People love to ask us if we ever get bored on the boat. At times yes, maybe? The thing is, if you’re not out surfing or kiting or diving or doing whatever it is that excites you, there’s bound to be a long list of boat projects that needs tending to. I can’t say rebuilding the head or trying time and again to find the problem with the SSB radio are tasks that get me out of bed in the morning ready to conquer the world, but do they make me bored? No. Once you get into it they’re just a more masochistic kind of fun.
The first time I rebuilt one of our winches I was slightly intimidated. Well, I was confident and ready to figure it all out until Matt came over, dropped a Calder book at my feet and tented me with a tarp pleading I not send anything flying. I can’t really blame him, though, as I had recently launched a bit from the outboard’s carburetor into Bora Bora’s lagoon, and finding replacement parts for our original 1970-something’s Barient winches is nearly impossible.
For a device that makes raising the mainsail possible (I literally do not weigh enough to get it up without a winch) I expected to remove the drum housing and meet the monster inside that would take an entire day to service. But what do you know? These things are pretty straightforward, and one of the many reasons I greatly prefer mechanics to electronics. That same winch is running smoothly almost three years later, but we’ve got eleven on board and it was about time another one seized up on us. Despite what I’ve just mentioned, I got up extra early and put together my kit with fervour and made for the mast, but that’s really one part coffee, two parts existing knowledge of the task, and three parts trying to beat the heat of the sun.
There are a number of winch-specific cleaning products out there, though I’ve found a good diesel bath to work magic and it’s usually something we have an excess of on board. That said, it’s a good thing no winches seized on our way down from the Marshalls… But the whole cleaning process is so simple and requires so few elements that it makes sense to do them all at once, when the ease of servicing them is so greatly outweighed by the ease they offer in return and the annoyance of when they don’t. My kit is nothing more than an awl for getting the circlips off, needle-nose pliers for getting the pawls out (mind the springs!), diesel for washing, a green scrubby for scrubbing, gloves, grease, lube, a paintbrush, a bucket, and some rags.
I should add that another possible reason this task was tackled so quickly is that the seized winch was the one we use to hip the dinghy at night (no davits on this canoe). When the backstay broke we didn’t feel comfortable hanging nearly 250lbs from the mast and the dinghy sat in the water for three weeks. We finally brought it out of the water and put it on deck for passage and had this to deal with:
Advice for anyone facing the same issue: let it cook in the sun for a day and try to stay upwind. It’ll be a whole lot easier to scrape off, and your nose will thank you.