How to Service Your Winches

Winch Service

Some winches are more difficult to service than others. If you do not know what to expect, certain parts, depending on manufacturer, can come sliding out at inopportune times and jump overboard! i happen to know this from personal experience and if you are really unlucky (like I was) then it may be a part from a vintage winch for which they no longer make parts… woops!


Like anything else, there are varying techniques when it comes to servicing winches. Let me try and see if I can explain a simple method that I personally like to use. First, I would try and get some sort of manual or diagram of the winch you are trying to service or disassemble. The internet can be a really useful tool for this.

New Lewmar Winch Drum Top

In removing the winch drum, depending on the winch you have, you are looking for either a single screw down inside the winch handle socket or a split ring which sits on top of the drum and encompasses the winch handle socket. Andersen winches like to use three Allen Head screws that also hold the lifter on. Newer Lewmar winches will have large threaded washer which sits on top of the self tailing unit (pictured above). Some older model Lewmar winches will need the self-tailer disassembled in order to remove the drum. These methods should release the drum on most winches made within the last 20 years or so. Again, your best bet is to always look online for a technical diagram for your winch.

Harken Winch Drum ScrewThe trick to servicing any winch is to do ONE AT A TIME! All of the parts within a winch are usually specific to their location. Which means most of the time the winch will not allow you to put it back together improperly. Although taking pictures as you are doing this can’t hurt.

So now that the drum is free, try and slide it up gently and carefully. Some winches have Delrin or bronze key-ways that are let into the winches spindle or body that will need to be removed to completely slide the drum up and off. These can be tedious and require patience. Before you lift the drum off completely slide your hand under the drum to catch any parts or pieces (like bearing sleeves) that may be stuck to the inside of the drum and like to come sliding out when you least expect it.

servicing the winch

Next, we should be looking at the internal workings of the winch. Slide off and remove any pins, gears, washers, and spacers that are removable. From here depending on what winch you own, you may need to remove the winch completely. I know nobody wants to actually unbolt the winch, but if it hasn’t been serviced in the last five years or more, I would definitely recommend to go all the way and service the winch completely.

So how do we ‘de-gunk’ all of these parts? Well, this is the difference in my method vs. others. Generally you will see people use a tub or a parts washer and use either kerosene, mineral spirits, diesel fuel, or the like. This makes one heck of a mess, can be bad for you, and it stinks! I like to use good old WD-40 and a roll of paper towels, it de-greases, cleans, lubricates and dissipates moisture. Not only that, it also comes in a handy-dandy spray can so I can show up at the boat with just a fresh roll of paper towels, a can of WD-40, a cardboard box for my trash, spare pawls, springs and some gear grease. I will lay out a paper towel next to the winch I am working on and clean each and every part as I remove it and lay it on the paper towel.Winch parts on paper towels After all of the internal workings have been thoroughly cleaned and inspected including the inside of the drum and all non moving parts; I reassemble the winch completely and carefully, then grease all of the gears, bearings and the spindle, ONLY. NEVER GREASE THE PAWLS! For the pawls WD-40 is all you need, you can opt use 3 in 1 oil or pawl oil for them, but never grease.

I will Make sure all pawls and springs are in good working condition and that they have nice action. If not, I replace them with the spares that I have.

Lewmar 3 in 1 oil The key to winches is, I’ll say it again, DO ONE AT A TIME. Re-assemble the winch carefully and if it is not going together correctly right away, then take it back apart and try again! Remember you need to be patient, but do not put it back together if you think it is wrong. Instead ask your local rigger for help. Hope this helps and leave a comment if you have a question.

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Views from Aloft

Jimmie Cockerill Aloft in Canton Baltimore


 I struck gold again with another beautiful day in the Baltimore Inner Harbor!

Canton Waterfront

On this day we conducted an official sailboat rigging inspection for the United States Coast Guard…pretty cool eh?

U.S. Coast Guard Sailboat Rigging Inspection

This is a shot of the bow and the USCG anxiously awaiting my return to earth to tell them about what I found.

Safeway Grocery Store

I just liked this shot of Canton and it just so happens to be a great plug for Safeway supermarkets….you’re welcome.

Cracked Stanchion Base

Unfortunately for the boat owner there were some cracks….

Marine Eye. Cracked fitting. Cracked Headstay. Cracked forestay fitting

….,some worse than others. Above is an image of the headstay marine eye and the crack that I found. It migrates all the way around the bottom of the eye, yikes!

Endeavour 43

The boat was an Endeavour 43 Ketch and repairs were made immediately. 

Thanks for taking a look at the view.



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When Replacing Electrical Items in the Mast

Raymarine Wireless Tacktick Mast Head Fly

Raymarine Wireless Tacktick Mast Head Fly

Re-wiring and replacing the fixtures in the mast is a task that most of us boat owners need to face at some point. Let’s address what needs to happen during this process and what is the most efficient way to do this.

OGM Tri-Color Anchor Strobe w/ Photodiode

OGM Tri-Color Anchor Strobe w/ Photodiode

Forespar ML II w/ Light Guard

Forespar ML II w/ Light Guard

First, the mast needs to be un-stepped. Therefore it could be a smart idea to handle any other items that could benefit from the mast being out.

Next, begin by removing the old masthead fixture, the old steaming light fixture, and the old VHF antenna. Now remove all of the old wires and any remaining hardware. In some cases there are electrical items that need to be re-used. These items could be a radar and cable, as well as a digital wind instrument. Be sure to carefully remove these items as well and inspect them closely (now’s the time).

Shakespeare Squatty Body VHF Antenna

Shakespeare Squatty Body VHF Antenna

Perko Spreader Light, Adjustable Mount

Perko Spreader Light, Adjustable Mount


Once all electrical items have been removed, you should check to see if there is a conduit present and how it may or may not be fastened. A properly installed conduit offers; no wire slap, clean wire runs, and most importantly, the ability to run additional wires or trouble shoot existing ones with ease, even when the mast is up.

Sailboat Mast Conduit

Properly Installed ConduitInstalling a conduit is a bit’ of a ‘trick of the trade’. It is best here to seek the assistance of a professional rigger if one needs to be installed. Make sure to ask your rigger what technique he or she might use. At T.R.C., we will use aluminum or PVC irrigation tubing. This type of tubing offers a sleeker connection at the joint. Our conduits are then riveted using a pair of aluminum rivets (to avoid dissimilar metals) every 3′ or so along the length of the mast. I like to counter sink these rivets because it makes it look more finished and also gives you no issues if there might be future sanding.

Properly installed conduit


After the conduit is ready to go, you are now ready to fish-in a messenger line. From here you can begin to pull in your new wires. Always try and leave in a service messenger when finished. Unless the conduit is full of course, we don’t want to be misleading anyone in the future. I tend to make it a practice to pull-in the large wires or the wires with permanent ends first. Now go ahead and drill, tap, and dry fit your new fixtures. Make sure you take your time and think it through and follow the manufacturers guidelines. Never use sheet metal or self tapping screws, even if provided by some manufacturers. Always drill and tap, or rivet your fixtures along with a dab of sealant for a secure hold.

marine grade electrical connectors and heat shrink tubing

Forespar ML II Wiring Guide

Make sure you use marine grade connectors that heat shrink. Additionally, before making any connections, slide on a piece of marine grade heat shrink tubing. Marine grade heat shrink tubing has an adhesive that is released when heated. After your connections are made and heat shrunk, make sure to provide some sort of strain relief for the cables (pictured below).

Proper strain relief for electrical cables at mast headNext, install the fixtures permanently using a sealant as an isolation barrier. Pull out any remaining slack at the butt of the mast. Trim all of your cables to a neat and even length. Leave enough slack for service lengths. Finally test all of the light fixtures through the mast and label the cables accordingly.

As always, don’t be afraid to ask, so leave a comment or ask a question, we will reply. Thanks for the read!

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The World’s Largest Mast….

Largest Mast In the World Stepped

…was stepped last month at the Perini Navi Yard in Italy.  Just look at the size of the masthead!


This incredible carbon fiber wonder measures just over 250′ and weighs in at just over 16 metric tons…pretty light considering.

75' Carbon Fiber Furling Boom

The furling boom provided by Future Fibres could be its own sailing yacht measuring just over 75’! There are only a handful of boats on the Chesapeake Bay that length…just for some perspective.

Viareggio Sailing Yacht, Worlds Largest Mast

Read the full story here.



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Not all ‘T’ Terminals are Created Equal……

‘T’ Terminals, ‘T’ Balls, Gibb Hooks, Shroud Terminals, and Lollipop Fittings are just some of the nicknames for these special fittings. I would just like to take a minute to address the different terms associated with these fittings; their uses and misuses.

Gibb Plug

Rubber Gibb Plug

It appears that many boats in today’s sailboat market use these types of fittings. Although there are few instances of where there is a problem, I believe many of these “T” type fittings aren’t being used in their appropriate application. I like to use the ‘T’ Terminal or Gibb Hook specifically for articulating stays, like running back-stays or removable stay-sail stays. These are always to be rigged in conjunction with special rubber plugs (pictured left) which ensure that the stay won’t become dislodged aloft. For side shrouds it is recommended to use the preferred Shroud or Lollipop Terminal (pictured below left) instead of the ‘T’ Ball or Gibb Hook. Even though some boats do, never should any of these stays be used for a head-stay or forestay of any sort (at least not in my opinion). Additionally, it is really hard to hang/ rig any furler that uses this type of fitting.

Shroud Terminal or Lollipop Fitting

Shroud Terminal or Lollipop Fitting

T Ball, Gibb Hook, or 'T' Terminal

T Ball, Gibb Hook, or ‘T’ Terminal







Having said that, some companies like Hayn Marine claim that you can use their Shroud Terminal in place of any ‘T’ Terminal or Shroud Terminal, but never the other way around. As a general rule, we think you should always use the backing plate made specifically for the terminal that you have chosen to use.

The 'Armpit' of a 'T' Terminal

The ‘Armpit’ of a ‘T’ Terminal

To inspect ‘T’ terminals or Lollipop Fittings you need to look at the two natural weak points; at the bend or the ‘arm-pit’ of the fitting (pictured right), and also where the wire exits the swage.

“Where the wire exits the swage is a typical weak point for all swages.”

 Especially with ‘T’ Terminals this can be an issue as the shank has a specific angle to which it is bent, this angle may vary based on manufacturer. The fitting will not allow for much (or any) deviation from this pre-set angle. Sometimes it may be necessary to go aloft and bend the terminal down to the appropriate angle once the mast has been stepped. This practice is okay as long as you only do it once and don’t bend it back and forth too often. Leaving it at an unfair angle will surely result in shroud damage or failure.

'T' Terminal backing Plate

‘T’ Terminal Backing Plate

Shroud Terminal Backing Plate

Shroud Terminal Backing Plate







Lastly, you or your rigger will need to be careful as to which manufacturer you choose for your ‘T’ Terminal replacement. As the title reads, “Not all ‘T’ Terminals are Created Equal”. So, although the Alexander Roberts ‘T’ Terminals look a lot like the Gibb ‘T’ terminals, some will vary slightly in throat/shank diameter, shank angle, head width, and even the height of the head. I recommend fitting each terminal in the corresponding backing plate/tang before swaging or making the mechanical portion. Sometimes a little grinding and polishing of the ‘T’ head is necessary to make them fit. Sometimes an entirely different manufacturer will need to be used. Just be sure to figure this out before you begin to make the stay, it will make your life a lot easier.

T Terminal

Let us know if you have any questions. Thanks for the read, talk to you again soon!


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