Originally Posted by PCP
I posted this on another thread but as it seems to be relevant and related with what you said, I will post it here also:
"the typical cruiser boat, specially the ones that are used offshore are much bigger than 30 or 40 years ago but they are not more difficult to sail. They are more stable and we can do all reefing from the cockpit without going forward on a narrow smaller boat that is much more unstable than a much bigger beamier boat.
40 years ago it was unthinkable to sail solo a 50 or 60ft sailboat, even with a little help from the wife: too much efforts, too much difficulty. Today there are lots of couples there sailing boats like those, because it had become easy: Smaller sails (from the same size of boat), Jib on a traveler, all (easy) reefing from the cockpit and remote controlled winches took most of the effort of sailing and made easy big boats. Because big boats are more seaworthy have a better sea motion and are faster the market went that way, or should I say, cruisers went that way?
I have to say that I prefer to keep it simple, if I can, but some facts with my own boat helped me to change of opinion regarding these systems:
I would not have bought a sailboat with electric winches but mine come with an electric winch and a remote control, that I thought it were pretty useless on a 41ft sailboat. I was wrong. I cannot put my big main (52 m2) fully up without the help of a winch and even putting 2/3 up it takes a considerably effort that I can do (for now) but someone weaker will not be able to do (I am big). Even for myself and using a non motorized winch it take a considerable effort to put the sail up. Using the Electric winch I just pull the first 1/5 of the sail up by hand, out of the lazy bag and then use the electric winch and voilá, the sail is up in 10s without any effort.
The boat is 7 years old and the winch works like if it was new.
Regarding the winch remote control, a weightless thing very small, I was so suspicious that on the first year never used the thing. Give it a try this year and now it is always around my neck. How coll it is to trim the main sail from the steering wheel at the push of a button? Very cool I can tell you. I only regret that the winch is not one of the new ones that allow trimming on the two positions, to let go and to pull.
I guess that on the third year with the boat I will have to learn how to use properly the remote control for the steering wheel that I confess, never used but that can proven very useful to solo sailing. In fact Solo racing sailors use it extensively."
I don't think the consumption is significant, except to hoist the main but I always do that with the engine running. The consumption is much less than the one on the autopilot and even in what regards guys that like to have the sails right (I try) you don't use it that much time, I mean each time you use it it will be for one or two seconds each time.
Just curious but have you tried a 2:1 main halyard set-up? Makes it a bit easier to hoist the main when you're shorthanded. I'm not a big person (1.7M and 70.3 kg) but I've never had trouble putting up the main on a Swan 42 or Farr 40 jumping from the mast, with someone tailing in the cockpit. Usually the last meter or so has to be winched up, but not a big problem with adequately sized cabin-top winches and a decent winch handle. We had an electric halyard winch on the Santa Cruz 52 that we used, but two people could get that main up at the mast by hand.
But no question that using an electric winch for halyards makes sense and wouldn't drain your battery. I was thinking more in terms of electric main and jib trimming in a perfomance context - e.g., like on the King 40 I described - where you are tacking pretty often and continually trimming the main. I'm trying to imagine that kind of set-up in a smaller boat, like a Mini 6.5 or a Pogo 30. Probably requires that you have an inboard diesel or auxiliary generator of some sort - solar / wind / hydro is not going to do the trick, I think. Could be wrong, though.