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Old 29-06-2020, 13:40   #1
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Why not a drum winch?

Hi Everyone,

Bought a Westsail 32 with a huge manual drum winch on deck. The original design calls for a horizontal windlass with the chain falling through a pipe to the bilge which I really dont want. I spoke to a guy at Muir who recommended a drum winch and the locker isnt high enough. Lots of commercial boats are running them. I also plan on rode/chain rather than all chain set up.

The advantage to me is the drum winch is super simple, no pile ups etc. No manual haul up though but rode/chain is not the end of the world.

Your thoughts please?


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Old 29-06-2020, 14:31   #2
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

If it fits and works, I see no problem with it. Most of the aversion to them is likely related to them being bulky / in the way and kinda ugly.

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Old 29-06-2020, 15:46   #3
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

It is best to concentrate weight as low as possible. On large commercial vessels the drum windlasses are one of the design considerations, not so on small sailing yachts.
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Old 29-06-2020, 15:49   #4
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

What is a drum winch? A vertical windlass?
Got a picture?
If it’s what I think it is, I wouldn’t want one, but a windlass is a bunch of money too, so if it works and I’d bet corrosion prevention is a bear too.
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Old 29-06-2020, 16:59   #5
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

Years ago in Mexico we met a 55 foot home built ketch (a BIG boat for its time) that hailed from west coast Canada. The owner/builder was pretty inexperienced while building, and had asked local fishermen about anchor gear. They all used big hydraulic drum winches with wire rode, so that's what he did. It was a big ugly thing on his foredeck and we asked him about it. He said it really worked well... actually too well, for if wasn't careful with the valve it would jerk him off his feet with the retrieval speed. Said he could launch gliders with it if he wanted to.

Don't know how it worked out long term, for he soon disappeared from the local cruising scene... maybe he got pulled under by a fouled anchor!

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II lying Port Cygnet again, freezing our bums off.
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Old 29-06-2020, 18:02   #6
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
What is a drum winch? A vertical windlass?
Got a picture?
If its what I think it is, I wouldnt want one, but a windlass is a bunch of money too, so if it works and Id bet corrosion prevention is a bear too.

To me, a drum winch is where the rode wraps around and is stored on a drum. Certainly not practical with mainly chain.
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Old 30-06-2020, 09:17   #7
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

I have a commercial fishing boat in Alaska with a drum anchor winch and its wonderful but my sailboat has a belowdeck chain locker and a horizontal chain capstan winch. Im not sure must sailboats forward decks are designed to have this much weight sitting on top all the time.
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Old 30-06-2020, 09:34   #8
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

I looked into it a couple of times, once for a trawler type.. I liked the idea of it all stored on a drum on deck.
But, there aren't a lot of choices out there and the ones there are are pretty crude for fishing boats etc. Mostly big. Many hydraulic.
It's a lot of weight up high too, and a sail wearing device.
Also, they way they are designed they are mainly a rode holding device, not much power.
Yeah, for all rope rode they would be nice. Nothing else works that well.
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Old 30-06-2020, 11:54   #9
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

The chain locker at the bow of our W32 was not deep enough to self stow the 3/8" chain. Had to go below and tip over the pile of chain once or twice when weighing anchor. Bit of a PITA but we lived with it for the safety of an all chain rode. With chain, drop the anchor, let out scope, back down, and sleep peacefully 24/7/365. A drum winch would solve the problem using wire cable with additional headaches and hardware but no way would I go with rope as a rode.

Rope rodes are a disaster waiting to happen as they are so easily cut/abraided especially when under tension. Have spent one too many nights on the foredeck in driving rain and spray periodically letting out bits of line to change wear point on the line. In 50mph winds found it impossible to keep chafing gear in place and only way to keep rode intact and boat off rocks was to change wear point regularly.

The fishing boat drum windlasses are mostly hydraulically powered. That will mean a robust pump usually powered off the the motor with long hydraulic lines running to the windlass. Will work as long as the boat's engine is running. The same goes for an electric windlass whether drum or conventional. My experience is hydraulics leak, some less than others but they all leak some so you'll have to deal with it.

If you can, use the bobstay fitting to attach a pendant to the anchor rode. Takes care of the rode chafing against the bobstay, no small thing, and gets the pull on the boat low so limits sailing at anchor. We also found the chain rode would get out of synch with the pitching of the bow was very disturbing.
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Old 30-06-2020, 14:58   #10
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

I done my research on various Windlasses after having problems with the 10mm anchor chain pyramidding itself in the anchor locker then fouling in the Hawse pipe, it is a major pita. Stop hauling in the anchor, lift the hatch to the anchor locker, clear the pyramid of chain & unblock the hawse pipe. This could take place several times on the one hauling up of the pick. I thought about major surgery on the front deck, fit up a larger hawse pipe and re route it so the chain fell more to the centre of the locker. Keep in mind, Mystic is a big steel Ketch and the Pick is offset to the side of the Bowsprit. After much investigation, I have decided to go with a Drum winch style Windlass. An Aussie company, Savwinch, make a heavy duty Drum winch that will take my 90 metres of 10mm chain, it is not an ugly, bulky thing like on a commercial boat. This winch is all stainless. The motor, gearbox & drum are 316 stainless! I have ordered one in 24v (1400W). We will fit it up when we go on the Hard up in the Gold Coast at the end of July. ( have to wait for borders to open!) I will do a report on it here once I have thoroughly tested it.
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Old 30-06-2020, 17:19   #11
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

There are Pros and Cons to using a drum winch for ground tackle but they are really foredeck design dependent and also whether it is occasional rare anchoring or constant duty in varying bottoms.

Some fisherman use them since they are either tied up off season/fishing or offloading.

If considering one, then a short wrap of chain shackled to anchor and then wire rope fed thru a spooling gear to lay cable evenly on dum, is more reliable and safer than rope and hand spooling.

The footprint of an anchor system is actually smaller than a similar rated winch drum and far more versatile for other warping jobs. That us why they are pretty much universal on narrow fore decked yachts

Lastly there are modifying tricks to fix the pyramid problems and handlaying below decks in badly designed chain lockers.

You can install a swivelling pipe just under the spurling pipe with a hand lever so that you can direct and guide chain back and forth.

You need to design that for running chain out easily, but it does work if just 2 crew.
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Old 03-07-2020, 15:50   #12
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Re: Why not a drum winch?


As well as being a tripping hazard, two problems can arise with a drum winch.

Loose turns on the drum can mean the rode jambs into itself when pulled hard which can make it very difficult to pay out.

Winch pulling power reduces as the drum fills up. (1st layer is most powerful) This can mean there isn't enough power to break out the anchor especially in shallow water. A split drum can resolve this like the old wire haliard winches used to have.

Winch drums need monitoring for loose turns and always spooled under tension.

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Old 06-07-2020, 10:44   #13
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Re: Why not a drum winch?

I have a Lone Star Marine GX-4. You have to account for the weight high on the boat and retrieving the line can require having a person forward guiding the line on the drum. I've not had a problem doing it solo in moderate conditions, but it might get dicey doing it by myself in really tough conditions.

It has better pulling power than a conventional windlass and is quite well built. But it won't work with every boat layout since it takes up some real estate. I bought mine through a dealer in Texas. They are much more common in Australia for some reason.


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