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Oh how I love our Electric Windlass!

IMG_8877_1024When we were due to leave Culebra, we had an unwelcome surprise when we tried to bring up our anchor. Our electric windlass had stopped working.

“We” (Rand) didn’t know then if it was the electric windlass itself or the deck control that was the problem and we wanted to leave the anchorage and get under way early because of the weather forecast. So Rand manually hoisted the anchor – and Aria and I supported him , keeping the chain clear as it came up and organizing it neatly in the locker, then cleating it in securely.IMG_8867_1024 Let me tell you, bringing up an anchor manually on your own is hard work, even for a man as super-strong as Rand. And yes, he got a super backrub from me later in appreciation!

Once we arrived and got settled in St. Martin, attending to the windlass was of high priority.

While we had sailed, Rand, an electrical engineer after all, figured out that the problem was not the motor, and probably not the deckside remote itself, so the fault most likely lay in the connection. There was some visible corrosion and one of the three prongs was corroded away completely. This was probably something that had been developing for years from the gradual effect of salt water and the elements on the wiring, and it had finally reached the tipping point. Time to make repairs and make it as good as new, but it’s never good timing to lose your electric windlass!  [Note from Rand: the original installation of the socket was done with over-sized screws that prevented the cap and remote from making a water tight seal to the socket.  Additionally the socket was installed with the ground down making the 3rd connection closest to the lower edge of the socket thus finding water faster when the socket filled with salt water.  I reversed the orientation of the socket and used screws with the proper size heads to allow for a better seal.  That and some silicone grease should allow for a much longer life of this remote/socket. ]

IMG_8875Don’t ask me how he did it – and I can’t show photos of it because there are none; I needed 100% of my attention on task, not being a photojournalist, but I’ll describe what we did as best I can.


the rising smoke is from the soldering Rand is doing with wire

Rand exposed the wires and we used them in place of the remote deck control to activate the windlass.  He labeled the wires for me and Aria to use. Then, “all” we had to do was connect one end of one wire to either the wire he’d marked “up” or the one he’d marked “down” and the windlass would turn on in that direction.


Rand’s nifty magnifying glass with tool set-up

Sounds simple enough, but in reality, it was a bit nerve-wracking for Aria and me to use it in this fashion. But working together as a team, we dropped the anchor smoothly and quite effectively as it turned out.  Aria touched the wires together as I checked the anchor positioning and relayed wire-touching instructions to her, to go down and when to stop and start. Rand was at the helm. Once we got the bridle attached with plenty of chain out, he pulled on the anchor and tested it. And the anchor held fast, even against very significant wind gusts and swells we experienced in Marigot (so big the St Martin coast guard stationed themselves at the back of the bay to assist if/when boats dragged anchor). So, mission accomplished!

The next task – for Rand – was to figure out what needed replacement and make that happen. We found the part we needed at Island Water World, a wonderful chandlery in Sint Maarten, and Rand used his soldering iron and magnifying glass with tools and replaced the worn connection with the new one, and everything is working perfectly again.

After this experience, I have greater appreciation for our windlass and deck-side remote control. Kiss, kiss. Hug, hug. I will take even better care of you and your connections in the future!

3 Comments on Oh how I love our Electric Windlass!

  1. Wow great job Rand! Matt and I loved St. Martin! Great road side bbq there! Love reading your adventures Ellen

  2. He IS amazing…in so many ways : )

  3. Isn’t Rand amazing? His skill at making and fixing things always astounded me. Even as a little boy he was creating.

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