Do you keep your lovingly maintained sailboat in a slip or on a mooring ball but want to protect your hard work from the elements as much as possible? Covers on your winches can protect the plated parts from corrosion, plastic parts from UV damage, bearings and pawls from rainwater and salt water spray, and keep them cleaner if bird droppings are a problem for you.
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Waste not, want not
If you’ve done any of the canvaswork projects that I’ve written about here, you probably have some canvas scraps leftover. At $25/yard for Sunbrella Marine Canvas, you did save them, didn’t you? The smaller scraps are worth keeping for repairs, chafe patches, testing sewing machine adjustments, and small projects like this one. Winch covers like these are $30-$40 each in stores but in a couple hours time, you can sew your own for almost nothing.
Our friends at Sailrite produced the following excellent video that describes how to pattern and sew any size of winch cover. This style cover has an elastic choker inside that closes around the top of the winch drum to hold the cover in place in any weather. Follow it step by step and you’ll get good results.
Don’t be dismayed by the size calculations at the beginning of the video. I’ve already done the math for you in the materials list below.
$tingy’s saavy tips
There are a few details that the video doesn’t explain. Here are some additional tips that can help when making these covers:
- Make the first cover out of denim from an old pair of jeans that you’re about to throw away. This lets you test how your measurements fit on your winches, adjust your sewing machine properly, and give you practice working with small canvas parts, all before you cut up your expensive Sunbrella canvas.
- You may need to adjust your measurements for self-tailing winches or if you have Barton Marine Winchers installed on your winches like I do. The measurements I give you below will work with Winchers installed if you slide the Wincher down on the drum so that the choker in the cover can slip over the top of the drum. If you don’t want to slide the Wincher down, make your covers at little larger in diameter (1/2″, for example) and/or make the choker a little wider.
- The shock cord shown in the video is way too big for small winches like ours. One-eighth inch diameter shock cord works fine.
- If you also have scraps of piping/welting cord leftover from a cushion project, sew a piece into the bottom hem of each cover to help hold the shape and for extra strength.
- Rather than cut relief slits in the round top piece so that you can sew it onto the body, use a tip from the cabin cushion project and staple the top in place instead but use extra staples like in the picture below. That way, you won’t have slits that make the canvas easier to tear or fray from pulling the covers on and off the winches. Place 4 staples even spaced first, then one in between each of those, and so on until the puckers in the top are evenly distributed around its full circumference. Use 16 staples for each cover with the measurements below. A plier-type stapler works best.
- Cut synthetic canvas with A Hotknife for the Rest of Us for the best results and longer cover life.
- Use the largest needles you can get, for example, #18 for universal home sewing machines. You won’t break as many sewing through multiple layers of canvas and they won’t dull as fast. These are often sold as jean or denim needles. I’ve had good luck with the Schmetz brand needles.
- Covers for the size of winches that are common on trailerable sailboats are not the best first project if you’re a novice at sewing canvas. The parts are small, which requires good dexterity with pointy needles, and sewing the round top in place can be tricky. A larger and simpler project like Make Your Own Lifeline Cushions is a better choice until you’re ready.
Following is a materials list for one pair of winch covers to fit a Catalina 22 or similar sailboat. The finished size is 4″ high x 4″ diameter, which will fit Arco 6, Lewmar 7, and similar size winches.
- (2) 5″ x 14″ Sunbrella Marine Canvas for the main body
- (2) 2-1/2″ x 14″ Sunbrella Marine Canvas for the chokers
- (2) 5″ dia. Sunbrella Marine Canvas for the tops
- (2) 18″ x 1/8″ shock cord for the chokers
- (1) V69 or V92 polyester UV-resistant thread. One hembob (available from Sailrite) is enough for this project but if you’re just getting started and have larger projects in mind, get a whole spool. You’ll use it fast.
And to help you out even more, I’ve added a dimensioned drawing of all the parts to the Downloads area that you can print it out for easy reference.
These covers are quick to make (if you’re experienced at sewing canvas), useful, inexpensive, and they make great gifts too. What stingy sailor wouldn’t want a pair or two?
If you like this project, then you’ll really like my ebook Do-It-Yourself Small Sailboat Canvaswork. It contains this project and eight more canvaswork projects as well, all for only $20 USD. Click the picture at right to order your copy for immediate download and get started today!
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