Grind and Rise: Why We Can't Set Sail Without Winches

Think you recognize the stainless steel clasp on your Voyager Bracelet? Well, you’re on to something—it’s actually designed after a self-tailing winch! No doubt you’ve used one before, but how much do you really know about the history and function of this sailing mainstay? It’s time to take a nice deep sailor’s dive into the world of winches! 

What’s a Winch? 

A winch is a device that serves to pull in or let out a length of rope, cord, or wire. Picture a spool of thread—a winch really isn’t all that different! Winches aren’t unique to sailing, they’re also crucial components of tow trucks, elevators, and more. Winches were first seen used to operate bridges as early as 480 BC. Eventually, they found a home on sailboats around the world. 

Using a Winch

So, how does a winch work? In sailing, the winch holds the rope that controls the sail. When it comes to a basic manual winch, a crew member operates it by turning the handle—known as grinding the winch—while tailing the loose rope with their other hand to control the tension. Fun fact: the term grinding has earned the winch the nickname of coffee grinder!

manual sailboat winch

Self-Tailing Winches

If that sounds like a lot of work to you, that’s where the self-tailing winch comes in. Thanks to advances in winch technology, most of today’s boats actually include self-tailing winches rather than the manual versions. Self-tailing winches include a component called a cleat. The cleat maintains the tension on the rope, making the sailor’s job a whole lot easier. 

Why Winch?

Sailormade double rope men's Voyager Bracelet with stainless steel winch hardware

Here at Sailormade, the sea is our deepest source of inspiration. As you can see, it would be a lot harder to get out on the water and explore without the advent of the self-tailing winch! That’s why we decided to incorporate it into our Voyager bracelet. The Voyager Bracelet comes in three colorways, each with a stainless steel winch-inspired clasp. This classic everyday bracelet elevates the humble yet essential winch to an art form. 



Article researched and written by Lexi DeConti. View Lexi's other work HERE.



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