Electric halyard winches are now an expected feature on our boats rather than a big boat luxury !
They greatly add to the pleasure of sailing and enhance the ease of sailing so why not. As our Windcraft owners will testify, the easier the boat is to sail, the more you do sail.
The initial cost of adding electric winches to your Hanse or Moody is quickly forgotten and it is hard to go back to a boat without them . A bit like going back to a car without air conditioning – perish the thought!
However, as with all things sailing there are considerations that need to be taken into account and users of electric winches need to understand the damage that can be caused with incorrect use.
Most boats with electric winches will be fitted with circuit breakers or fuses that will trip if the winches are overloaded. These fuses / circuit breakers are to protect the motor of the winch itself.
It is still possible to cause significant damage to equipment on your boat other than the winch. Common areas of damage include the over tensioning and stretching of halyards and sails, applying excessive force to turning blocks, damage to reefing lines, damaged headsail furlers from too much pressure on the furling lines . Care is needed.
The type and extent of damage that Windcraft Service see on some boats would just not be physically possible on boats without electric winches. It really is essential to understand the power that can be applied with an electric winch.
How tight is too tight?
We are often asked this, it is a very open ended question to which a tongue in cheek reply may be “wind it on until just before it breaks……”
It’s a bit like the American tourist that was lost in the back lanes of county Cork, Ireland. After driving around for hours he saw two local farmers on the side of the road, Paddy and Mick. The tourist pulled up and asked “Can you tell me how to get to O’Riellys Lane?” Mick replied and said “that’s easy, drive down to the end of this road, turn around, drive back this way and take the first left” The tourist left and Paddy said to Mick “why didn’t you just tell him to drive down the road and take the last street on the right”. Mick said “we’ll that would be stupid, he wouldn’t know it was the last street on the right until he had got to the end of the road……….”
The moral to the story is that sometimes we don’t know we have gone too far until it is too late. Hopefully with time and experience you will gain a “feel” for what is right on your boat, without going too far.
Get a feel for it.
A good tip is to occasionally use those winch handles. Remember them, from the days before you had electric winches?
As a general rule, slightly depending on the individual or size of boat, you shouldn’t be applying more pressure than you would be able to apply by using a winch handle, regardless of whether you are using electric winches or a winch handle. If you get a “feel” for what is the correct tension you will then, with experience, be able to gauge this regardless of electric or manual winches. Another good reason why you should sail more often!
Keep clear and safe.You should always ensure you have hair, clothing, fingers etc clear of the winches and beware of the inquisitive fingers of some of our younger sailors to be when on board.