Boat Deck Hardware: Rope Clutch Test Update

Garhauer’s new stainless-steel rope clutch proves to be a bargain.


In the March 2009 issue, Practical Sailor bench-tested eight rope clutches, including a prototype from Garhauer Marine, a California-based marine hardware maker. Garhauer recently released its production model (13-11S) of that prototype, and we put one through the same evaluation the prototype faced.

The same New England Ropes’ Sta-set 7/16-inch polyester braid was used, and all testing was done on the same homemade jig, which led a 19-foot length of line between a strain gauge and a vertical anchor windlass capstan. Testers measured

Deck Hardware

Photos by Ralph Naranjo


the effort required to release each clutch with the line under 400 pounds of load and under no load. (See results in the Value Guide above.) We also measured how much each clutch allowed the line to slip (load loss) at 800 and 400 pounds of load. Testers noted the amount of effort required to pull an unloaded line through the closed clutch and the amount of abrasion after repeating the line slip test 25 times. (For more, see the online version of this article at www.

Upgrades to the new production Garhauer include a stainless-steel side plate and a modification to the gear linkage, which in the earlier model rose above the housing and had the potential to catch loose clothing or stray fingers in its toothy grasp. The new iteration of the stainless-steel clutch buries the engaging linkage well inside the clutch.

We found that the rugged unit was easy to operate and could release a 400-pound line load with only a 9-pound handle pull. The clamping mechanism did allow moderate line slippage, but a load loss of 170 pounds was an improvement over the prototype’s 200-pound load loss. The tendency for initial line slip at 800 pounds also improved, from 1.1 inches (prototype) to 0.75 inches.

The results of the Garhauer’s no-load line-pull test were also favorable, and after adjusting the line lead for a larger diameter line (see photo at left), we found no

Deck Hardware


measurable friction with the clutch in the open jaw position. This test mimicked the free run of a released halyard or reefing line. The “lever down, gather in the slack” test required only 7 pounds of pull to haul in the slack line through the closed clutch. This was a significan’t improvement over the 13 pounds the prototype required.

The stainless Garhauer is strong and durable, and the sliding, extendable lever handle makes releasing a loaded line quick and easy. However, because the handle extends beyond the clutch body, it could be snagged by a flailing sheet or guy. Careful placement will lessen the likelihood of an unintended opening.


Bottom line

The Garhauer performed admirably, but did not unseat the Best Choice Spinlock XCS. However, its $49 price tag, 10-year warranty, and the longevity promised by stainless-steel side plates make it a good buy for those on a budget. For those able to spend the extra money, we still prefer the Lewmar D-2, a PS Recommended product.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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