claws, and never slipped in two years--unless, of course, I fumbled the ball at midnight in the rain. A double Spinlock was added years later, for reef luff cringle downhauls.

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I am theoretically against replacing gear when it still works, but the reality is that I just got tired of watching them fade in the sun. Like looking in the mirror, perhaps? Nonsense. The excuse was that I was putting on an expensive new rope genoa halyard, and modern clutches are less harmful to line.

The job is easy. The bolts and backing plates are accessible through the Ericson headliner zippers, and it's just a matter of yanking the old clutches out and drilling for the new ones.

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I chose Lewmars.* It so happens that the double Lewmar exactly fits the deck holes from the Spinlock double, and went right in. Did the EZ-Lock holes also match? Not so much.

The Ericson backing plates are aluminum, so I drilled the new holes right through them. Take the old clutches off and put the backing plate back on. Drill deck and plate together. Nothing to it.

The Eriscon cabin house is cored, so some thought needs to be given to new holes that might expose the core balsa to water . The factory just drilled, and after 32 years my holes were sound with no water entry. So I figured similar holes would be as good for another 32 years. But if there is saturated core, it needs to be gouged out and filled. The hole can then be overdrilled, filled with epoxy paste, and redrilled to assure against water incursion.

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Most of the work was cleaning up the old caulk. Since the clutches are mounted on nonskid-patterned gelcoat, it took a while scrubbing with razor blades and wire brush. Once again I found Marine Formula DeBond adhesive remover the best helpmate.

The machine screws penetrated the cabin more than an inch, which seemed a bit worrisome should somebody contrive to strike his noggin upon them, and I am not equipped to trepan a skull hole and fill it with a quarter as Maturin did in "Master and Commander." So I hoisted a Sawzall up and buzzed the ends off in a loud and semi-controlled exhibition of skill and impatience. Naturally I took care not to harm the vinyl headliner. But do you know how hot stainless steel gets while being sawed off? As I watched in dismay a small hole appeared in the vinyl and a red-hot stub melted through to fall upon the sole. Plink! I recommend waiting a moment before picking that up.

What to do about former bolt-holes now visible on the deck? It's very hard to make a cosmetically perfect fill of nonskid and get the texture and color right. So I just put bolts back in them. They don't hold anything, but who's gonna know that? I think this is a good application for butyl tape, but any of the usual caulks would work as well.

The Lewmars compress the line in a proprietary fashion that does appear to cause no damage at all. They're black and new and nicely labelled for identification. Is that so I don't forget where the reef line is? Well, I may need it in a few years. But most owners label clutches not for themselves, but so a casual crew will know what the devil you're talking about when you say, "Mind easing the vang a tad?"

Most of all, they look good--just like my hair.

As Rula Lenska would say, don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

*See one complaint about Lewmars vs. Spinlock XTS clutches

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  1. kiwisailor's Avatar
    Nice job Christian! This project is also on my list as I only have 3 port and 2 starboard clutches and I'm planning to bring the reefs, vang and topping lift back to the cockpit. I just received all new NE VPC halyards and sheets from the recent West Marine line sale so another reason for new clutches.

    Where did you find the best deal on your clutches?
  2. Christian Williams's Avatar I didn't shop around much, though.
  3. markvone's Avatar

    I got Spinlock XTS at Vela Sailing after searching the web for awhile. They might have specials/sales too. Not sure if they will be cheapest for other brands.

  4. woolamaloo's Avatar
    Very nice. I made an almost identical upgrade this past summer and I did do a lot of research on where to buy. I also bought from Defender. It was by far the best price I found.

    The Lewmars work so nice and smooth. It's a great upgrade over the over thirty year old factory clutches.