Originally Posted by Rustyf
Would someone please describe the purpose of the various winches on a 34-36 ft. sloop. I know that one each would be for raising/lowering the main and the jib. But what about the others. I suspect that there is a winch for reefing the main but am not sure. Thanks.
Rusty: the location of the various winches will tell you what their purpose is. The winches on the side of the mast are obviously for raising the sails. On some boats, the winches for raising the sails are located on the cabin top. This means you don't have to leave the security of the cockpit to raise and lower the sails. Also, as someone else has pointed out, you can use these winches for multiple purposes; by installing "clutches" to hold lines fast, you can use the same winch for a variety of line handling tasks. Boats set up for racing with multiple headsails or that use spinnakers have this type of arrangement. And to answer your question specifically, there is no winch dedicated to reefing the main; you would use the same winch as you used to set it. The downside to having these winches on the cabin top is that the various blocks needed to run the lines to the winches create extra friction, which means a noticeable increase in the amount of effort it takes to handle the lines.
The winches located on the cockpit coamings are used to control the jib or genny sheets. When the boat has a big main sail, sometimes you need a separate winch to control that sheet too. I can't recall if I have ever seen one on a boat the size that you describe except for an all-out racing machine. This winch is often located near the aft end of the cockpit.