Windlass Woes

Not much sailing activity over the past month, I’m afraid, mainly maintenance. The windlass finally packed up. The motor would turn but the clutch wouldn’t engage no matter how much it was tightened. I took it off its mountings and disassembled it. Water ingress in the casing meant it was half filled with a nice brown oil-seawater emulsion. Once the emulsion was removed, it was clear that the pinion gear (the gear attached to the electric motor drive shaft) was totally stripped of any cogs! Also, another larger gear had cogs damaged by metal debris.

A quick search over the internet indicated that the windlass, a Simpson Lawrence Sprint 1500, was no longer manufactured. Would I be able to get parts? Or would I need to install a new windlass with a different footprint – a much bigger undertaking. Fortunately, SL Spares Ltd based near Glasgow airport came to the rescue. They were able to refurbish the windlass replacing all bearings, the pinion and secondary gear and the motor.  It now works beautifully with far less noise.

On the recommendation of fellow Island Packet owners, I decided to varnish the solid teak tops that surround the cockpit with International Woodskin. The washboards were also done. It seems to do a wonderful job and brings out the wood grain. The canvas bimini cover had to be restitched and a broken perspex cockpit engine instrument cover repaired.

Last week, I took the opportunity take Baybreeze out single-handed for a couple of days to test the windlass. I left at high tide about midday on Tuesday 16 July and arrived at Osborne Bay a few hours later where I anchored and remained so for a couple of days. I decided to relocate once in the early stage for fear that I may have misjudged the fall of the tide. The minimum depth turned out to be about 0.9m and with a mud bottom and moderate wave activity I figured the location was safe enough. Another yacht anchored nearby didn’t fare so well.


However, having relocated, the anchor watch alarm on my smart phone sounded as high tide approached indicating that the anchor wasn’t holding and the boat was slowly drifting. Ah! Not quite enough chain let out! Once another 10m of chain was let out, the anchor held nicely.  (Rule: chain required = 4 x max water depth). Now feeling secure, it was time for a few zzzzzzZZZZ…. During the time spent there, I had no success in fishing but enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of the bay. A lovely place.

The final image shows a nice simple  jig that relieves the load on the windlass while at anchor.

I returned on the morning of Thursday 18 July with the fair tide and arrived at Shamrock Quay marina just after midday. I was tempted to berth without assistance by decided to err on the side of caution and called for assistance from the marina. I appeared to be in for a good ‘landing’ but, as the bow line was taken and made secure, the stern drifted away adding a slight complication which was soon sorted. My skills and confidence are improving! The trick, of course, is to make sure the berthing assistant takes and makes secure the stern line first as I can always control the bow via the bow thruster. The stern is always more problematic. In reversing, there is a marked stern-to-port movement due to prop-walk.

Stay tuned for the next installment – a week-long cruise to the Channel Islands!