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.