Rick Bowen gets a handle on it
Ihave been sailing my current boat, the Westerly Longbow for over 20 years around the south coast, the West Country, northern France and the Channel Islands from Hayling Island Sailing Club.
I’m most likely to be found sailing single handed, with the spray hood up and, on longer trips, with my trusty Autohelm 2000 steering us through the waves and spray and me keeping a good lookout in the cockpit.
With the spray hood up I have found that when winching the genoa the handle is limited to about 100° movement as the hood restricts the full use of the geared Lewmar winch.
Ungeared and using a standard Lewmar handle, the load on the genoa sheet is very heavy and when geared the amount gained each time is minimal. This is especially difficult when close-hauled as the winches aren’t self-tailing, though the use of Winchers makes it a little easier when sailing single handed.
So I searched online for a suitable commercially-made handle that would help – but to no avail. I even toyed with the use of a battery-operated drill, but they were all too heavy and cumbersome.
As the arthritis in my hands has become more advanced and painful over the years I had wondered about how I could make it easier without the huge expense of installing powered winches.
A few months ago I was helping my son with some adjustments to his classic Mini using my engineering socket set when I realised that I could modify a ratchet socket wrench to operate the winches on the boat.
A new long handled, ½in ratchet wrench from Halfords (£25) was glued and fitted to a turned down and drilled out 300mm hardwood rolling pin (£1.50 from Wilkinsons) and several coats of varnish were applied. A matching star drive bit (£10 from a boat jumble) that fitted in the top of the winch was mated with a suitable socket and locked in place with a stainless steel nut and bolt.
Under sail I can now winch the genoa in tight with the new handle and with a flick of the thumb can change the gearing, operating within the 100° of angle I have to work in. After a long beat up the Solent or a channel crossing my hands are relatively pain free and my sail trim is much more seamanlike.
Winch handle extension bar works a treat
Star drive bit was bolted to a socket and ratchet handle