If putting new winches on your boat is one of the items on this year’s punch list, I urge you to check out these bottom-action Murray winches from New Zealand. I put a pair on my old Golden Hind 31 several years ago and absolutely fell in love with them.
They look great on traditional boats, of course, but are also extremely functional. With the handle on the bottom of the winch, you never have to remove it to handle the line on the drum. Though you cannot rotate the handle through a full 360 degrees, and can only saw it back and forth, it does have a great deal of leverage. In any position on a deck where you can’t swing full rotations on a winch handle in any event, like around a bimini frame or under a dodger, these winches are actually more efficient and much easier to use than modern top-action winches.
Several winches in Murray’s line-up (there are 16 varieties in all) also have a clever top cleat that lets you tie off a line on the winch, just like on a modern self-tailer. You can make small adjustments without touching the line, and if you get the biggest model, the two-speed MX8 shown here, which has a separate 40:1 worm-gear drive, you can also ease the line a bit without unloading it. (The worm gear is driven by a second handle, not shown here, that fits on a rotary hub at the bottom of the winch.)
Mechanically, these winches are the simplest I’ve ever worked with. There are few moving parts inside, and if you like you can easily flip the pawls and springs around so the winch works in the other direction. The top-of-the-line MW8, which has a minimum drum diameter of 4 in and a drum height of 2in, sells for $2,100. All models are available in traditional bronze; several can also be ordered in chrome. Give them a peek here.