Having pulled the old anchor up by hand a couple of times I realized that a windlass was an essential, not a nice-to-have. I chose the South Pacific because:
- it was cheap(!), which is never a good move, and
- the vertical motor allowed installation above the anchor locker outside the forward of the cabin.
The winch is now just over two years old and, of course, out of warranty. It has seen a fair amount of work during my two passages up the East Coast. We anchored at the islands up north and I guess it’s pulled up the anchor oh, I don’t know, three or four dozen times. I’ve always been pretty careful not to overload the winch, motoring up to the anchor if there was a bit of breeze or only lifting the chain and waiting for the catenary of the rode to pull the boat up if there was little or no wind.
Last year, after returning from Airlie Beach, I noticed the windlass had become sluggish and intermittent. Some times I had to use a winch handle to manually wind a couple of turns before it would re-start. It was fine letting the anchor out, but pulling it up was a problem. The capstan also wobbled a lot under load, indicating that the bearings were loose.
By the time we got to Gabo Island earlier this year the windlass was pretty much useless and I knew it was probably overdue for a clean/service.
It was a pain removing the windlass, because the wiring is carefully concealed under the deck-head in the v-berth, so I had to pull the deck head out to get to the cables. Everything is also hard-wired in the interests of current delivery, so it meant cutting the cables.
Anyway, I brought it home, disassembled the unit, and found that the inside of the electric motor was covered in gold-coloured grease! The grease had migrated from the gearbox down through the top bearing of the electric motor and then covered everything: armature, brushes… The gold colour of the grease was caused by fine bronze dust, a product of the output shaft wearing away the bottom bearing – a simple bronze bush.
I realized that to fix the windlass properly was going to be difficult. At the very least, it would require a new bush to be machined for the output shaft and as there is no space for an oil-seal between the electric motor and the gearbox, the grease is likely to keep soaking into the electric motor.
I’ve now cleaned the gearbox and motor, re-packed the gearbox with marine grease and re-assembled the unit in the hope that I’ll get another 2 years use out of it before throwing it away…