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Old 04-06-2008, 10:47   #1
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Poor Mans Windlass

A few years after I started cruising, I started thinking about a windlass. Not so much for raising the anchor, but for breaking it free, and setting it.
I found an old 2 speed sheet winch at a swap meet for $50, and mounted it on the bow.

Besides being able to break an anchor loose if needed, I mainly used it for settind a second anchor.

At the time I was using 2 danforth anchors, and would set them so the rodes were 90 deg. apart.

I would lower the first anchor, and back down in the direction where I was going to set the second anchor. Then I would let out an extra 50% of rode.
Then motor over to where I wanted the second anchor, and lower that one, and let a lot of rode out without setting the anchor, falling back on the first anchor.
Then pull in the extra 50% of the first rode. Then start pulling in the second rode, untill the boat is between the anchors, With the first rode cleated off, I would wrap the second around the winch and winch it tight, which would set the second anchor, and pull on the first one as well. I would let the boat sit like this a few minutes to let the anchors dig in more, Then slack off both rodes to where there was about 90 degrees between them.
This came in handy numerous times when I wanted to anchor under sail for one reason or another. Drop sail, and lower first anchor. Fall back and let wind alone partially set anchor. Let out extra rode. Raise jib and sail off to one side, and drop second ancho, and procede to set as above.
It allways worked good.
I since found an electric windlass and like it even better.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:54   #2
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Besides being able to break an anchor loose if needed, I mainly used it for settind a second anchor.
I've never used a windlass to break an anchor free. They don't usually have enough pull to do that and they are not designed to do so in any event. I've always found 14 tons of boat can do that job first time everytime.
Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 04-06-2008, 13:11   #3
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In 2006 we did our shake down cruise from Tampa to Martha's Vineyard via Bahamas. When I tried to raise the anchor at Norfolk the electric windlas was spinning, but the chain wasn't coming in. The windlas suffered a mechanical failure (stripped gears). We decided to head towards Annapolis since we thought we could get parts there or a new windlas. After an afternoon "online" in the Deltaville, Va library, I realized we needed a new windlas and it would take 2+ weeks to get the one I wanted. Rather than try to time the windlas delivery to an en route stop, we had the new windlas shipped to our son's house in Martha's Vineyard.

Since we faced many anchor drills until we got our new windlas, we had to work out a new "system." We were using a 44lb Bruce with all chain (3/8") and I couldn't pull that in more than once without being hospitalized. In our new system, we switched to nylon rode with 20ft of chain attached to the Bruce. To keep Cat Tales from sailing at anchor, we ran a 35lb kellet down our anchor bridle and that settled her right down. To raise the anchor, the "Admiral" would motor forward until I got in all the slack in the nylon. Next I would run a line to the halyard winch on the mast and tie the other end to the rode with a clove hitch. I cranked on the winch until I got in about 20ft of rode and then had to secure the nylon or chain on a cleat so I could get a new "purchase" on the line to the winch. Sometimes I would have to repeat this 3 or 4 times to get the anchor into the bow roller, but I did manage to save my back. We had one dragging incident with our new system in Long Island Sound. A thunderstorm hit us about 11PM (why do bad things always happen at night?) and we started a slow drag. The rain was so heavy we couldn't see a thing and were afraid to maneuver since we were near a crowded mooring field. The Admiral noted an object in the water which was getting closer as we dragged towards it. Low and behold it was an empty mooring ball. I quickly rigged a loop on a dockline and lassoed (sp) the mooring ball as it approached our stern. Then I raced it forward and secured the line to a bow cleat. Once again we proved the adage "it's better to be lucky than good."

The lesson learned in all this was the importance of a good windlas. When we used our temporary system we never felt really secure and dreaded second or third attempts at anchoring. Even worse, we couldn't get the gear in quickly when we had our "dragging through the night" episode. Sometimes you just need to leave someplace quickly and there is nothing like pressing the button on an electric windlas and watching the chain come in fast.
Greg, SV Cat Tales
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