To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

A tiny optimization — finally

One day I (finally) noticed something odd about the winches on Red Ranger. This is one of the many things I thought about when I have four hours to sit on deck and watch the ocean. You have time to think about — well — everything.

I noticed that the feeder arms of our self-tailing winches all pointed inboard.

Winches — for the non-sailors — all wind one way: clockwise. The self-tailing feeder arm should lead the line around the jaws and from the winch to a useful cleat.

Here's what I (finally) noticed.

The huge yankee sheets feed from the aft into the winch. ["Aft?" you ask. "Isn't the sail for'rd?" Good observation. We have a turning block back there to provide a clean approach to the winch.]


One the port side of the boat, the sheet went around the winch drum four times clockwise, over the feeder arm, took a final 180° turn through the jaws and down to a cleat. A fair lead.

One the starboard side, the sheet went four times around, then over the inboard-facing feeder arm, and did a full 360° wrap all the way around the jaws where it collided with itself before trying to find a cleat. Awkward.

They'd always been like that. Previous owner left them like that. We left them like that.


Until I finally rotated the feeder arm on the big Lewmar 48 on the starboard side winch. Finally. After — what? — five years? Now it goes over the outboard-facing arm, does a 180° through the jaws and leads fairly to a cleat.

It appeared as though the winches had been assembled purely for esthetics. The feeder arms pointed inboard because — I guess — it looked better that way.


The for'rd stays'l winches? Same essential problem viewed in a mirror. The lines come from for'rd, and both of the feeder arms faced inboard. The Lewmar 30's don't have a movable feeder arm, so the entire winch had to be turned.

So I unbolted the winch, rotated it 144°. We now have a pretty clean feed from sail foot to winch to self-tailing jaws to cleat.

Wait? 144°? What? Yes. It's held down by 5 bolts. It was 144° or 216° of rotation. Less than 180° rotation means the line feeds more than half-way around. As long as it doesn't feed 360° and tangle with itself, it's much better than it was.