When we bought Winterlude, our 1985 Passport 37, there was a perfectly functional manual windlass on the bow. During our first commuter cruise in 2001 — from Annapolis MD to New Bern NC, the manual windlass developed a crack in the cast iron and we couldn’t use it. We tried to get it welded in New Bern, and although promises were made that it would be good as new when we returned the following month, we were without our windlass on the sail from New Bern to Canaveral Florida. Grumble. But we were able to get it successfully welded in Canaveral.
Fast forward 4 years, now we’re ready to leave to go cruising the Northwest Caribbean … Mexico’s Yucatan Coast, Belize and the Rio Dulce, Guatemala. As we’re spending more time talking to “real” cruisers, we keep hearing stories about how important an electric windlass is and how it can save your boat.
What? Our manual windlass works fine. Of course, ever since we added 150 feet of 5/16 high test chain, it’s been a bit more of a struggle to get the chain and 44 lb Spade anchor up than it was when we bought the boat with 30 feet of chain (maybe) connected to nylon rode and a 45 lb CQR.
As we get older, it’s harder and harder to think about re-anchoring over and over to get the anchor to set well in the thin sand over rock in Belize or for that matter, Isla Mujeres. Trying to find that special patch of deep enough sand to bury the anchor can be frustrating. But the consequences of NOT redoing the anchor to set well can be catastrophic. The only times we have ever dragged anchor was because we had reset the anchor numerous times and finally just got frustrated and said “good enough” – when we really hadn’t backed down hard. Luckily both times we were able to reset – once in the dark of night with sideways torrential rain – without kissing coral.
After hearing yet another story about cruisers not re-anchoring because they were physically exhausted from bringing the anchor up with the manual windlass, we decided one month before we were scheduled to leave to go cruising that we should invest in an electric windlass. Our choice was a Lighthouse 1501. And we have never regretted the decision.
The skeptics said … don’t buy an electric windlass, electric stuff never functions when you really need it. And although there’s plenty of truth in that statement, preventative maintenance along with a dedicated windlass battery (we couldn’t easily run big enough wire through the boat to power the new windlass, it was going to be less expensive in the long run to add the dedicated battery — of course, that added weight in the bow, which wasn’t our favorite. And the windlass operates manually as well with a winch handle, so in a real emergency, we could get the anchor up without help of electricity … well, maybe…..
So if you’re debating whether or not to spend the money on an electric windlass, imagine yourself in a pristine tropical anchorage with swimming pool clear water. You’ve just eyeballed your way through the reef to the anchorage, and there’s reef behind you. You drop the anchor in what looks like a sand patch, but it doesn’t hold because there’s not enough sand. So you pick it up and try again in a slightly different spot. It’s hot, the sun is high. You back it down and it just drags through the sand. Ugghhh… finally after multiple tries in slightly different spots, you get it to hold and now you put on your snorkel & fins to go check it up close and personal … oh no, it’s on it’s side with only part of the fluke buried… back to the anchoring dance dilemma. Now imagine the same scenerio in the middle of the night when a wind switch puts you on a lee shore… It’s not usually so demanding, but with the electric windlass, we’re not as reluctant to pick it up and try again. Especially when we realize the consequences of NOT making sure it’s buried properly. 🙂
Do you have an electric or manual windlass? Leave a comment or more information and share! Thanks! Jan