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  #1  
Old 09-07-2010
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upgrading winches to electric

I like the idea of electric winches, though I've never used them. When I was looking at boats, I asked my broker how much it would cost to convert a boat that didn't have electric winches, and he said about $10k per winch. I thought that was outrageous, but since everything on a boat is outrageous I was willing to believe it. Just today I stumbled upon conversion kits on Defender for Lewmar winches, and they're about $2k. The winches on my new-to-me 1979 boat are probably original, but they're Lewmar 48 self tailing winches (IIRC)... would these kits work? If so, any idea why my broker said it would cost so much more? Lastly, is it worth it if I'm going to be single- or short-handing often? Thanks.
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Old 09-07-2010
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imho nope. I don't like them. Fine tuning things are ok, but you can use them during a tack, or to jump a halyard, or trim a main. They're just too darn slow for me. Also, when electricity is a premium on a boat, I don't want to get used to using them.
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Old 09-07-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeador View Post
I like the idea of electric winches, though I've never used them. When I was looking at boats, I asked my broker how much it would cost to convert a boat that didn't have electric winches, and he said about $10k per winch. I thought that was outrageous, but since everything on a boat is outrageous I was willing to believe it. Just today I stumbled upon conversion kits on Defender for Lewmar winches, and they're about $2k. The winches on my new-to-me 1979 boat are probably original, but they're Lewmar 48 self tailing winches (IIRC)... would these kits work? If so, any idea why my broker said it would cost so much more? Lastly, is it worth it if I'm going to be single- or short-handing often? Thanks.
I am glad you asked first. I thought I was the only one thinking about it. But I want more, I want a pocket remote control too, I can stay in my bunk and trim my sail as she sails across the pond. LG => Life is Good
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Old 09-07-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeador View Post
I like the idea of electric winches, though I've never used them. ...Just today I stumbled upon conversion kits on Defender for Lewmar winches, and they're about $2k. The winches on my new-to-me 1979 boat are probably original, but they're Lewmar 48 self tailing winches (IIRC)... would these kits work? If so, any idea why my broker said it would cost so much more? Lastly, is it worth it if I'm going to be single- or short-handing often? Thanks.
The motor drive conversion will only work with the current Ocean series winches. To convert your older winches requires the replacement of the entire winch and that's only the beginning of the costs. The electrical work is not insignificant.

As an alternative, Google "Winch Buddy" here and on the Cruisers Forum. For very little cost you can have an electric drive for all of the exisitng winches.

FWIW...
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I'd also point out that it is really easy to damage things with electric winches. I've seen torn sails, mangled furlers, etc., not to mention damage to fingers and such from electric winches.
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I've got 6 winches on board and 3 are electric winches and I find them to be a joy. As far as electrical use, break that down to how much time you may actually use them per hour I think it's pretty insignificant. Amps used is load sensitive but I figure my Lewmar Ocean winches are rated between 100 and 120 AH (will max at 250). If they run for 5 minutes an hour (I think that would be alot) Thats about 10 amps. My guess is the winches are probably used less than 2 min/hour on average.
Tack, 10 seconds to trim the main another ten to trim the jib. maybe repeat to dial it in a little better.
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I've not used powered winches on my boats, but I know a number of long term cruisers who swear they're a great item. They generally power the primaries and say this makes sail changes, tacks and reefing easier, and if it's easy, chances it'll get done. They also say that the power requirements aren't excessive if used judiciously.

I've looked at those portable battery powered right angle drills to provide the power for those times when power would be a real asset. Since these winches also have the manual capability,I'd think you could always use a two-handed winch handle. For me, the added cost is money I could use for cruising but ask me again in a year.
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Old 09-08-2010
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In 2005 I suffered an injury that limits the use of my left arm. Since I don't have its full use, and we did not want to give up sailing, and, we have a large powerful yacht, I looked into replacing at least our main halyard winch, primary winches and manual windlass with electric. The cost of these replacements was pretty impressive and I delayed on all but the windlass. Shortly afterward, at the Miami Boat Show, we came across a tool called a "Winch Buddy" which, upon inspection, proved to be nothing more than a battery powered Milwaukee Right Angle Drill fitted with a winch bit, all under a neat foam cover. With a little research on the internet, I was able to come up with the tool and bit, two batteries and both 12 and 120 volt chargers (but not the neat foam cover) for under $500 (USD) or somewhat less than halft of the "Boat Show" price. (The drill generates 50 foot pounds of torque which is more than adaquate for our #43 and # 55 2-speed winches.)

We have been using these since to hoist our mainsail, and to trim and furl our genoa's. The batteries last quite a while and are quickly recharged from ship's power. With this "Electric Winch handle", even my 105# wife can manage these chores without difficulty and can trim in a 150% genoa on a tack a heck of a lot faster than our best (young) crewman manually.

One can, of course, spend the money for a dedicated winch, or, for a modest percentage of the cost, power all of the winches on one's boat.

FWIW...
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Old 09-08-2010
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Electric winches are nice as we get older, and with a little practice you can avoid breaking things by listening to the winch sounds as it loads up. A Lewmar 48 will run you $3200 at Defender, but note that you need room underneath the winch for the motor and gearbox. Not only that, but Lewmars modern winches don't fit the bolt circle for their older equivalents (@#$#$%^!). If you have room for the motor without glasswork, and do the install yourself, you could probably get one in for $4k. If you have to redo the glass and have someone else install it, you are a lot closer to the broker's $10k.
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Old 09-13-2010
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I have sailed extensively offshore on a friend's 10 year old IP 44 with electric winches. At night, by yourself on watch, it is nice to lean over and let the jib out 10 inches to see if that helps, and then bring it back in with one finger when it doesn't. I personally think it is great, but then I am not paying for the maintenance, on the boat as a whole, which is breath taking by the time you add all the stuff.

And furling the jib single handedly in a blow, the secondary electric winches make it a snap. I know that many will object, and it is one more thing to go wrong, but to go from my Pearson 10M, with big Barients that aren't even self tailing, to electric primaries and secondaries, let's all of us feel better and keep sailing. Yes, I shouldn't need them, but then I should still be 30 and have a full head of hair also.

Last edited by mgraham49; 09-13-2010 at 09:41 PM. Reason: addition
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