Should I replace this main halyard winch? - SailNet Community

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Old 04-21-2010
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Should I replace this main halyard winch?



My new boat has one of these winches installed on starboard side of the mast. I've only used it once and it was a real pain in the ass, but I'm not sure I was using it correctly.

It doesn't have a ratcheting action so you have to first use a winch handle to tighted it, and then lock it from spinning using the pin lock. I'm also not sure what that second smaller groove is for.

What's the point of this? It was very cumbersome to use coming from someone who has only used standard winch and cleat combo on the main halyard. Also it should be noted that the halyard is all wire, there is no line attached.
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Old 04-21-2010
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It is a reel-winch designed to collect the halyard on the winch barrel as does the spool collect line on a fishing reel. I have only seen a few of these since the late 1960's but they do work. We had two of them on our 1963 Rhodes Reliant--one each for the main and the mizzen. If the brake still works and will lock down the barrel/spool, there's no reason not to use it, especially so if you replace the wire halyards with something like 1/4" Spectra. Why spend money unnecessarily?
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Old 04-21-2010
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OK, so you confirmed that it is not supposed to ratchet like a typical winch, which was one of the reasons i was thinking of replacing it... thought maybe it was broken.

Yes, it does seem to work, it just isn't very user-friendly. If you wind it up too tight and accidentally let go, it seems to have enough force to smack you pretty hard and possibly throw the winch in the water, too. So you have to wind it with one hand, and tighten down the lock with the other without losing grip of the winch handle. Just seems like a an accident waiting to happen...
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Old 04-21-2010
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I'm not a big fan of reel-winches, since they can be arm breakers if the barrel lock fails and there is a handle in the winch.
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Old 04-21-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
I'm not a big fan of reel-winches, since they can be arm breakers if the barrel lock fails and there is a handle in the winch.
Yep--you are definately right about that. Never-ever leave a handle in a reel winch. Regular maintenance of the brake is also necessary. These are from the daze when novices rarely owned boats large enough to have such a winch fitted so it was less of an issue than it might be today.

FWIW...
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Old 04-21-2010
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Sounds like you are in the market for a new halyard (modern synthetic line actually stretches LESS than the wire you have) and possibly a new winch. Wire reel winches are dangerous, as has been noted. If you go to lower the main by simply releasing the brake on a wire reel winch, the wire can spring as it runs out. This causes kinks in the wire, besides a possible jam that can be difficult to release. Is it lots of fun to have your sail half way up and twenty minutes of prying with a screwdriver to get the halyard clear? To prevent this, the crew has to hold the handle in the winch while releasing the brake, then back the handle down in order to safely lower the sail. This makes for a S L O W operation, which can also be dangerous if you need sails down quickly - in a squall, for example. The winch you picture also appears to be set up for a combination rope/wire halyard. The top (outer?) part of the drum is for the rope. You pull the rope halyard up as far as you can, and when you get to the wire splice, you put the wire on the bottom section of the winch (between the base and the flange) and then take two or three wraps around the drum with the rope part. A full wire halyard should have a different type of winch that will accept the entire wire on it's spindle. Usually these have cages around them, to keep people from losing fingers if the brake is released and the wire springs or develops a snag that protrudes from the reel. In order to fit properly on a true reel winch, the wire needs to be guided carefully onto the spindle in neat, flat spirals. The wire inevitably develops soldiers that cut hands and fingers with painful, salty slices. While you might be able to put up with giving crew broken arms and cuts, losing winch handles overboard, or the occasional finger, blood stains on the teak, the sails, or anywhere on deck are totally unacceptable. That is why you have to replace your halyard. There is no point to getting a new rope/wire halyard. The splice alone costs more than the line alone would, and as mentioned above, the wire stretches more than contemporary line. You may be able to continue using the main section of your existing winch with an all-line halyard, since is is designed to handle rope. How the brake works (or doesn't)may make it difficult to keep the original winch, however. Try and see, but you should be much happer (and safer) with an all-line halyard.
P.S. Just noticed you said the existing winch has no rachet. Toss it. (In an environmentally friendly way.)

Last edited by paulk; 04-21-2010 at 10:52 PM. Reason: adtl info
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Thanks a lot for the info paulk! Any recommendations as to line type/size to replace the wire? Thanks again everyone for the answers.
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Old 04-21-2010
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Depending on the size of your boat generally a 3/8 rope halyard will work. However you may need to change the sheaves on the top of the mast. Not generally a big job. You could also use a rope/wire halyard. Not my preferrence but they work fine and don't cause a problem with the sheaves. If the winch is on the mast it does not need to be self tailing but you will need a cleat to tie it off.
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Old 04-22-2010
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Thay are also buggers when winching the skinny midget up the mast. Invest in a normal sheet winch, and go with wire to rope it is easier on the hands than small dia spectra.
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Old 04-22-2010
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Leave it as back up or remove it. Get a new or used winch, put it on the cabin top. Get a turning block, rope clutch, and route the main halyard to the cockpit! (you will be glad you did!)
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