Charter Advisors Special Feature
Does She Have A Powered Deck Winch?
by Capt'n K.J.
The first question many of us ask when we're setting up a bareboat yacht charter is"Does she have a powered deck winch?" The answer to this simple question tells a lot about the yacht. A powered deck winch is a good indicator that the yacht in question is set up with ease of use very much in mind. A powered deck winch is rarely a lone on-deck luxury! If the yacht's owner likes ease of use, it's usually safe to assume that the rest of the gear aboard also carries a "low-stress" tilt. So what of these other on-deck "items" beyond the powered up deck winch? And how exactly do they make for a better sailing experience?
To get a better handle on on-board ease we brought the subject to Charlotte Taylor the US Aftermarket Sales and Technical Service Manager over at Harken. They are arguably the most well know manufacturer of all things sailing. Harken has been on the forefront of innovation across the spectrum, from racing to making things easy for those of us out bareboat chartering. For the purposes of this article, we'll stick to the latter.
Charlotte's take is this: what makes racing and high-end boats fast, make cruising and chartering more simplified, easier, and enjoyable. We'd have to agree. We've never complained after raising the main with an electric winch!
The powered deck winch makes for a good example. This was a luxury item on high-end yachts in the not too distant past (think in the past five years or so). These days it's a common sight on any new or reasonably sized charter yacht. Why? It makes sailing easier, more relaxed, and accessible to a wider group of people. It also allows us folks without the physique of a Greek god to charter larger yachts with bigger sail-plans (Hooray!). This little addition to charter fleets is a winner all around. We get bigger boats and charter companies get to charter out larger yachts with weekly charter rates to match (low season is a great time to charter the big boats FYI!).
Harken being who they are have taken the powered deck winch to new levels. Levels that matter for the high-end yacht owner and for us out chartering. Enter the Harken Rewind system. It's a winch that eases and trims the sails with the flip of a switch! Easing the sheets by hand isn't that big of a deal, but it seems to make a whole bunch of sense to just leave the lines on the winch and let it do the work for us. That's what we call Ease of Use! When the sail needs to be let out, flip the "rewind" switch and it pays the line out. Flip it back and take the line in as you would with any normal powered winch. It definitely qualifies for "why hasn't anyone done this before?"
We have yet to encounter one of these "rewind" winches aboard a charter yacht, but we fully expect to see them in the near future. Hint, hint charter companies. Not to fret, Harken's (and others) updated winch technology has made its way into charter fleets. Check the pattern on the winch drum for instance. Newer charter sailing yachts have abandoned the "sandpaper" style rough faced drums for smooth liner vertical grooves or ridges. In the case of Harken, they've developed a new "wave" pattern for their winch drums. These new patterns give solid grip on the line while making it easier to ease the sheets by hand. Charlotte also informed us that the new "wave" pattern helps prevent line chafe, extending life. Even seemingly "small" refinements like this can make a big difference in the level of effort onboard. Tired hands and sore backs are rarely a luxury!
It was at this point that we became really curious about those "other" items beyond the winch. This is when Charlotte's knowledge taught us a thing or two about on-deck hardware and gear.
Take the traveler or winch handle for instance. Or blocks running the lines. Or even what you might be wearing.
A sticky traveler makes it difficult to easily swing the boom to leeward. Salt choked blocks fray lines and make simple tasks more akin to a tug of war. Sure, you can ask about the quality of these things before you book the yacht for charter, just as you would when inquiring about a powered deck winch. But, it's a rare occasion that one would snub a charter yacht because of a particular traveler or snatch block! So, I posed the question to Charlotte and her "Harken" mind. She had an instant answer. "Take a small bottle of our bearing conditioner with you." I hadn't thought of that. It got me wondering, what other "small" items could we take with us that might make the work on deck a little easier?
What You Can Bring With You
Here are a few other "take with" items Charlotte brought up that will certainly make life easier on-deck.
Winch handles are kind of like golf clubs. There are different types for different jobs and people. In a nutshell, longer winch handles have more leverage and require less effort. Before your next trip you might want to recall your last battle with a manual winch. If victory came with a healthy dose of ibuprofen you may want to consider taking your own next time. A longer one!
Did you know you can bring your own small bottle of friction reducing goodness or even thought you should? We know we never did. But in hindsight, we can see why. We can remember some epic battles with a mainsail and its salty batten cars that just did not want to come down. Irons or not! Or that traveler that we had a tug-o-war with instead of just letting it out. Or that time the blocks on the dinghy davit were a bit "chunky" making for less than graceful lowering. A little squirt of bearing conditioner (McLube is one of the better known brands) on any of these would have made things so much easier! Like we have always said, "Simple Solutions!"
Yep, turns out Harken sells these too. We haven't tried Harken's glasses yet (we do plan to), but we can espouse the benefits of polarized glasses though. No squinting headaches, a clear view of everything, and reduced if not eliminated glare. A good pair of shades should be considered "standard equipment." They have been standard for us for nearly three decades on the water!
These aren't your pop's old boat-shoes. The new stuff on the market today is totally high tech and sporty. Sure, you can still opt for the brown leather over white soles of old, but for our taste, we like the updated versions much better. Like Harken's own Vortex or Hydroflux. These "deck-shoes" look more like slim-line tennis or running shoes, but they are definitely designed for sailing. Shoes like these sport anti-bacterial foot-beds (keeping them nice and odor free with bare feet), vents for airflow and water drainage, and special soles made to grip wet slippery decks. All this is great and all, but what we like most is the lack of sore or bruised feet. Yes, grip is good. Yes cool feet are nice. But when we're standing at the helm for a few hours at a time on the balls of our feet, our deck shoes come into their own. No more bruises and grip like a gecko when we have to go forward. Now that's what matters most to us!
Anyone who's ever run a line though their hands can attest that a good pair of sailing gloves are worth more than their sticker price. Like everything else we've covered, they add comfort and make things just that much nicer on deck. If there is one piece of gear to add to your sea-bag (if you don't already have a pair), it's a good pair of sailing gloves! There are a wide range of choices from many manufactures including our friends at Harken. From three-quarter finger length to full coverage gloves. Bottom line, try on a few different pairs and see what fits you and your style sailing the best.
The yacht choice and the gear she runs can make things easier on board. But after that, it's up to us to do what we can on our end before we arrive. Ease of use, comfort, and luxury is a dance made for two. The yacht and you. You'll know what she'll be wearing, how about you?
Harken covers the spectrum when it comes to gear. From the boat to well... You. So now you know what lies beyond the powered deck winch. There's a whole lot more to ease of use and an easy to sail boat than an easy up mainsail!
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev