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post #11 of Old 05-10-2011
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Doesn't matter where they're stowed. I've never saw the point of "locking" winch handles. The only time they're lost over the side is when they're being molested by humans. They don't just 'jump' out by themselves.

Floating handles are great, if you're not racing. Now I write the boat name and sail number on the floaters, so hopefully after a race, they'll find their way home. I don't care if the crew leaves them in or out, as long as they don't lose them.

Merit 25 # 764 "Audrey"
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post #12 of Old 05-11-2011
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It all depends. If the sheet or guy is being actively trimmed, then yes, they stay in. If not, then they're out. I've only experienced one pawl failure. It nearly broke the hand of the operator. In this case, it was on a large and highly loaded runner winch . Fortunately it wasn't particularly windy that day so the rig didn't come down, but we did tack immediately then took the offending winch apart, serviced, oiled the pawls, reassembled, then continued on.
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post #13 of Old 05-11-2011
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Not exactly

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Originally Posted by zz4gta View Post
Doesn't matter where they're stowed. I've never saw the point of "locking" winch handles. The only time they're lost over the side is when they're being molested by humans.
I would venture to suggest that locking winch handles are intended for use on mast-mounted (halyard) winches. At least that's where I use mine. Non-locking winch handles left in one of these winches have a good chance of falling out and being lost over the side.

I've never seen the point of floating winch handles. I reckon the chance of sailing back and finding one that's gone over the side when you're sailing at anything over three knots are pretty unlikely.

But maybe I just don't have the patience to go searching for $40.


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Last edited by Omatako; 05-11-2011 at 01:23 AM.
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post #14 of Old 05-11-2011
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Alrighty, I'll weigh in with my two cent's worth on this one, although I think it largely rests on the captain's preference. I have once had a pawl skip in 35 knots of wind, and the speeding winch handle just about broke the back of my hand - it certainly burst some blood vessels. This highlights the need to annually service your winches, so that your pawls don't skip.

I do use a floating winch handle (it locks into place, too). I've had it overboard once, and retrieved it from the towed dinghy with little fanfare. It was worth going back for, because it's an $80.00 handle.

I used to stow my winch handles between use, but the reality is that it's most likely to go swimming when being put into place in the winch, so why not minimize the likelihood of having to retrieve it by locking it into place in the leeward winch. I chose this method after speaking to a few of my circumnavigating friends, who told me they leave the handle in place in the leeward winch for days at a time on the open ocean, where they never have to look for it if they need it in a hurry.

I never allow the handle to be stored in the windward winch, because I don't want my crew wrapping a winch that has a handle in it prior to a tack; I have a procedure for winch handling that precludes putting on the handle until the sheet has been hand tightened with one wrap until resistance is felt, then 3 wraps applied, then the winch handle put into place and the sheet hardened with the winch. This is SOP during instruction in any of the major yachting associations, so I'll stick with it until something that makes more sense comes along.

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post #15 of Old 05-11-2011
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Take the winch handle out after trimming! It's not a pawl failure you need to worry about; it's a stuck pawl spring. If the spring sticks and does not push the pawl out far enough into the ratchet; it can slip out and allow the drum to freewheel. This can happen to any winch and yes; it usually happens when the winch has not had regular cleaning/maintenance. Always spin your winches and listen for a sharp clicking sound and crank the winches with the handle under no load and listen for the same in each speed if it is a 2 or 3 speed winch. If the clicking is dull sounding you know the pawls/springs need cleaning and re-oiling. Do not use winch grease to lubricate the pawls! Only use light machine oil to lubricate pawls, springs, ratchets.

If your cockpit has a high coaming like mine does and the winches are large/tall; the winch handle sits at about the height of a crew or passenger's head when sitting on the cockpit seat on the leeward side. If the winch fails for any reason, the handle could kill someone on impact with their head. This is not a myth or subject to interpretation; it's a simple fact that the potential for injury or even death exists if you don't pull the handle out of the winch drive once it's trimmed.
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post #16 of Old 05-11-2011
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All you guys must have self tailers, mine are not and go to a cleat, but anyway, I do remove the handle as soon as the adjustment is made.
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post #17 of Old 05-11-2011
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Although I have plenty of handles, I only use one at a time on my boat. It's small enough. I have a winch handle pocket installed low in the cockpit. I leave the handle in the loaded winch to allow constant trimming if needed and I always load the lazy sheet onto it's winch in preparation for the next tack.

Shortly prior to tacking, I transfer the handle to the lazy winch so that when I dump the loaded sheet during the tack, the sheet doesn't get hung up on the winch handle.

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post #18 of Old 05-11-2011
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[quote=SPC;729033].......Why don't the handles have idiot straps to go over the wrist, something that would fit at least loosely?...............[quote]

I would accept many of the options mentioned above and the comment about the self-tailing winches as opposed to those with sheets secured to cleats is well said. I noticed that no one addressed this quoted suggestion above. I understand the intent, but teathering your wrist to a winch handle is an added risk and will limit your ability to deftly handle the lines and increase the chance of injury. Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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post #19 of Old 05-11-2011
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I was taught to remove them........and quickly just started doing whatever I felt like at the time (locking handles). In the end it doesn't seem to matter because whether I leave on the winch or remove it will be the opposite of what I what to do with the winch the next time I want to use it!
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post #20 of Old 05-11-2011
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I’ve always been a little skeptical of this advice since I’ve never met anyone who knew anyone who was injured by a whizzing winch handle released by a failing pawl.
I have a scar between my eyes from a failed pawl (mizzen halyard winch).
I admit, lack of proper maintenance. And to make matters worse, with Suzi at the helm, I had to go below by myself to find the First Aid kit. I couldn't find the bandages in the kit without my glasses on, but with my glasses on, the blood filled the lenses so quickly that I still couldn't see. It actually got comical, and I was laughing, though in pain.

We stow the winch handles. We 're cruisers, and don't adjust the sails that often anyway - every two or three days is enough - just steer the boat until the wind is in the sails.

Saltwater Suzi and Cap'n Larry


"A sailboat is a fickle mistress. You’ve got to buy her things. You’ve got to understand everything about her. What you don’t know she’ll use against you." -Captain Larry


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