Install an electric deck winch to your Hunter-sail-boat

DECK WINCH INSTALLATION NOTES

Why choose a Hunter-sail-boat as an example? That is also a very simple question! the answer is because they are also great sail-boats.

Does sail handling on your boat wear you out, especially when you are Caribbean-sailing with good tradewinds, or on your annual charter-sailing or sailing-vacation, where you are out of physical condition?

HOW MUCH ELECTRICAL POWER DOES A DECK WINCH USE?

The basic question that is often asked is how much electric power is required? This is the perennial question for most Hunter-sail-boat owners or Beneteau-sail-boat owners and is an essential part of the battery capacity and charging problem.

The answer is relatively small amounts, however there are high power demands for short durations and the high current surges can exceed 150 – 200 amps for a second or two. Actual cumulative operation time over a 24 hour period may only be 10 minutes or so.

I prefer to power winches from a starting battery bank, although this should be of increased size to cope with the additional loads, and in this regard the engine start battery can be paralleled with another of equivalent size.

Never connect to the house battery bank as the sudden surges can cause a severe voltage drop that can cause problems on connected electronics and equipment. One should install the largest cold cranking rating battery possible. Whether it is a Hunter-sail-boat or a Beneteau-sail-boat, problems and solutions are all the same

The issue is maintaining the required voltage to the winch motor and the reason start batteries are used is that they can deliver this power without a significant voltage drop in the process. There is also a requirement for a capability for a deep cycle capability which the start battery can not provide.

INSTALLING AN ELECTRIC DECK WINCH

The installation of an electric winch on a Hunter-sail-boat is fairly easy. Electric winch motors are relatively small and they come in either horizontal or vertical configurations that suit a variety of space considerations. Each manufacturer offers different options.

In most cases it simply requires the installation of the cables and the protection to the winch control unit, the motor, the control switch and you have a new and well muscled crew member. It must not be forgotten that winches can be operated in manual mode using the winch handle. Consider an upgrade to your Catalina-sail-boat, Hunter-sailboat or Beneteau-sail-boat, you will be very pleased you did

ELECTRICAL CABLE SIZE SELECTION

Each winch model manual specifies the recommended cable sizes rated for the winch electric motor current and the projected cable distance. It also specifies the circuit breaker or fuse protection ratings. As an example a total cable length of 20 feet will require a 2 AWG cable size which gives a 100 amp rating, while 30 feet run will go to 0 AWG.

Voltage drop is an important consideration in maintaining performance, and preferably I install winches with much larger cables than recommended, the cost is small when weighed up against maintaining voltage levels and therefore maximum power ratings. It's also easier on the electric motors.

Check with your prospective sail-boat-charter company whether they have electric deck winch boats before booking your sailing-vacation or Caribbean-sailing trip. Also consider an upgrade to your Catalina-sail-boat, Hunter-sailboat or Beneteau-sail-boat, you will be very pleased you did

CIRCUIT PROTECTION and DECK SWITCH ISSUES

Circuit breaker protection and isolators should be as close as practicable to the battery and be accessible. Locate the control pushbuttons or switches in a position that prevents accidental operation, as accidental activation can be and is a problem, and I speak from experience on a friends sail boat here.

Control wiring to deck switches is typically 14 AWG, although the option of air operated switches is often used. Where air switches are used the tubing must be installed from switch to sub-box to switch so that no bends or kinks are present and cannot chafe. The air bleeding holes must be open and clear as when blocked the air may expand in higher temperature conditions and activate the switch operating the winch uncontrollably with dire consequences.

Imagine a winch suddenly operating when fully loaded. It has happened with windlasses causing serious injury. Check with your prospective sail-boat-charter company whether they have electric deck winch boats before booking your sailing-vacation or Caribbean-sailing trip. Also consider an upgrade to your Catalina-sail-boat, Hunter-sailboat or Beneteau-sail-boat, you will be very pleased you did

DECK WINCH MAINTENANCE

There are relatively few maintenance tasks for electric winches which include regular stripping, cleaning and lubrication. Winches require the usual maintenance tasks such as oiling pawls and the gearbox and switch seals must be kept dry.

Winches may also have oil filled gearboxes and these must be checked so that oil levels are maintained and not leaking. Take care after use when checking gearboxes as oil may be very hot. Whether it is a Hunter-sail-boat or a Beneteau-sail-boat, problems and solutions are all the same

Other important tasks are the routine inspection of electrical connections, and motor connections should have a coating of Vaseline or petroleum jelly to prevent corrosion. The winch control boxes also include PCB's and it is important to ensure that water and moisture are excluded as solder connections and components may degrade.

I always put in a dessicant crystal bag in the box to absorb moisture, which is a simple but useful measure. Make sure you include these in your sail boat maintenance program. Check with your prospective sail-boat-charter company whether they have electric deck winch boats before booking your sailing-vacation or Caribbean-sailing trip.

Also consider an upgrade to your Catalina-sail-boat, Hunter-sailboat or Beneteau-sail-boat, you will be very pleased you did. Whether it is a Hunter-sail-boat or a Beneteau-sail-boat, problems and solutions are all the same

TROUBLESHOOTING DECK WINCHES

The most common faults for winches not operating are that the winch handle is left locked in. Normal winch faults such as pawls jamming or springs is not electrical however the effect is the same. Connection faults are as usual a problem, particularly on control switches. Where a winch gets a lot of hard use and has suddenly stopped the motor thermal cut-out if fitted may have tripped. Whether it is a Hunter-sail-boat or a Beneteau-sail-boat, problems and solutions are all the same

In summary the electric winch takes a lot of the energy draining physical exertion out of sail handling, whether it is a Hunter-sail-boat or a Beneteau-sail-boat. They fit into the same extra crewman category as autopilots and electric windlasses' and if installed and maintained correctly will operate reliably. Check with your prospective sail-boat-charter company whether they have electric deck winch boats before booking your sailing-vacation or Caribbean-sailing trip. Also consider an upgrade to your Catalina-sail-boat, Hunter-sailboat or Beneteau-sail-boat, you will be very pleased you did

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE?

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