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post #1 of 71 Old 11-21-2016 Thread Starter
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Electric winches

How big does a boat have to be before you feel it needs electric winches?

I saw on Outbound's thread how a crew trashed a sail by overdoing it with the electric winch.

The last boat I chartered had an electric winch for raising the main. It was a Jeannueau 39i which does have a largish main (just checked Sailboatdata, 337 square feet) and I have to admit it was quite a luxury to just push a button and watch the sail go up. But man, that thing scared me. Not as much as the anchor windlass scares me (few things scare me as much as an anchor windlass), but still. It just seems like there's so much power and so much ability to really mess something up.

One night at anchor we were playing around with crew recovery, using a halyard to recover people over the side with a Lifesling or harness. I made them grind; I wouldn't let them use the electric for human recovery. I can't quite say why, because I can't really picture what would go wrong that could cause injury, but part of my brain was telling me to play it safe not use the electric winch.

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post #2 of 71 Old 11-21-2016
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Re: Electric winches

I've broken stuff (albeit a long time ago) by over hand grinding on a winch. I don't really see a difference, unless the operator of an electric or manual winch is incapable of learning new things properly.

They don't scare me.

As to what size boat they belong on, that has a little to do with the sailor and a little to do with having room under the deck for the motor. Spoke with a broker last year who claims more used boats are coming on the market, with full electrics, as older Baby Boomers installed them to extend their ability, but have ultimately retired from the sport (so to speak).


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post #3 of 71 Old 11-21-2016
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Re: Electric winches

I'm in the process of installing electric jib winches on my Catalina 400. It seems like quite a luxury, yes, but it will, as Minnewasa said, extend my years (I hope) on the water. Lewmar recently had a buy-one-get-one-free sale. I went for it.

I will be VERY careful about who will use them because they can cause lot of damage. I'm comfortable, however, using power winches, perhaps from time I've spent on comercial fishing and research ships. A big part of my plan is to watch the sail, not the winch. Also, whoever else uses the winch needs to be trained and supervised appropriately. Most of the time it is either myself or my wife on the boat. I believe the new winches will be a good modification.
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post #4 of 71 Old 11-21-2016
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Re: Electric winches

I have the Harken Rewind winches on the jib sheets and love them. They are the type that wind in or out by pushing a button. Very helpful when single or short handed. helpful on a wide boat. The rewind feature is what makes electric winches worth the money. It is nice to push a button and wind in the jib but on standard electric you have to still go to the winch, uncleat when you want to trim the sail out. The Rewind winches have a set of switches to trim the sail out without uncleating the sail. there are switches on the high and low side for both winches. we switch to handles for racing with a crew, thats when I don't have to grind.
They do have the power to destroy stuff but have not found that to be a problem. I have found them to be a safety feature on the boat, if thing did go wrong you are not near the line or the winch.
Once you have tried them it is hard to go back to winding by hand.

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post #5 of 71 Old 11-21-2016
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Re: Electric winches

Seems like a 'settable' torque limit would be a good idea here..

I can see an electric main halyard winch first, esp with larger mains; the relatively infrequent use wouldn't tax a battery bank.

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Re: Electric winches

One night, at band camp, it had been really rainy and windy all day and then like, even before lights out, the power went out so we were all sitting around with our flashlights in our bunks and the wind was howling and then there was this "rrrrrrr....clank!clank!clank!" noise from the steps to the door, and this ELECTRIC WINDLASS WAS TRYING TO GET IN AND KILL US ALL! Fortunately one of the counselors had this special jelly lubricant and quickly spread it on the floor so it was so slippery that the windlass couldn't get in and we all ran out the back window and got away from it and burned the cabin down behind us.

Yessir, I know why Minne is afraid of those things, they still give me nightmares too.

And I won't sail on any boat that carries a chain saw and hockey masks, either.
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post #7 of 71 Old 11-21-2016
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The boat I learned to sail on was over 70' long and didn't have electric winches, or an electric windlas for that matter. She did have two masts to share the sail area between.

I can definitely see the appeal to having at least one on board. I load my dinghy onto the foredeck single handed with my spare jib halyard and that would be a lot easier if I had an electric winch I could lead it to.

Extra system to maintain would be the down side.
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Re: Electric winches

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arcb View Post
........Extra system to maintain would be the down side.
Electric winches don't have any additional maintenance I can think of. Maybe a couple more gears to be cleaned and greased, but same schedule.

Extra stuff that could break, for sure.


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post #9 of 71 Old 11-21-2016
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Re: Electric winches

But if that "extra stuff" breaks, it is still a winch.

Mark

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post #10 of 71 Old 11-21-2016
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Re: Electric winches

I don't think that there is a minimum boat size that warrants electric winches. Electric winches are being offered to buyers of boats that are 28 feet long. It's more a physical characteristic of the boat owner and expected winch loads. A "strong like bull" skipper might not need electric winches but many older/weaker sailors will find them very useful and extend their sailing years. I have electric winches on my C&C 110 (36'). The main sail is 348 square feet and is a lot of work raising it manually even with the Tides Marine sail track. On my boat, only the primary winches are electric but the main halyard is lead back to one of them so there is no need for a dedicated halyard winch. When I first purchased the boat I thought that electric winches were going to be overkill but I am so glad to have them as they have made single handling much easier. The few times that I've had my button pushing grandchildren on board, I turned off the power to the winches after the main is raised and use them manually. I don't find them to be any more of a hazard than boiling water on a propane stove. Respect your equipment, follow the manufacturer's directions and you shouldn't have issues. Of course common sense is implied.

Last edited by replusted; 11-21-2016 at 10:20 PM.
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