Photos by the Singlehander

By Drew Frye

Singlehanded sailing and photography don’t always go together. Throw in some brisk wind, maybe a tender boat, perhaps no autopilot, and capturing the moments and scenes on camera can be a real challenge.

As a freelance writer for magazines, I’m often in need of good photos of specific subjects, and sometimes these photos can be captured only while under sail. Sometimes I’m sailing alone. Sometimes my hands or I need to be in the shot. I’m always thinking of solutions.

The conventional tripod is out of the question while under way. The ubiquitous “selfie stick” limits POV options. And many of the hundreds of clamp-on brackets are either a bit too fussy or won’t grab where I happen to need them to be.

Some years ago, it occurred to me that a winch socket could provide an additional camera mounting point, and so I began watching for a broken winch handle to use as a base, but none came my way. Then I got an idea.

The first test image: me applying carbon/mylar tape to a laminate sail while under way. The camera is secure in a cabin top winch, the self-timer tripped the shutter, and the tiller pilot has the helm

I removed the tilt-pan head from one of my tripods. I cut a small chunk of wood, about 11/16 x 11/16 x 2 inches, and sanded it until it fit snugly in a standard 8-point winch socket. I shaped one end of the block so that it fit into the tripod head (a disc sander or pocket knife will do) and used a wood screw and washer to secure it. That’s it. One option is to varnish the wood chunk, to make it more durable and even to tune the fit.

Using my newest camera mount is as easy as dropping it into a vacant winch socket. It will swivel and tilt in any direction and won’t fall out or fall overboard. If I were worried about the mount coming out of the winch, I could simply noose the camera’s wrist lanyard around the winch. Using the four winches on my Corsair F-24, I can shoot unobstructed in most directions and cover most of the cockpit and deck. I can pop the holder out in a moment for hand shots and plop it right back into the winch. This is easier to do than it is with one of my clamp-on brackets.

Detail of the Mount

The Mk II version may be teak, fiberglass, or even aluminum, but cedar is what I had on hand and it seems adequate so far. I may attach a longer wrist lanyard or add a quick disconnect, but those are just complications to an elegantly simple design. I’m fully satisfied as it is.

For another take on a versatile DIY winch mount, see “Winch Handle Instruments Mount,” in the September 2017 issue of Good Old Boat.

Drew Frye draws on his training as a chemical engineer and pastimes of climbing and sailing when solving boating problems. He cruises Chesapeake Bay and the mid-Atlantic coast in his Corsair F-24 trimaran, Fast and Furry-ous, using its shoal draft to venture into shallow and less-explored waters. His book, Rigging Modern Anchors, was recently published by Seaworthy Publications.


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