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Halyard-winch rehab (part 1 of 2)

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Big projects start with small ideas

A while back I decided I wanted to update the deck hardware on either side of my companionway***. The winches were a little small, none of them were self-tailers, and, frankly, the way the lines were led to the clutches sorta bugged me. So… I figure,d, I’ll just change things a little. Re-do them in a way that feels right to me. No big deal.

Thus began a project that ended up taking the better part of a month, *after* I’d collected all the bits and pieces.

First step was to decide on winches. I for-sure wanted self-tailers, and I wanted them to be slightly larger. I had two Barient-10 single-speeds on one side, and a single Barient-18 two-speed on the other. I ended up settling on Lewmar 30STs – they’re a good size, parts are available, and they were significantly less expensive than equivalent-sized Harkens. Plus, they got even less expensive when West Marine ran a “buy one, get one free” deal on Lewmar winches. Ended up getting two winches for barely more than I could have gotten one from Fisheries (yes, before you ask, I tried to get the 2-for-1 *and* the competitive price-match that West now does, but no joy. They said I could either have the price match or the 2-for-1, my choice. Oh well. It was worth a try.)

For clutches, my original thought was to re-use the Sorensen “EasyLock” clutches already on the boat. I had a double on one side and a triple on the other, and I figured if I ended up with a triple on both sides it would be a good setup. I actually bought a pair of EasyLock triples on eBay (that’s a story in itself – they came from a Latvian chandlery by way of a German auto-parts distributor)…. But the more I thought about it, the less comfortable I was that the EasyLocks were the right solution. I called around and found that most of my trusted advisors felt that the Spinlock XAS-series clutches would be a good solution for my boat, so I went that way.

At the beginning of the project, the configuration looked like this

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I planned to start the project as soon as the weather got “nice”. Well, the first weekend that was really nice around here was Memorial Day weekend, and it was reallllllllly tempting to put the sails on the boat and go sailing. But the voices in my head said “once you put the sails on the boat, you aren’t going to want to take them down, and that means the project will be dead for this year”. They were right…. So instead of going out, I spent Memorial Day weekend pulling off old deck hardware.

OK, I’ll say that more truthfully. I spent most of Memorial Day swearing at deck hardware. And the ancestry of whoever it was that put most of it on.

Some of the stuff came off easy. The jackline anchors and cleats that Christian put on were put on very well – ¼” holes for ¼” fasteners, drilled straight, in the right places, and hardware bedded with butyl so they came off and cleaned up easily.

The other stuff? Not so much. The holes (for ¼” fasteners) were all drilled 5/16”, most of them crooked or oblong. And then the fasteners were glued into the holes with some sort of evil 1980s version of polysulfide, which had effectively fossilized. I had to POUND the fasteners out from the underside to get the clutches and winches off. Fun stuff.

In the end, I had 42 holes in the deck (yes, “42” is the answer, whether you remember the question or not). For those keeping score, that’s 18 on the port side (1 winch, 1 triple-clutch, 2 cleats, 1 jackline anchor), 21 on the starboard side (2 inches, 1 double-clutch, 2 cleats, one jackline anchor)…

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Plus three “bonus holes”. Yeah. When I looked at the underside, I found three holes on the bottom that didn’t line up with anything on the top. I stuck a screwdriver up from underneath and – with a surprisingly small amount of force – pushed little “plugs” out the top. Apparently when the boat was first put together they drilled the holes for the starboard-side clutch, didn’t like something about it and drilled new holes in different spots. The “fix” for the original holes appears to be a finger-full of bondo smeared into the hole, with factory gelcoat across the top. Ugh.

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All the holes got “potted” with a Dremel bit, both to clear out any remaining polysulfide and get a good clean surface inside, and to open up the core a little so the repairs would have mechanical strength as well as the chemical bond. Ground the holes to a bowl-shape on top, laid in some fiberglass (alternating layers of 6oz cloth and 1-1/2oz mat), and then filled the holes from below with a syringe full of thickened resin. I think that’ll turn out to be as least as strong as the bondo plug…

After filling/fairing/sanding the surface, I hired a local gelcoat guy to do the finish. Partly because I’m colorblind, and me trying to match the color would be like a fish trying to ride a bicycle. And partly because I had some travel for work, and it was worth it to have someone do the gelcoat and sand/polish/buff to get a nice finish. He did a great job, and the cabin-top looked like new when he was done.

Then it was time to start laying out the gear on the blank canvas we’d created. I had a number of priorities. In no particular order, I wanted

  • The lines to be high enough to clear the edge at the front of the panel,
  • The lines to run “fair” from organizers through clutches to the winches,
  • The layout to be as “symmetrical” as possible (*),
  • The clutch handles to clear a dodger, if I or a future owner want to add one, and
  • The winches to be “level”, which also required the clutches to be level, and
  • The winches positioned in a way that they could be used as secondaries (for spin sheets)


That “symmetrical” thing threw me for a while. The choices are, I can either have the clutches arranged the same on each side, which works well for running the lines along the deck, but the winches would be in different places because the lines would lead to the inboard side of one drum and the outboard side of the other drum; or, I could arrange the winches the same on both sides, and have the clutches be in different spots; or I could have the clutches and winches line up the same on both sides, but know that the lead between the clutches and winches would be funky.

None of those options were pleasing to my OCD.

I ended up going with the first option. The clutches were laid out symmetrically, which means the lines running aft to the clutches is symmetrical. The lines now clear both the forward corner of the sea-hood and the aft corner of the handrail, on both sides. The winches were positioned so that the high-load line (jib-halyard on the port-side, main-halyard on the starboard side) led straight from the clutch to the working side of the drum. That means the other lines bend a little on their way, but well within the 10-degree angle that Spinlock recommends. And, yeah, it means that if you look closely, the starboard winch is closer to the hatch-rail than the port winch, but… in theory, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

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(the bits of blue tape mark where the old holes were - I wanted to avoid those places and drill through solid core where I could)

Getting things high-enough, not too high, and level, was… interesting. Took some experimenting to figure out how high the front of the clutches needed to be in order to clear the top edge, and what that meant for how high the winches needed to be farther aft. On a section of deck that slopes aft AND slopes to the side.

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(continued in Part 2)

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Updated 11-11-2018 at 07:59 PM by bgary

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