I recently bought a trailerable boat, to satisfy my interest in exploring Southern California’s inland waters. While the trailer I have was in fair shape, the winch stand needed to be replaced. Its base was bent — not letting it sit properly on the stand — the plastic covering on the cranking arm handle was missing, and the cable was twisted and only a little of the protective plastic coating remained.
Your regular trailer maintenance routine should include careful scrutiny of the winch-stand assembly, because if one of its components fails, it could have serious consequences. My boat is extremely heavy, so this was not an area I could afford to overlook. Fortunately, replacing or refurbishing a winch-stand assembly is an easy project you can tackle in the off-season, since your boat can remain on the trailer while you do it.
Pieces to the Puzzle
So, what’s involved? A winch with a cable, rope or strap connects to the bow eye with a snap hook. (The bow eye bolt on my boat needs work, but that is another project to be completed before our next road trip.) When retrieving your vessel, the winch is cranked until the boat is positioned tightly against the bow stop. The winch and the bow stop are mounted on a stand that is connected to a beam on the trailer. My stand has two parts that allow it to be adjusted vertically. The base is secured to the trailer by U-bolts. The top mount is adjusted and secured by a bolt. The winch and bow stop are secured to the stand with nuts and bolts, making it easy to remove and replace them, unless the bolts and nuts are corroded. If they are, try CRC’s Freeze-Off Super Penetrant, which freezes the stuck nut and causes the metal to contract, allowing the penetrating oil to seep into newly formed cracks in the corrosion. For best results, wait 20 seconds and try tightening the bolt before loosening it.
It’s possible to find replacements for individual parts of the winch, but mine was toast, so I elected to replace the entire winch. The first task is to select one that can safely handle the combined weight of your boat, motor and onboard gear. I replaced mine with one that has a 1,200-pound capacity and a 19-foot nylon strap, which is safer than a cable. I paid $25.99 at Harbor Freight Tools.
Bow stops are usually V- or Y-shaped. They are made thick to withstand repeated contact with the stem and are available in polyurethane or rubber. Polyurethane does not mar gelcoat and is more resistant to oil, gas and salt than rubber. My trailer had a bow roller instead of a bow stop, and it had deteriorated badly. The stem had damage caused by the bolt that secured the roller. I replaced the roller with a 3-inch rubber bow stop from West Marine ($19.99).
You should remove the winch and bow stop before removing the stand’s U-bolts, which will allow you to get better leverage to remove rusted nuts. I broke one of the U-bolts while wrestling with a rusted nut, which wasn’t a big deal, since I planned to replace the U-bolts anyway. Two stainless steel U-bolts with lock nuts cost $14.49 each at West Marine.
Sanding and Painting
In addition to the two-piece winch stand, I decided to repaint the trailer beam that supports it. The previous owner had adjusted the stand, and an area of surface rust remained in its former position. I don’t have any sanding or blasting equipment, so I used an 80-grit circular brush attached to an electric drill. The paint removal took me about two hours, and I went through two brushes. Be sure to wear protective eyeglasses, a facemask and work gloves. Also, cover the boat and the rest of the trailer to protect them from dust and paint.
Once all of the parts were stripped, I sprayed them with two coats of Rust-Oleum white primer and then two coats of Rust-Oleum flat white paint. Even if the primer and paint are labeled “fast drying,” allow plenty of time for each coat to dry. Don’t forget to wear disposable Latex gloves, in addition to other safety gear.
Before remounting the stand, you should install the winch and bow stop using new bolts, washers and lock nuts. Have someone assist you with carefully positioning the stand on the support beam. To avoid damaging the paint, do not slide the stand on the beam. Once you find the proper position, have your helper hold the stand in place while you insert the U-bolts, which should fit snugly around the support beam and pass through the base with enough thread to mount the washers and lock nuts.
My trailer still needs a little work, but I am confident that my boat is at least secure on it. Hopefully, I’ll be exploring Southern California’s fresh water soon. BW