Rotten Start to a Boat Project

Today we were doing various cleaning jobs, and then decided to do basic maintenance on our two main electric winches. Which involves disassembling, cleaning, greasing, and re-assembling the parts. Karen wanted to help with this task so she was going to watch me disassemble the first one. Barely 30 seconds into the job, disaster struck. I couldn’t believe it!

The first thing you do is take off the retaining nut at the top, then you take off the feeder arm. No problem. Next I went to remove the drum (the biggest part). It lifted no problem, but the little bearing parts that normally stay on the inner cylinder were stuck on the inside of the drum by the grease – something I didn’t expect. As I lifted the drum off towards me two of the bearings and the washer at the bottom fell out. Black yucky grease went everywhere. But, that isn’t what caused Karen to shout. The washer (now behind me so I didn’t see it), proceeded to roll right off the boat onto the dock, and right into the water on the other side. Plop! Argh (and a few other four-letter words)!

After grumbling a while, I researched whether a) I had the part in my Lewmar spares kit – no. b) what spares kit has to be purchased to get that part – the drum bearing kit which includes several parts and costs over $50. Ouch!

Next I decided this would be a perfect job for our VideoRay underwater video camera. I got all the gear out and dove on the area with the camera. The water was pretty murky and I could only see about 3 feet. I finally got to the area and on the ground, but I couldn’t see much at all. Everytime I moved the camera it stirred up silt. I could only see the ground when I was a few inches away. After 45 minutes I gave up looking for the part.

I got out all my dive gear including scuba tank and went diving. I dropped a weight on a string to mark the approximate location. Down I went – to only 15 feet of depth. I couldn’t even see my hand down there – even with a bright dive light. Not only that, but the bottom was covered in a very thin silty black mud. Needless to say, the 5″ black washer I was looking for was impossible to find. I gave up after 5 minutes and called it quits.

Naturally, the winch in question was the most important winch – the one we use to lift our dinghy. We must have that one working, so we sabotaged the part off the other winch. But, first Karen began de-greasing, cleaning, re-greasing, and oiling the parts. She soon finished that job and we now at least have one of our primary winches working. Now her job as a winch wench for the day is over, so we celebrated with some beer! 🙂

Now we have to try to find the part here locally, or order it and have it shipped in. If the latter, it will probably cost more to have it shipped than the parts themselves. They call it a BOAT for a reason (Bring On Another Thousand $$$).

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5 Responses to Rotten Start to a Boat Project

  1. Ggenn Howland says:


    Did you consider using a net of appropriate hole size with a handle and using it 15 feet down at the sea bed. It works with keys. I do not know the size of the washer, but may beat the alternatives that you are considering. After all, you know roughly where it fell.

    Note that falling objects with regular surfaces like a washer (versus a set of keys) will wobble in the water as it is falling so you may need a search area bigger than just your drop line.

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Sounds like a job for a magnet on a rope. Best wishes.

  3. Matt says:

    I second the magnet!

  4. Frank Taylor says:

    Thanks for the advice guys. But, first this was a 4″ non-metallic (probably plastic) washer. So, magnet is a no-go. And the seabed here is a very fine black silt. I could barely feel it with my hands. It was truly a pretty hopeless cause looking for it, and I gave it a good try.

  5. Mike Brown says:

    Crap, not much help with plastic then. Best of luck. Maybe a soft, tube like sock around 24″ long that you can lay along the edge of the rail to prevent things from rolling off the boat before you next disassembly project. Maybe a barbed stick run through the mud? Must be frustrating when things like this happen, especially when spares can be so far away.

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