Windlass Woes … Preventative Maintenance?

After a few years cruising in the tropics, we noticed that our wonderful Lighthouse 1501 Electric Windlass just didn’t look quite the same.  It worked fine, and there are usually projects aboard a boat that don’t work fine … or sometimes don’t work at all … so the windlass kept getting shoved down the priority list.  Until now.

When we returned from our shakedown cruise with only the hexbolts in the head to replace, we decided maybe we should think about preventative maintenance on the windlass.  Apparently, depending on who you talk to, it’s a fairly common occurrence for a lower seal to fail releasing grease into areas … well … lower.

The yellow rubber

The yellow rubber “boot” didn’t used to look like this. We think the extreme heat in the tropics either forced some grease out of the upper unit or the lower seal is leaking.

We talked to the manufacturer, Lighthouse … and Jordan sent us specific instructions for everything from changing out brushes in the motor to replacing seals, you name it, Lighthouse provides DIY (do it yourself) instructions.  And a parts list so you can order replacement parts.  If you need to contact Jordan, try e-mail at info@lighthouse-mfg-usa.com or call/Skype, USA # 951-683-5078.

The bottom is off showing the grease that had accumulated.

The bottom is off showing the grease that had accumulated.

Rubber just doesn't do well in the tropics, basically it disintigrates, just as you see here!

Rubber just doesn’t do well in the tropics, basically it disintigrates, just as you see here!

So we started with the basics, removing the rubber “boot” so we could get to the motor.   The boot came off and as we could see, there’s grease inside.  But the good news is that it was brilliant blue grease, not brown grease, meaning it has not been infiltrated by salt water.   And that was all the good news.  Days later, David was still struggling to remove pieces that would allow him to even get to where he could check on the seals.

We tried everything to get this off before cutting it off ... soaking it in lime-away, beating it with a rubber mallet, using a strap wrench, all sorts of ideas from everyone in the marina.

We tried everything to get this off before cutting it off … soaking it in lime-away, beating it with a rubber mallet, using a strap wrench, all sorts of ideas from everyone in the marina.

Finally after literally cutting off the remaining barrier, he discovered that the installation (which was professionally done here in SW Florida at an unnamed location) was done with 5200.  Hmmm….  5200 is 5200 because it does not come off or let go.  Not good.

After three days, the sealed unit finally detached from the deck and you could hear David’s war whoop all over the marina.   But pretty much, he was done.  Lighthouse will totally recondition the unit and, although Jordan doesn’t think there’s any way our 10 year old 1501 windlass could need reconditioning, he’s going to take it all apart (good luck with that Jordan!), fix anything that needs fixing, add more grease, replace that bottom seal if that’s the culprit and we’ll get back an almost totally new windlass!  HURRAY!

Finally ... three days later....

Finally … three days later….

Both of us know we should have continued to do it ourselves, but sometimes after too many days and UPS beckoning, it’s just better this way.  We’re recovering our sanity and haven’t killed each other.  The downside is that now we’re sans windlass for several days. Jordan at Lighthouse said it would take him a couple of days, but it had to go from Florida to California … and then back, so we’re guessing a week and a half if everything goes perfectly, but then there’s this little thing called Thanksgiving in there, so who knows.

But the 10 day weather forecast isn’t all that great anyway and we have grandkiddos coming for Thanksgiving.   We can still go sailing, just not anchoring out unless David decides he wants to haul that chain manually – probably not a great idea, we don’t need to ruin his back just because we couldn’t wait for the windlass to return.

All in the name of preventative maintenance … but it is hard when the dang thing worked perfectly to admit that it’s the right thing to do.       Cheers!  Jan

 

Comments

  1. I’m in Thailand with a dead 1501. It seems to be the motor. Now, I can’t get the damn thing off the shaft and I see the part that you ended up cutting.

    Any recommendations for how to remove the motor?

    • Ken, since we’re a few days away from being back on the boat, we don’t remember specifically what we did – only what’s in the post that you read and commented on. I do know that we contacted Jordan at Lighthouse via e-mail and he sent us instructions and diagrams on everything we needed – except of course, ours didn’t come apart exactly as the diagram and instructions showed. Ugh. Since you’re in Thailand, I’d recommend you start by e-mailing Jordan — here’s his e-mail address: info@lighthouse-mfg-usa.com. Or you could call if you have Skype: USA # 951-683-5078. Explain your situation & attach photos if applicable. I wish we could be of more help, but this project literally involved days and much swearing and sweating in confined spaces to get the damned thing off. And then it just fell off as David remembers it. 🙁 Good Luck.

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