Last Fall we were sailing back to Sidney from Portland Island, one of our favorite anchorages and a Provincial Marine Park, when I cranked on the main starboard winch and heard CLUNK.
I tentatively went another click and it worked but sounded just plain wrong.
It was time to delve into the mystery that was the inside of our winches.
I went to Lewmar's site, downloaded the manual for our size (44), read some of the forums to find out what gear I needed, realized that our oh-so-fantastic and organized previous owner had already stocked us with winch grease and lube, and began trying to find the right hex key to open up the winches.
After starting to open them I realized that the manual that I had was wrong. No problem, we knew our winches were old so I needed an older version manual. DAYS later, with the poor half-open winch under a ziploc, I finally found a 26 year old manual that someone had scanned into .pdf for our 26 year old winches.
They are original - fairly certain. On the one hand, wow, Lewmar makes a great product. On the other hand, are they going to break? Will we be able to find spares if they do? Luckily, everything looked very nice inside except for needing a good clean. All of the gears looked unworn and I started the time consuming task of scrubbing everything with a toothbrush and lighter fluid.
Well that is -- everything looked good except for the broken pawl. Pawls are these little things that hold, in concert with a gear, the entire force of the foresail, via the jibsheet. There are 3 in each of our main winches so that if one goes, the other two will hold. One of ours had rusted, siezed and then sheared off while being used.
A close up of the broken pawl and our teak which we are letting go natural the, er, natural way.
After picking up a bunch of pawls and springs, enough for this project and the spares kit, it was just a matter of regreasing and lubing everything and figuring out the jigsaw puzzle.
And then, because I'm not good at doing things half way, I moved on to the main port winch and all of three winches on our mast. Luckily the port winch was fine and just involved the labor of disassembling, cleaning and reassembling. The mast winches looked mostly perfect. Hardly any cleaning to do and no wear.
Except one winch which it looked like had some grease get into the pawls (the pawls only get oiled, not greased) and the grease gummed it up and caused the pawl to stick - see the furthest left pawl:
After this multi-day process was finally over and I cleaned up the cockpit from the grease I had tried so carefully to avoid splattering, we discovered through conversation with friends that instead of grease one can soak the whole mess in WD-40 and then reassemble. By doing so, the next time there won't be any grease to clean up which was, after the research I had to do, the most difficult and time consuming part.
And we learn...