Barient Winch Hack

By Joe Rosenfeld

Many of us have Barient winches on our good old boats. If you’ve got them, you may have noticed that they aren’t what they once were. My late 80’s cruiser/racer has 8 of them.

Years ago, servicing the winches, I noticed that all of the cage bearings (two per winch) needed to be replaced. The plastic containment cages were intact, but many of the nylon/plastic rollers were either flattened or split. At the time, replacement bearings were available at a fair price, so I installed new bearings and went on my merry way.

Fast forward to now and these cage bearings have become hard-to-find and, at $30 to $50 each, prohibitively expensive. Tinkering with some of the old bearings over the winter, I noticed that the cages would easily snap apart, releasing all the rollers. The roller diameter measured 3/16-inch, or close enough. A quick online search revealed a plastics vender who sells lengths of 3/16-inch nylon rod for 40 cents a foot.

In addition to the rod, I bought one square foot of 1/32-inch-thick Teflon sheeting that I figured I could use to make replacement shim washers. The Teflon (or PTFE) sheeting cost about $12.00 a square foot and it cuts easily with household scissors.

I cut the roller stock to the required length with a $25.00 model-maker’s miter saw I found available on a ship modeler’s site. I made most of the rollers while watching TV over the long northern winter. It takes only 1 or 2 saw strokes to cut the roller stock. Once cut, I swiped the ends around on a piece of 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper to make a small shoulder and to clean off the cutting shreds. Just a swipe or two on each end is enough; perfection is not required.

It took a bit of finagling when reassembling the bearings to get everything lined up and snapped firmly in place.

If you’ve not rebuilt a Barient winch before, search “Barient winch manuals” online and you’ll find several sites that have these available for download for free.

There probably is nothing we can do to make these 40-year-old winches comparable to the efficiency of today’s winches, but for $50 to $60 dollars, I was able to buy the tools and materials necessary to revive all of mine. And why not, they’ve gotten me this far!

Joe Rosenfeld started working on boats as a teenager when his $100 wooden catboat sank the day after he sailed it home. The craft, christened Diphtheria, mostly floated through Joe’s high school years until a shoreside keg party sent it to Valhalla. Over the next 40 years, the quality of the fixer-uppers went from “left for dead” to “just a little down on her luck” as Joe’s career as a high-voltage lineman progressed. Along the way, he became an award-winning restorer of wooden boats and an avid club racer on Lake Ontario and in East Coast ocean races. Joe, his wife, Mary Beth, and their fox terrier, Flexy, are cruising on their 2003 Tartan 3700, Sapphire.

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