Deck gear manufacturer Harken has rolled out a marine version of its LokHead portable winch system which could prove invaluable used either as part of a davit system or as part of the bosun’s locker kit.

Originally developed for land-based applications through Harken’s Industrial division, the LokHead winch offers a line weight capacity of 500kg, or 240kg for human lifting/lowering. Offered either as a standalone winch that can be mounted on a fixed structure or davit, or as part of a handy portable kit that enables it to be used in a variety of applications, the LokHead winch features a specially designed head unit that offers total control over the line.

“We were getting more and more requests for winches to be used with tripods and quadpods for confined space and rescue applications while working at height,” explains Andy Ash-Vie, managing director of Harken UK, “and that was all well and good for pulling people up and down, but it turned out that Health & Safety didn’t like what we love about yacht winches – the ability to whip the line off for a quick release or drop. We had developed a power ascender for working at height that had a safety head on it, and we realised that if we put that head on a conventional winch we would have something that was safe for use in mobile applications, for human suspension or man overboard recovery, and of course something ideal for davit use on superyachts.”

The LokHead takes a line around the winch drum in conventional manner, then a self-tailer feeder leads the line into the locking head mechanism. To release the line, a twist of the spring-loaded knob at the top of the winch allows for either a very measured and carefully controlled descent/release or, by opening the jaws wider, for a much faster run-out – similar to the control a windlass offers over the anchor chain. “If you’re lowering people or toys overboard you can do it with a much greater level of control and prevent accidental release,” says Ash-Vie. “We made this as a kit particularly because industrial riggers are moving away from using wire rope to using fibre rope and they wanted a portable solution. It means you don’t have to use wire, which in the past has been the cause of accidents on yachts when the wire swage has failed.”

The winch is available as a standalone ready for placement on a fixed point or davit at GBP1,446.38 ex VAT, or as a complete portable kit that comes with a handle, mounting brackets, ratchet straps and a hard case for GBP1,924.13 ex VAT. The complete kit weighs in at 13.5kg and the winch itself is 4.2kg.

It’s not difficult to see the potential applications, either from fixed davits to enable the use of rope instead of wire for raising and lowering toys and equipment, to a portable lifting and lowering system that could prove useful both for man overboard recovery, lifting and moving equipment or sails around the boat, or even off-boat manhandling of gear when in remote regions or exploring the wilder cruising grounds.

“It’s something we have taken from sailing to an industrial application, and then have brought that back to marine,” Ash-Vie concludes. “It’s quite a nice circle for us.”