bronze ABI Windlass Rebuild
I really wanted an old Plath bronze two speed (looks like the aluminum Simpson Lawrence Sea Tiger 555). I had been looking for years without any luck, and now time was starting to get short. For a while I thought about buying a new ABI windlass though I was very reluctant to spend the $2000 ABI wanted for it. But, ABI went out of business in Dec 08 before I could act on that option so finding a used one was the only alternative. In addition to looking for a Plath windlass I had also been looking for an ABI windlass on EBay and other websites. The few I came across looked to be in bad shape and they still commanded high prices. Then I saw one for sale on the SSCA website. I contacted the owner via email. He was in Cartagena, Colombia preparing to sail for Panama. He was the original owner but had upgraded to an electric windlass. He had the ABI windlass on his boat stowed under his V-berth taking up valuable space—not to mention it weighs 50 lbs. He wanted to sell it. We exchanged a few emails and agreed on a price . . . a ridiculously low price—until I found out how much it cost to ship it back to the states--$400!! But, I had a plan. One of those friend of a friend plans. The gist of it is I have a friend of a friend who lives in Cartagena of all places. He drove over to the marina and picked it up right form the owner. He handed it off to another guy who happened to be flying to Washington, DC two weeks later. That guy dropped if off with another guy who handed it off to his brother who happens to be my best friend. Then I picked it up over Thanksgiving when we drove up to northern Virginia to see my sister and her family. Crazy. Sounds like a movie. Anyway it all worked out. Delete Building Block (and all contents)
When I got the windlass home I examined it. Though it looked to be in good shape it was obviously in need of a thorough cleaning. There was grease on the gears but it was caked and kind of dry. Everything worked but not as smooth as it should so it needed to be cleaned. Besides, I would rather take it all apart in my shop and learn how it works there then have it fail in some distant anchorage and have no idea what tools I needed or even how to begin to fix it.
I didn't have a manual for the windlass but I was able to down-load an exploded view from the internet. This gave me a good idea of how it was put together. Between looking at the diagram and looking at the windlass itself it did not look too difficult to take apart but, then again, I have been fooled before about having easy expectations . . . .
After unscrewing the clutch nut I removed the chain gypsy. The capstan was held on with an allen screw as is the clutch head. The clutch head was reluctant to come off so I used some big wooden wedges I had to hammer between the inside of the clutch head and the housing. There was a SS key under the capstan and the clutch head. Then I drove out the two idler shafts with a solid rod and mallet. That was easy. However taking the main drive shaft out was more difficult. The problem is that there is another key on the drive shaft under one of the bronze main drive gears. The only way to get the drive shaft out and the bushing that holds it in is to hammer the drive shaft from one end so that the key under the gear forces the bushing out from the inside. If there is another way I could not figure out. You can only drive the shaft out through one side--the side that has the bronze gear with the key under it. It sounds complicated but once the idler gears are out, you can see the main drive shaft and tell which gear has the key under it. if I didn't make it clear before I will now . . . only one of the two bronze gears has a key holding it to the main drive shaft. The other bronze gear turns free. I didn't want to crack the case by pounding on it. I sprayed a bunch of PB (a type of liquid wrench) on the shaft and tapped it for a while. Then I worked up my courage with the solid rod and mallet and it finally, grudgingly, came out. The shaft fits through holes in the drive gears. That and a few bushings keep everything in place. Once the shaft end slides through the casing, the gears basically just fall out. I placed all the gears, shafts, and other parts in a plastic bin and tomorrow I will clean the parts up with some mineral spirits.
I spent some time researching what grease to use. I looked at everything from trailer bearing grease, white lithium grease, #2 water proof grease, and, finally, winch grease. I ended up going with Lewmar winch grease. It cost a more but it is in a tube that I can store and I can use it when I rebuild my Lewmar #44 sheet winches. It’s thick and I can apply it very thin which is what I wanted to do. Also it had the highest heat rating before it dripped and that is why I finally decided to use it. In the end, I don’t think it really matters. The key is to put is on very thin.
Reassembly was very simple except for installing the bushing that secures the main drive shaft. The bushing would go all the way in except for the last ¼”. After pulling it out and putting it back checking to see what was hanging up I decided to tap it in with the dead-blow hammer. I ended up having to whack the bushing pretty hard to get it flush.
The windlass operates like a dream . . . on my work bench anyway. Very smooth action. I’ll set it on a shelf and wrapped in towel to keep the dust out. It will be a while before I need to mount it on the bowsprit.
Since the last entry I pretty much completed installing the AP foam to the under side of the cabin top and side decks except in the area over the forward double berth. Before I could do that I needed to install the cleats for the over head panels which I did not do during the summer as I did not know exactly where the windlass was going to be located. Now that I know where it will be positioned I installed the 1/2" G10 as a base plate for the ABI windlass. I could have used a piece of manufactured fiberglass sheet stock at about 1/3 the price but I had the G10 on hand so I used it. Anyway, I wanted to raise the windlass a little to improve the chain gypsy to roller angle and to get the chain hole a little higher off the ceck to make it a litlle more difficult for rain water to get into the chain hole. I positioned the windlass on the plate and drilled the 3/8" holes through the plate. Then, after positioning the plate on the deck I drilled the holes through the deck. That told me where the backing plate would be located and I could continue on with installing the insulation.