A tall order

When the wind­lass on the iconic R Tucker Thomp­son tall ship sighed its last af­ter decades of faith­ful ser­vice ear­lier this year, a lit­tle col­lab­o­ra­tion was re­quired to find a re­place­ment.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY LAWRENCE SCHÄF­FLER

The R Tucker Thomp­son gets a cus­tom-built winch.

With a 60-tonne dis­place­ment, the 26m gaffrigged, square tops’l schooner op­er­ates in the Bay of Is­lands – its du­ties split be­tween tak­ing tourists on day charters dur­ing the sum­mer months, and host­ing an ac­tive youth lead­er­ship pro­gramme dur­ing the win­ter months. Both pro­grammes in­volve plenty of an­chor­ing. The ves­sel car­ries two an­chors – a Manson Supreme and a CQR – and rather than rid­ing on bow rollers, both are hoisted up to hang off ei­ther side of the ves­sel’s bow. The re­trieval-and-stow­ing process is called ‘cat­ting the an­chor’.

The grunt work has been han­dled by a hy­drauli­cally-pow­ered wind­lass cob­bled to­gether from var­i­ous bits of ma­chin­ery – in­clud­ing a power take-off (PTO) from an old Fahr D90 trac­tor. Over­all, its op­er­a­tion was fairly crude, re­quir­ing a hefty ham­mer for re­leas­ing the clutch.

Though the old wind­lass’ use-by-date was al­ready a dis­tant part of his­tory, the crew elected to re­fur­bish it dur­ing a re­cent haul-out for gen­eral main­te­nance. But find­ing re­place­ment parts was eas­ier said than done. The op­er­a­tors ap­proached Auck­land’s Ab­so­lute Marine – ini­tially just to find a com­pat­i­ble chain­wheel.

“Given that the R Tucker Thomp­son op­er­ates a com­mu­nity ser­vice,” says Ron Moss­man, Ab­so­lute Marine’s show­room man­ager, “we were happy to pro­vide our ser­vices and some com­po­nents free.

“We soon re­alised, though, that the wind­lass was ter­mi­nal. I sug­gested an el­e­ment of wind­lass future-proof­ing was de­sir­able – fit­ting an en­tirely new unit from a rep­utable man­u­fac­turer, with bet­ter re­li­a­bil­ity and eas­ily-avail­able spares.

“But again, re­al­ity proved far more dif­fi­cult than the con­cept. The old wind­lass was squeezed into an awk­ward area of the fore­deck, with a con­fig­u­ra­tion that was any­thing but tra­di­tional. The re­place­ment wouldn’t be an off-the-shelf item – it would have to be a cus­tomised unit, adapted to the ex­ist­ing space.”

And with that brief, Ab­so­lute Marine ap­proached Auck­land winch man­u­fac­turer, Maxwell. In a sim­i­lar char­i­ta­ble

The grunt work has been han­dled by a hy­drauli­cal­ly­pow­ered wind­lass cob­bled to­gether from var­i­ous bits of ma­chin­ery...

vein, Maxwell agreed to take on the project and of­fered its con­sid­er­able ex­per­tise to cus­tomise and com­m­mis­sion the winch, free of charge.

“To say it was an un­usual project is a massive un­der­state­ment,” says Craig Pretty, Maxwell’s se­nior de­sign en­gi­neer.

“We started with a stan­dard VWC4500, but we had to de­sign and fab­ri­cate ad­di­tional bits to make sure the wind­lass op­er­ated seam­lessly within the con­straints of the ves­sel’s lay­out.

“For ex­am­ple, we de­signed a stain­less steel ‘spacer box’ to raise the wind­lass to the ap­pro­pri­ate level to re­ceive the chain. This de­sign also needed to take into ac­count the struc­ture above and be­low deck. It was def­i­nitely a one-off so­lu­tion.”


The end-re­sult is a massive im­prove­ment. The ver­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion of the wind­lass gives it a much smaller foot­print than the old wind­lass – crew have more space to han­dle the cat­ting process and tackle gen­eral fore­deck work.

As a bonus, the new chain­wheel is per­fectly com­pat­i­ble with the ship’s ex­ist­ing 16mm chain, and the hy­draulic pump driven by the John Deere diesel is eas­ily able to han­dle the new wind­lass’ de­mands.

Work­ing with Maxwell and Ab­so­lute Marine, the ship ben­e­fits from a net­work of parts and ad­vice for the future. And the ic­ing on the cake – re­leas­ing the clutch doesn’t re­quire a ham­mer!

MAIN IM­AGE Maxwell’s se­nior de­sign en­gi­neer Craig Pretty with the fi­nal as­sem­bly of the tall ship’s new, cus­tomised wind­lass.RIGHT The old wind­lass used parts from a trac­tor and of­fered lim­ited space for the crew.

RIGHT An­chor­ing the lady is now much quicker and eas­ier.

ABOVE A spacer box was fab­ri­cated for po­si­tion­ing the new wind­lass cor­rectly.

BE­LOW As­sem­bly and fi­nal in­stal­la­tion. The smaller foot­print gives crew more work­ing space.

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