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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We’re in Houston Magazine this month

Well, Gimme Shelter isn’t actually in the magazine, but I’m flattered that one of my long-exposure photos is featured in the CLICK section of the April issue of Modern Luxury Houston. Even if you’re not a Houstonian, you can still check it out on pages 22 and 23 of the digital edition.

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Thursday, April 9, I’ll also be on 88.7 FM KUHF Houston Public Radio from 5-6 p.m. representing Technip and matching donations during the Spring Fund Drive as part of our commitment to transparent reporting, sustainable development and community outreach.

And while I’m just promoting random stuff, I thought I’d mention that the crew of Gimme Shelter provides freelance copywriting, design, photo, video and translation services to fund our adventures. If you’re in need of any of those things, visit our photo site at www.fredfacker.com and like our Facebook business page Facker Media Services.

Easter weekend at Laguna Harbor

Redfish Island, Double Bayou, Offats Bayou, Moody Gardens, Harborwalk … there’s only so many places to overnight on a sailboat that are just a day trip from our home port in Kemah, Texas. So when we heard about Laguna Harbor Marina in Port Bolivar last month, Mary was on the phone making reservations.

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It was much to our surprise that the developer of Laguna Harbor invited us to stay for free and help ourselves to any of the electric and water hookups available. Of course, what we didn’t realize at the time is that Laguna Harbor Marina isn’t finished yet.

“If you build it, they will come.” I’m sure that is what the original developers were thinking when they dug Laguna Harbor, installed the bulkheads, and built the first model home — just before Hurricane Ike wiped out the Bolivar Peninsula in 2008. However, Port Bolivar has now recovered and development of the area has once again commenced.

We left Watergate Yachting Center at 9:30 a.m. the morning of Good Friday, very excited to be making our first overnight trip of 2015 and even more excited to spend some time at a new destination. Prevailing southeast winds let us sail across upper Galveston Bay to the Houston Ship Channel, but then we ended up with wind right on the nose and motored the rest of the way. During the sail, gusty winds had us periodically surging up to 8 knots, which had Mary and Dixie both rather nervous.

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However, the motoring portion of the trip was a different story.

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It was a very quiet ride, but at least I had a little company from the passing ships.

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We passed the Texas City Dike right at 1:30 p.m. and for the first time turned east into the Intracoastal Waterway.

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We passed some interesting scenery and several fleets of shrimp boats.

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And then two miles in on the south side of the ICW, there it was, a small sign that said Laguna Harbor.

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We almost missed it on the first pass as it wasn’t on the Garmin charts. Our track showed us cruising right up onto the shore.

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The entire trip took 4.5 hours. It was very easy to find the heavy duty cleats and power stations in the southwest corner of the marina.

We got tied up and accepted a tour of the sales office from Casey, the realtor with Newcoast Properties who was on duty all weekend. It wasn’t long before the crew of a Catalina 30 named Quest had joined us, and we were all checking out the view of Port Bolivar from the very top of the sales office.

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To say Port Bolivar is still a bit rural would be an understatement. In fact, there were horses grazing less than 100 yards from where we were docked.

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The entire place is a strange mix of pre-hurricane structures and new development.

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There’s still a few “fixer-uppers” available if you want a good deal …

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We had hoped to visit the beach and the bird sanctuary, but it was a three-mile walk. Considering average walking pace is 4 mph, that was close to an hour of walking just to get to the beach, where we planned to take a walk on the beach, before we walked an hour back. We decided that maybe we should invest in folding bikes and take in the beach on a future trip.

Instead, Mary put on her cruising hat, and we headed over to La Playita, the only restaurant in the area, looking for some margaritas.

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We found some pretty good Mexican food with great service, but they only serve beer. (Hey, at least it wasn’t a dry town, and it’s not like I was going to pass up their fajita chicken burrito smothered in queso.)

After dinner we walked back to the marina where our neighbors kindly shared their homemade cheesecake with us as we watched the sun set.

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Saturday night the winds began gusting from the north at 35 – 40 mph. I didn’t sleep much as I kept getting up to check our fenders and lines. I was wishing we had some old car tires to hang along the side of Gimme Shelter. The wind was blowing so hard I’m not sure I could have slept even if we’d been tied up at our slip in Watergate.

I had planned to set up my tripod and shoot the lunar eclipse Saturday morning, but I poked my head out at 6:30 to find complete cloud cover, so I crashed back into bed and didn’t wake up until the dogs insisted they go for a walk about 10 a.m. We finally got out of bed and made some breakfast.

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Saturday was still too windy for kayaking, but we made the best of it by taking a walk around the area. While there is a large bird sanctuary in Port Bolivar, it doesn’t necessarily mean the birds stay inside of it.

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Grackles were everywhere doing their humpty dance, trying to get the attention of the ladies. We also ran across a bird we’d never seen before called the Long Billed Curlew. He seemed to be checking out some daisies.

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Of course, all the usual suspects were around. There was no shortage of seagulls, cormorants and sandpipers.

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I was also surprised to see quite a bit of prickly pear cactus in the area mixed in with the Texas wildflowers. It was covered in purple buds that were just about bloom.

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There was a little bit of beach along the ICW, and the water was clear enough to see the hermit crabs wandering around.

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We also stumbled across an egg just sitting on the beach. It almost seemed like a magic Easter egg put there just for us to find.

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But then we realized there was a chicken farm just the other side of the shrimp boats and seafood shack to the north of Laguna Harbor. Deductive reasoning led us to believe the gusting 40 mph north winds probably helped the egg migrate south to the beach that night.

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Walking around, you still found evidence of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ike, like this children’s wagon that had been completely covered over during the storm and is now eroding back out of the soil.

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By dinner time Saturday evening the winds had finally switched back around to the south and settled to a calm 5 – 10 mph. It made the perfect weather for trying out our new Magma grill.

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Yes, I was paranoid about dropping food in the water, so yes, I did accidentally drop a chicken breast overboard as I was taking them off the grill. I hope Neptune enjoys teriyaki. I poured out a little bit of beer for him to go with the chicken in hopes he’d give us good weather on the way home Sunday, which was probably sacrilege since Sunday was Easter, but let’s face it, it was a pagan holiday before it got converted to Easter, so it probably doesn’t matter.

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We had a very nice dinner in the cockpit, but I think I’m going to build us a new table that will actually fit two plates at the same time.

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I think I can safely speak for our two furry crew members when I say, they had a great time as well.

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There was plenty of space to explore on our walks, and they got to see horses and cows. Tex wasn’t thrilled with the cockle-burs in his fur, but Dixie had a good romp in her Easter sweater.

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We had the entire harbor to ourselves as the sun went down Saturday night. LH11

Rain was in the forecast Sunday, so we put on our foulies and got an early start back to Kemah at 8:30 a.m. We cautiously motored back to the Houston Ship Channel with only one barge and a shrimp boat in sight. It was an easy downwind sail all the way back, but due to the heavy mist and some occasional rain, we left the camera and our phones in the cabin. Unfortunately that means we have no evidence of the pod of dolphins doing crazy jumps out of the water on the bow wake of a passing cargo ship or the two dolphins that popped up and spouted right beside our cockpit, not once, but twice. They were so close we could have reached out and touched them.

By the time we turned west at the south cut the dogs were very unhappy with being wet and the rolling motion of the boat that came with the following seas. They were very ready to get off the boat when we finally pulled into our slip at 12:30 p.m.

All in all, it was a good trip despite the scary winds Friday night. We had no major boat issues, and the new winches worked great.

As it stands, Laguna Harbor is a great overnight spot if you’re planning to head offshore, and you can’t beat free. I’m sure we’ll be back. As they develop the marina I hope they’ll add things like bike or golf cart rentals, so that visiting boaters can explore more of the area.

Happy Easter

As we prepare for a long weekend voyage from Kemah to Bolivar and back, we just wanted to wish everyone a happy Easter.

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I also wanted to warn you to be on the lookout for an Easter Bunny impostor that is apparently sneaking into houses and eating all the candy he finds in Easter baskets — as well as other things found in boat pantries like tortillas and cookies.

Have a happy holiday!