Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Mystery Barient

Do you know this winch?

It's a vintage Barient pedestal, no mystery about that. But where did it come from?

There is good reason to suspect that it once trimmed sails aboard a rather significant racing machine of the haunts-Newport variety. A name you would recognize.

But to know that, rather than to speculate, we need to know how it found its way to Myron Spaulding's boat yard in Sausalito, California, where it just, sort of, surfaced after Myron passed on. Someone out there has information. You know who you are.

The rest of us can just be glad we're not trimming big, heavy sails with the likes of this in 2008, though in its day it was a mechanical marvel.

From the department of Did You Know --

Barients were the first two-speed winches geared in both directions. They were developed more than half a century ago through the initiative of a guy who saw a problem and wanted to solve it. That would be one Tim Moseley of San Francisco Bay (Jonny Mosely's granddaddy, yup yup yup). In low gear, Moseley's first-generation winches would pull an unprecedented 5,000 pounds. Then Tim bought a boat, a big sloop named Orient, sailed the 1955 Transpac, and came home with motive for a new round of development.

Add to the picture an engineer by the name of Derek Baylis (father of Trevor, Will, and Liz, three names you might know, drop drop drop), and you quickly get to a much-improved second generation of winches that did the job for Orient. Those winches also impressed Mosely friend Jim Michael, one-time president of the North American Yacht Racing Union and later a member of New York Yacht Club's defender-selection committee for the America's Cup. Michael at the time owned the famous yawl, Baruna, and wanted winches for his boat. A business partnership was formed -- not so much for profit as to supply themselves and their friends -- and a contraction of Baruna and Orient became Barient.

Barient winches were the model for everything that followed. Spare a thought for what it would be like aboard a boat today if no company had ever got around to standardizing a single winch handle that fit all its winches, or to simplify the rigging game by giving each winch a number which, multiplied by a hundred, yields a conservative figure for design load. We don't have to deal with the alternative, friends, because Barient got there ahead of us.

As I understand it, Lewmar eventually bought both Barlow and Barient and then folded them. People come, people go, so do companies. But this winch came back. So does anyone know this winch?

For the record, Myron's yard is now the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center, and someday soon I want to take you there—Kimball