Creating Your Tools

Part of cruising is fixing your boat as you go. If you have the luxury of a new yacht, there are easily attainable replacement parts for all the gear you have onboard because it is all new and probably still in production. If you are cruising on an older yacht, this luxury, along with many others, has probably been lost to time.

On our deck is a very old manual windlass. This machine is very simple and works all the time. The issue is it is very old and parts for it are hard to come by. The windlass needs to be filled with grease and the instructions to add grease are simple: 

1. Remove the windlass from deck. 

2. Hold upside down and fill 2/3 of the way with grease. 

3. Reinstall on deck. 

This sounds simple enough, but the problem is there is a very old gasket under the windlass that keeps all of this grease inside the case. I could always manufacture a new gasket out of a rubber material, but why find extra work when there could also be an easier way around it?

I pulled some bolts out of the side of the windlass and pumped grease through the holes into the unit. This worked well to silence the gears, except for one. The top gear on the windlass seemed to escape any grease, making it hum as the gears would turn. In this situation, I decided to create my own tool to inject grease under pressure into the top gear of the windlass! 

I would take a bolt that fit the windlass and attach a Zerk grease nipple to it. By threading the bolt into the hole at the top gear, I would be able to push grease in with the power of a grease gun and silence the top gear!

To start, I purchased an identical bolt, simply made out of steel instead of stainless steel, this would make my life easier as I machined it. 


I also threaded on a nut, giving the vise more surface area to grasp ahold of the bolt with. With the bolt held in place, I carefully bored a hole down the center of it, creating a pathway for grease to flow. I highly recommend doing such a task with a drill press, as it would grant you a precise and straight hole, but I do not carry one of those on board, so I was stuck using a cordless hand drill.


The hole that went through the entire bolt was very small, necessitating less metal to be removed and thus making the job easier. The space where the Zerk fitting would go though needed to be bored out larger, so I did. 


With the hole bored out larger, I then to a hand tap and carefully cut threads into the head of the bolt. These threads are the same size and count as those on the Zerk fitting, allowing the fitting to be tightly screwed into the bolt! 


This created a simple setup where the bolt has a Zerk fitting on the head, and a canal running through it to let grease flow through. The treads into the top of the windlass, allowing grease to be forced in without any of it spilling out.


While creating this little adapter piece took roughly 2 hours, it did make the job of greasing the windlass gears quick and effortless. In the past, I would take hours trying to slowly pack grease through small openings, only to find that it was not enough and the gears are still dry. Now I can easily thread in the adapter and pump in grease until all the gears operate smoothly and quietly.