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Old 03-03-2022, 04:50   #1
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Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

Yesterday while partway up the mast our electric winch activated itself. Fortunately there was room to move and no one was injured. This happened three more times after the lines were removed from the winch.
When I took apart the switch the plate that compresses the micro switch was de-laminated. There have been no further issues since but I am concerned that the de-laminated plate is not the problem. I tested the micro switch multiple times and it does not appear to be faulty.


Is this a known problem?
What other causes are there for this problem?


Thx
SP
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Old 03-03-2022, 05:20   #2
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seapig View Post
Yesterday while partway up the mast our electric winch activated itself. Fortunately there was room to move and no one was injured. This happened three more times after the lines were removed from the winch.
When I took apart the switch the plate that compresses the micro switch was de-laminated. There have been no further issues since but I am concerned that the de-laminated plate is not the problem. I tested the micro switch multiple times and it does not appear to be faulty.


Is this a known problem?
What other causes are there for this problem?


Thx
SP
I have been in your position 10 years ago. The air operated switches can also trigger when getting older and the sun heating them upÖ none of the solutions are safe and risks are high.

Our first solution was to install waterproof push/pull switches near the winch and in series with the winch switch. Now you can normally keep these switched off for safety, or quickly switch off when things go wrong.

Second, final solution is to install a Blue Sea Systems RBS (Remote Battery Switch) so that a small switch near the winch can take power off the winch completely. Also, replace winch switches regularly.
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Old 03-03-2022, 06:45   #3
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

A woman lost an arm some years ago when sending her husband aloft using the Anchor Windlass. A switch stuck in the 'on' position.


I would NEVER go aloft with a powered winch or windlass.


Many years ago a fellow club member was invited to join the " South West Shingles Sailing Club", probably the most exclusive sailing club in the world, invitation only.


He got stuck at the top of a tall mast while on a mooring. The vessel had to be motored into the Sharpmess sea lock, 60 feet drop, the lock emptied and then the Fire Brigade used an extending ladder to free him.


A simple jam in the sheave was the problem. He could be raised, but not dropped.


Not all bad, he has one of the most exclusive Sailing Club ties in the world!...........
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Old 03-03-2022, 07:26   #4
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

When I hauled out a while back, I decided to empty the chain locker and repaint the markings. Several hundred feet of chain on the ground. Now, we’re going to put the chain back. I go below to turn on the big breaker for the windlass. Then I turn on the little breaker for the windlass control. My friend steps on the foot switch and the chain is coming up. He takes his foot of the switch. Oops …. still running. I turn of the control breaker. Uhhhh …. still running. It finally stopped when the chain jammed and the main breaker opened.

The windlass had a very fancy "electronic" control circuit that would open the circuit if the windlass drew "too much" current. The driver transistor had shorted out, thus holding the solenoid engaged.

No winch or windlass on a boat is likely to ever be anything more than marginally safe, at best. One shouldn’t use them for hauling people. And one should always treat them as if they were out to kill or injure you.
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Old 03-03-2022, 07:48   #5
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

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I would NEVER go aloft with a powered winch or windlass.

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Old 03-03-2022, 07:58   #6
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

What about keeping the main breaker off and using the winch manually?
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Old 03-03-2022, 08:14   #7
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

Then it’s not an electrically operated winch.
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Old 03-03-2022, 08:15   #8
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

Quote:
Originally Posted by rotrax View Post
A woman lost an arm some years ago when sending her husband aloft using the Anchor Windlass. A switch stuck in the 'on' position.


I would NEVER go aloft with a powered winch or windlass.


Many years ago a fellow club member was invited to join the " South West Shingles Sailing Club", probably the most exclusive sailing club in the world, invitation only.


He got stuck at the top of a tall mast while on a mooring. The vessel had to be motored into the Sharpmess sea lock, 60 feet drop, the lock emptied and then the Fire Brigade used an extending ladder to free him.


A simple jam in the sheave was the problem. He could be raised, but not dropped.


Not all bad, he has one of the most exclusive Sailing Club ties in the world!...........

What a story. Not sure the config they used but the person aloft should have had two lines. They could have rappeled down (or manually dropped that second line) on the second albeit that would still be scary. Maybe not as scary as riding back at the top of the mast.
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Old 03-03-2022, 11:37   #9
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

Been there, done that. My hard and fast rule is that the crew
DOES NOT use the self tailing feature of the halyard winch when they are taking me up the mast.

On that particular boat, after I had problems going up the mast they had someone else replace the deck switches. Six months later, the owner got a call from the harbor master during a heavy rainstorm. The same halyard winch had self activated again, The halyard had been attached to the stern pulpit, making it a stern arch. The next thing to go was the turning block at the base of the mast. Fortunately, the halyard got cut by the exit slot, and the carnage stopped. The winch overload protection system did not ever work, and there were several boat bucks worth of damage.

it was a Lewmar winch system. The control box was in a dry location. The control box electronics are too sensitive and interpret a reduction in resistance in the switch circuit (say a bit of salt water across the terminals in a junction) as a full switch closure. I told her never to leave the boat unattended without turning off the main breaker to the winch.

I was going to come back and do some troubleshooting, but it is tricky to recreate a rainstorm. She sold the boat.
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Old 03-03-2022, 12:35   #10
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

On Insatiable II we use the self tailing halyard winch to raise me up the mast... driven by a Milwaukee drill with a winch bit. Quite safe IMO. If the drill should not stop when the trigger is released, you simply pull the driver bit out of the winch. If you can't get the bit out you simply let go of the drill and it no longer can drive t he winch... just goes around in circles. The halyard also goes through a clutch which stops falling if the self tailer fails.

I'm pretty comfy with this setup.

Jim
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Old 03-03-2022, 14:35   #11
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

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If you can't get the bit out you simply let go of the drill and it no longer can drive t he winch... just goes around in circles.

All's well until the flailing drill snags the halyard tail.
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Old 03-03-2022, 21:18   #12
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

For my electric winches I have wired in an extra solenoid and switch that must be held down along with the activating button.and itís solenoid. That way I can never be put in danger from a stuck solenoid. I suppose both could stick at the same time but the odds would be really low of that happening.
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Old 03-03-2022, 21:23   #13
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

We do use the electric winch to take people up, in the following, safe, setup.
1. The activating switches are on the deck, i. e. operated by foot (hands are both free).
2. Lines are not inside the self tailer.
3. The operator puls the line hand by hand, activating the winch by hand.
4. If the winch does not stop as described in the OP post, the operator releases the tension, the line slides, and nothing wrong hapoens.

We use this procedure for any use of the winch as I believe it is dangerous to use the self tailing function even if the winch operates properly.
Not only for mast climbing. E.g., If you use the electric winch for jib rolling, and the sail is stuck somewhere, unfeeling operator can take the mast down by parting the head stay. In our technique you feel the mounting tension on the line in your hands and just release the line before damage is done.
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Old 03-03-2022, 23:25   #14
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

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All's well until the flailing drill snags the halyard tail.
Yes, that was a problem the time a drop bear that had been hiding in the upper reaches of the rig dropped onto Ann's head and she let go the drill. Fortunately the drill on its second rotation snagged the halyard and wrapped it around the bear who promptly abandoned his attack. Likely saved her life, that drill!

Jim
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Old 04-03-2022, 00:56   #15
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Re: Runaway Lewmar Electric winch

Micro switches only operate relays. The heavy duty relay is where your problem is likely to be--a sticking relay or a shorting relay that actuates itself is dangerous--I would remove the power leads from that winch until you isolate the problem.
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