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Old 14-04-2011, 10:37   #16
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

If your winch does not have safety switches. One that stops when you remove your hand or foot from it.
Then you need to plan ahead on laying out the line you are using.
Ensuring that it is fairlead properly to the winch.
That you can be at least an arm's lenght from the winch so you will have time to let go of the line.
No rings or other jewelry on your wrists or fingers, those will snag the line and pull you into the winch.
Playing out on the winch is hazardous, because the line is moving through your hands toward the winch. be sure that the line is faked out with no snares or tangles in it to distract you from what you are doing.
Discuss the procedures with anyone who is going aloft with you using a power winch. Do they have a safety line in case of sudden slack off of the hoisting line. Can they be lowered by other means. Where do you stand and where when hoisting to put the tail of the hoist line, without tangling it. All of the above must be discussed and everyone understands the hazards of not following procedure or being distracted. And when lowering the person aloft, is it done under power or by surging the line around the winch.
And practice by raising that person a couple of feet above the deck and lowering him back down so that all steps are well understood.
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Old 14-04-2011, 20:04   #17
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

We have friends with electric winches on their boat. No one got hurt, but they managed to rip their bimini by trimming the main and watching the sail instead of the sheet tackle while they trimmed it. Trimming by hand, they would have noticed the increased load when it snagged. The motor never even slowed down.
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Old 14-04-2011, 20:33   #18
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

Quote:
Winches are dangerous enough.
A windlass is no less dangerous and maybe worse. At least the tip of my finger grew back. It was as close as I intend to get. When you consider the loads on a Jib winch or a windlass you have to realize you are playing with serious danger in anything more than light wind. At least with a manual winch when it gets bad you need both hands. It tends to keep fingers away. With a windlass and chain it will trash a finger and not slow down. You can get a double break and at sea you lose the finger and it won't be pleasant before they cut it off and sew it up. On a bigger boat in stiff wind you are are just as dangerous with a sheet and manual winch. I am the only person on our boat to use the powered windlass.

Slower by hand does avoid problems but it's all the same game. I have older friends with a 45 ft boat that travel with and use powered winches with all fingers and toes accounted for. They do have well over 40 years sailing experience but powered winches won't make you smarter. Pushing a button is always about the idiot doing the pushing. Lots of buttons have bad outcomes. On a close haul in stiff wind it takes muscle to sheet it it in tight. You still need to think when the machine is doing the muscle.
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Old 13-06-2011, 07:42   #19
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

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Originally Posted by sailvayu View Post
I have been asked to do an article on electric winch safety. Does anyone know of any stories about injuries related to the use of electric winches? This is related to an incident in Antigua last March where a woman lost her hand while hoisting her husband up the mast. Any information on that accident or any other would be appreciated. I will be glad to share what I learn.
See Marine Accident Investigation Board Tombarra incident. During lifeboat drill the winch kept on going after the boat was returned to the davits. Owing to a lack of fuses or current trips whatever the winch snapped the wire rope because the limit switch didn't work. This caused the lifeboat and its four occupants to drop 29 metres into the sea. One man killed and two injured.

I read of another similar mishap on a sailing yacht. Owing to a short circuit the anchor winch started up when the anchor was stowed in the bow roller. This caused structural damage, a burnt out winch motor, burnt wiring to the winch and destroyed batteries.

Nowadays "Megafuses" are available at electronic stores such as Maplin Electronics. The normal application for these is for fusing the supply to those infernal extremely loud in-car amplifiers. Probably a 60 amp fuse would be enough for a small winch although higher current fuses are available. Large lead acid batteries frequently have a Cold Cranking Amperes rating upwards of 700 amps. The actual current capability will be a lot higher in summer, possibly 1000 amps. Now if that kind of current is available to a stalled winch something is going to give and the winch could quite possibly rip itself off the deck.
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Old 13-06-2011, 08:55   #20
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

Most every thing on a sailing boat is downright dangerous and can cause injuries from minor to fatal. It is sort of the epitome of the Darwin Awards qualifying place.
- - To survive successfully you need to "pay attention" to what you are doing and not assume anything. Moving about the boat is fraught with potential hazards to life and limb. Even sitting you can get smacked with a boom or flying set of sheets.
- - By paying attention, I mean thinking and looking where you will be putting your next step with your foot or what you are grabbing onto with your hand. Even "how" you hold and grab things makes a difference between loosing a digit or some bigger chunk of your anatomy.
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Old 13-06-2011, 09:47   #21
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

Here is the link to the article I wrote Southern and Florida Sailing Magazine - SOUTHWINDS - Bahamas Cruising and Florida Sailing

It is on page 37 of this issue. Hope it can help make folks more aware of the potential problems and how to avoid them.
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Old 13-06-2011, 14:16   #22
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

not boating related but while offroading a few years back a jeep was stuck in muddy water. the driver got out, laid on the hood and was feeding the wire out when it either malfunctioned or his finger slipped and reversed the feed. either way his hand was caught and pulled into the fairlead of the winch breaking and severing it.
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Old 13-06-2011, 17:27   #23
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

Probably the winch wire got snagged up on the drum then with the same drum rotation the wire would go back in. You can get the same thing happening on a hand winch. Proper winches have huge drums with a spiral groove that matches the wire size. It is the small ones where layers of wire are wound on top of one another that give the trouble as wires can sink down and become trapped.
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Old 20-06-2011, 17:57   #24
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

I was fortunate to have not lost any fingers. I learned quickly to wear gloves when using the windlass.
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Old 20-06-2011, 18:05   #25
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
I was fortunate to have not lost any fingers. I learned quickly to wear gloves when using the windlass.
Gloves are what'll make you lose fingers.
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Old 21-06-2011, 00:12   #26
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

So from what I have read so far, manual windlasses seem to have less of an incident ratio and less of a general danger to the operator?
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Old 21-06-2011, 03:20   #27
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

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Gloves are what'll make you lose fingers.
x2 on that. Particularly the full fingered type.
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Old 21-06-2011, 10:27   #28
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Re: Electric Winch Accidents

I am not aware of this scenario resulting in an accident, but it is one waiting to happen.

Put a winch handle in an electric winch, then stand back (way back) and press the winch button. The handle spins at a great speed.
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