Primary winch replacement on an Oday 34

Gimme Shelter arrived with the original winches from 1982, shiny stainless Barlow 25s. They glimmered with the reflection of the ocean as the waves rolled by.

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Unfortunately their shininess couldn’t make up for a few shortcomings.

  • Mary does not have much upper-body strength, so trimming in the 140 Genoa in anything more than the lightest wind proved impossible for her. I knew we needed bigger winches.
  • Barlow has been out of business for decades, and as I learned with my last boat, you’re always better off going with something that is still being made (or at least with a company still in business).
  • I was going to have to remove the Barlow winches anyway, whether I replaced them or not because Oday did not use any kind of backing plate when they were mounted, and the fiberglass under the starboard winch was cracking and needed to repaired.
  • The set screws that held the Barlows together were frozen, and I was most likely going to have to drill them out to get them off.

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I did quite a bit of research regarding how I could possibly get the winches off undamaged, but after two weekends of waiting on penetrating oil and trying different things, I ended up breaking the head off one set screw. At that point I just decided to dremel grooves into the bottom of the bolts on the other winch, so that I could hold each mounting screw still with a flathead screwdriver from below while I used an end wrench to unscrew the nuts.

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I ended up with one winch that I couldn’t put back together and one winch that I couldn’t take apart — at least until I finally drill out the center set screws in both and re-thread the holes.

During my struggle with the Barlows I ran across these gorgeous Lewmar 44 self-tailing winches at the local Boater’s Resale Shop, and on an impulse decided to upgrade. I mean, combined they were less than the price of one new Lewmar 44, how could I pass that up?

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I’ll admit I should have done more research before pulling the trigger on the bargain. The six allen screws in the top mean these are “spring jaw” Lewmar 44STs, which are also no longer made and no longer have parts available. I kicked myself for replacing one obsolete part with another obsolete part. However, I kept reminding myself that good winches can last 40 or 50 years, so surely they still had plenty of life in them before I’d end up hunting for some discontinued gear or pawl.

I thought they would work just like all other Lewmar winches and come apart after I removed the allen screws in the top. I was wrong. I took out the screws and nothing budged. I was delayed again as I searched for a way to disassemble Lewmar 44ST Spring Jaw Winches without them ending up in the same condition as the Barlows.

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Thankfully, the kind people at Lewmar were extremely responsive and in less than 24 hours of sending my inquiry, they sent me back a PDF of the original Lewmar 44ST Spring Jaw Self Tailing winch instructions, which I am sharing here for anyone else wondering how in the world to take these apart: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-eqti4pjMLTRGw5cE9FMHFoOU1OczFKcURaX3dIdGdfeFFn&authuser=0

The key is to use a rubber mallet to tap the tailing arm in a counter clockwise direction until the entire top of the winch knocks loose. Then remove the six allen screws. Then the interior ring just screws off. It’s very easy once you know how to do it.

While I was fighting with the winches I was also mixing up thickened epoxy and filling in the old winch holes as well as injecting epoxy into the cracks.

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By the way, the Barlow winches actually had six holes, but Oday only bothered to put in five screws. I’m at a loss when it comes to the decisions boat builders make.

I also made new backing boards out of 1″ oak planks. In the past I’ve used star board, but I already had the oak left over from another project, so I went with that. I also bought all new stainless hardware to make sure I had six bolts for each side that were long enough to fit through the backing boards.

I drilled the six new holes two bit sizes larger than required, then filled those holes with thickened epoxy. I then re-drilled through the epoxy with the correct bit size, so that if my bedding of 5200 under the winches ever leaked, I wouldn’t end up with any water penetration at the holes.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo with the six holes drilled, filled and re-drilled because at that point of the project I was either covered in epoxy or just trying to get it finished.

The port backing plate, which is located in the lazarette, went on with no issues, but I had to cut the starboard backing plate in half to make it fit through the small access hole in the ceiling of the aft berth.

I won’t go into the details of how we installed the new winches with Mary working the screwdriver from the cockpit while I held up the backing plates and worked a ratchet in a contorted position from the bowels of the ship, but eventually the winches were mounted, and our marriage has survived.

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We now have the largest self-tailing winches compatible with our line size. After using them sailing to Port Bolivar last weekend Mary’s review was, “This is a lot easier.”

Worth every penny — even if they are discontinued.

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7 thoughts on “Primary winch replacement on an Oday 34

  1. Self tailing…yah! I started crewing last summer. My upper body strength is not optimal.

    We came so very close to buying a boat this winter (Near immaculate 1986 Catalina 24…she was well-loved and cared for) but she was a bit above our cushion for repairs, moving, storage and mooring. Reading your post actually made me feel we did the right thing. How many weekends invested in your winches? That said…they look great and will be worth it.

    Oddly enough…I found your blog on /r/sailing but I’m more of a lurker.

    • Well, there was one weekend of just half-heartedly fiddling with the old winches. One weekend of finally getting the old winches off and doing most of the epoxy work. One weekend of more epoxy work and getting the new winches on. Then last weekend we took time to snug up all the bolts before heading off on our Easter trip. So I guess if you’re REALLY counting, it was four weekends before the entire process was finished, but it wasn’t a solid four weekends, just an hour or two a day. Had we really made a decision to replace them and gotten everything together from the beginning (like instructions) we could have been finished in two days.

      Catalinas are great boats. Did you guys buy something else or are you still looking?

  2. On our previous old Arpège, a 30 ft Dufour from 1976, I had two old Lewmar 40, non ST, and the genoa was almost twice as big as the mainsail. We replaced them with two Barlow… was it 25 or 27 ? ST ones, it’s funny to see you’ve exactly on the opposite way ;-). By the way, Dufour, in the seventies, didn’t bother with backing plates either. I’ve got Lewmar on Roz Avel now. You’re perfectly right. Good winches with a bit of servicing can last longer than their skipper.

    • The boater’s resale shop actually had a set of Barlow 25STs, with the same base size and hole pattern as our non-tailing Barlows, for $100 less than the Lewmars, but we decided it was worth spending a little more for the 44.8:1 power ratio. Barient/Barlow made a model that was called the 24-48ST, which has a 45:1 power ratio, but I haven’t run across any of those in person. There’s a good winch comparison chart here: http://l-36.com/compare.php

  3. Hi! I’ve got a pair of large spring-jaw Lewmar ST winches which i need to service. The pdf you got from Lewmar might be a great help. I tried to access the google-drive you mentioned but I dont have access to the file. Would you mind sending it to me?

  4. Hi!
    I’ve got a pair of large Lewmar Spring-Jaw ST winches that I’d like to service. The PDF you got from Lewmar would be a great help. I tried the Google-Drive link provided but I don’t have permission to access it. Would you mind sending it along?

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