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Ericson 38--The Forgotten Zone of Deck Organizers

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A deck organizer is a set of sheaves designed specifically to redirect lines on the deck toward winches or toward the clutches (line brakes) that allow sharing of winches.

And an aardvark is a nocturnal animal that eats termites through its nose.

I paid attention to both of them about equally until a couple of weeks ago when I realized that either I was ready for the rest home or there was something wrong with my deck gear. I can still crank up a bleedin' halyard, but it used to be that when I did, it didn't feel like I was lifting the Eiffel Tower. And the mere tightening of a reef line didn't used to be a groin sprain and stained linen.

So I decided I'd better pay more attention to my deck organizers than to obscure African anteaters. Yes, they was froze cold! And more's the wonder, I hadn't even noticed. My factory original Schaefer triple oganizers had sheaves nicely hidden from casual view. Nary a one would rotate at all. Hmmm. How could I miss that?

The good news is that deck organizers are easy to change out. The other news is that a triple organizer from Schaefer is $200. But the holes still match, so the job only takes a morning or so if things go right.

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The design is such that the sheaves can't be changed individually. The three bolts through the cabin house have to come out, and then the top and bottom plates of the organizer easily separate. The plastic sheaves have a simple synthetic bearing that turns on a tube through which the bolt runs. No ball bearings or lubrication. After 33 years the sheaves were jammed hard and impervious to rejuvenation with oil, soap, water, hammer blows or cursing.

I ordered new ones before taking the old ones off, but I now see that just replacing the sheaves might have been as good. Still, my stainless had some scratches and, now I come to think of it, the identifying word "Schaefer" had worn down. So for $400, I now have the brand name back--instead of just spending $10 for a polishing wheel and $20 each for six new sheaves.

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The replacements came with Delrin sheaves. The wire halyard on my genoa needs an aluminum sheave, and they're about $60 each. I was able to salvage one from my original gear. The other was entirely welded together by the 32nd wedding anniversary of stainless bolt, bronze sleeve and aluminum drum.

The Ericson factory had bedded the fitting in compound, but I couldn't see why. The camber of the deck isn't an issue. Only the three bolt holes can leak--and perhaps the head of the bolt where it sits flush on the top plate. So I just wound the bolts with butyl rubber, and left a dab under the bolt-head. (On reflection, bedding the lower plate is probably a good idea, to keep dirt from collecting under it over the years. I just used the original bedding, visible in the first photo.)

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The new organizers came with very long 3/8th stainless bolts. But I found they provided a handy shortcut for those of us who tend to wind up doing this stuff alone, which is probably most of us. Instead of putting vice-grips on the nuts and then running on deck with a screwdriver, one is able to merely clamp the vice-grips on the bolt end and hold it whilst turning the nut. The damaged threads get cut off anyhow.

Ah, now for the sophisticated solution to that. Merely hold a 50-year-old Sawzall up against the delicate zipper of the labor-intensive headliner, close your eyes, hold your breath, start the beast roaring and bucking and hope for the best. I believe this is the technique professionals use in the demolition of outhouses. Works for yachting, too.

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It's quite amazing, the friction caused by deck organizers with sheaves that don't turn. I wasn't sure this job was worth it--but one pull on the main halyard emphatically proved it was.

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  1. kiwisailor's Avatar
    Nice write up Christian. Arrgh boat maintenance it's never ending
  2. Filkee's Avatar
    'Twas an organizer that was the source of the leak that rotted my innards. Okay, I guess organizers don't make leaks, poor bedding jobs make leaks, but I had a little flashback when I saw this.
  3. woolamaloo's Avatar
    My second biggest deck leak (after the anchor locker) was my starboard deck organizer. It is a two-sheave Schaefer that looks very similar to Christian's. I would have assumed that it was original, but when I pulled it off, there were six holes under it - two for the deck organizer and four more that must have been for a previous installation. All six holes had what appeared to be failed latex caulk in them. I removed the organizer, filled all six holes with epoxy after enlarging the core in the two holes I'll still use and rebedded it with butyl. It is the first repair I've made in five years of having my boat where I had everything I needed without a trip to the store or the internet.

    Cleveland, Ohio
    1985 E30+ #685/Universal M18