Yacht Maintenance Part 5 - Winches & Deck Fittings
boot Practical Boating Guides
Yacht Maintenance - Part 5: Winches & Deck Fittings
Getting your boat shipshape for the new boating season
The deck fittings on your sailing yacht ensure that everything works the way it should - setting, furling and reefing sails, anchoring, halyards and sheets, tacking and gybing and so on; fittings are always involved. Therefore, at the beginning of the season you should take very good care that all fittings are functional. Otherwise, you end up with a dysfunctional yacht that is no longer seaworthy. The good news is that most of today's fittings are almost maintenance-free and you merely have to keep an eye on mechanical wear or corrosion.
A noteable exception are the winches. They are, of course, also relatively complex creatures with many moving parts which should be maintained regularly. Manufacturers even advise taking the winches apart several times during the boating season, cleaning them from the inside before re-greasing and oiling them. Personally, however, I would rather see this as a maximum of care advisable for heavily used yachts. For the common family or cruising yacht it is usually sufficient to do this once a year.
Accoustic warning signs In the end, it comes down to how much sailing is done and how much the winches are actually used. In fact, there is an audible warning sign that tells you when it is time to take care of your winches: If the normally bright ringing tone to be heard when using the winch turns somewhat dull or can no longer be heard at all, action is required. If it becomes too old, the winch grease can resinify, which means that it no longer lubricates properly and causes increased wear and tear.
Disassembling and cleaning the winches
A loaded winch
Anchor winch on deck
For disassembling a winch...
...you need proper tools...
...and suitable grease.
Watch the small bits and pieces Before you remove the snap-ring on the head of the winch drum and take it apart, you should remember that some rather small parts work together inside. Some of them, like the pawls, are equipped with small springs. If you are unlucky or careless, such small parts can easily go overboard. This is still almost as annoying when it happens in your winter storage, although perhaps not necessarily as final as in the water. As a precaution, attach a cloth or something similar to the guard rail next to the winch to keep such parts safely on board.
Cleaning, greasing and oiling After you have lifted off the drum, you can remove all other parts, carefully and one after the other. Clean everything with a soft cloth and perhaps also some benzine. The bearings and gears can then be lubricated with special winch grease before reassembling it. But take care never to grease the small pawls and springs. Otherwise there is the danger that they are no longer moving freely but rather "stick together" at some point. This can actually turn out rather dangerous if it happens at the wrong time. Always oil these parts, best with a special oil offered by the winch manufacturers - unless your Grandma still has some sewing machine oil left over, then you can also take this. While lubricating and oiling, put everything together in reverse order to taking it apart, carefully put on the drum - you probably have to turn it slightly so that the pawls can engage - reattach the snap-ring and you're done! It is easy as long as you take good note of how the parts belong together!
Deck Fittings & Guardrail
Regularly check the anchor winch,...
...especially if mounted in the bow locker.
Also carefully check all splints.
And your guardrail...
...is well worth a thorough examination.
Nip things in the bud Then check all other deck fittings. Especially the anchor windlass, check it for functionality and take a look from below, even if this is only possible with uncomfortable contortions or with the help of a pocket mirror. It is here, in the damp and salty climate of the anchor locker, that rot runs wild and if corrosion is detected here early and something is done about it in time, it will save you a lot of trouble further down the line.
Check all fastenings Next, thoroughly inspect the guardrail. Here too, check everything for wear and tear. Are the stanchions shaking? Are there any hairline cracks in the deck at the stanchion feet (cf. our chapter on hull & deck)? Finally, also check the splints, the wires of the guardrail and if they are still tightly fixed at the ends. Of course, you should also check all the splints on the chain plates and shroud turnbuckles if the mast is already up or you have not yet managed to do so when rigging the mast.
Hardware for the running rigging Check the hardware for the running rigging: blocks, pulleys and clamps. Here too: check if everything is working? If not, sometimes some magic stuff, alias WD40 (or a comparable product), will help. Careful: Not all plastic pulleys, for example in the leading blocks for halyards and stretchers on deck, are really UV-resistant in the long run. Small fibres break or crumble at the edge, and you don't want them either in the ropes or in your fingers in the end. If this is the case, one or the other pulley, or the whole fitting, has to be replaced and renewed.
And finally, when all the halyards and clamps are working (if not: replace!), the boating season can begin!