A new generation of electric winch winder
Over the years that I have owned Britannia I fitted as many systems as I could afford to make handling the 22-ton boat easier. One major addition has been to convert all sails to roller furling and route the control lines back to self-tailing winches on either side of the companionway. Inevitably this means a lot of winch winding so I soon began to think about electric winches, that is, until I discovered how much it would cost to just buy two, never mind all the other winches on the boat. A considerably cheaper alternative is an electric winch winder that effectively converts all winches to electric.
The latest device on the winch winder market is the well designed Powerwincher that is different from other makes in many ways. A significant innovation is the drive spigot that is located nearly in the middle so the machine sits in a winch with a nice balanced feel. It is a big machine but the turning circle is still the same as a regular manual winch handle, so it doesn't interfere with anything else in the cockpit such as a Bimini strut. The battery compartment is forward of this pivot point that gives the Powerwincher a solid counter-balanced feel when winding. Newton's third law states: for every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action. This opposite reaction force can be quite strong when a wincher is winding hard but on the Powerwincher the red battery lid can then be gripped with the free hand to give extra stability. Another way to use the Powerwincher is in “manual assist.” by winding the handle at the same time like you would with a manual handle and the contra-rotating force will be much reduced.
Powerwincher is hefty and might seem a bit of a handful at first, but it won't be carried far from one winch to another and the moment it is popped into a winch the balanced weight becomes a stabilizing advantage. The reason for the weight is the solid stainless steel internal construction and the powerful but heavy electric motor.
The controls are all clearly marked on top of the case. An on/off switch lights up and just activates the machine, but does not start it turning. The speed control knob adjusts the rotational speed up to 900 rpm. A toggle switch gives clockwise and anticlockwise rotation. A large round knob locks the machine in a winch. Finally, the button that makes the Powerwincher come alive is on top of the hand lever. Taking your thumb off the start button on the Powerwincher stops it instantly.
Another major advantage is the power pack. Powerwincher is designed to work with a regular 18-volt Milwaukee Lithium-ion battery or any of the many look-alikes. So the machine is sold minus battery - that is good for anyone already owning one of these Milwaukee tools because they can use their existing batteries. A genuine Milwaukee battery and charger is on the web for around $90, and there are look alikes that have two batteries and a charger for about $80. Two batteries are advisable for any wincher, then as one runs down it can be quickly replaced.
All electric winchers rotate both ways for use on two speed winches. The purpose of the lower gearing is to allow extra turns to be wound by hand but it's unlikely you will ever need reverse with a Powerwincher, except perhaps if the battery is running low in which case you can easily slot a new battery in without even taking it out of the winch.
Winch winding devices are primarily intended for use on self-tailing winches but if an assistant tails the line off a non-self-tailer the operation is simplicity itself. When using any winch winder in a horizontally mounted winch like on a mast, it is important that the drive spigot locks into the winch like most regular handles. This prevents the possibility that the 1” inch long spigot might slip out of the winch socket. There is also an eye pad to attach a lanyard just as a safety precaution when on deck.
Powerwincher will spin a winch faster and for a lot longer than even the strongest crew member can sustain. It will haul any mainsail or jib up in a jiffy and if you have roller furling sails it will rapidly reef or furl a large main, jib, or Genoa.
Due to the nicely balanced feel, young people and women can now do any of the winch winding jobs just as well as men.
If you don't have an anchor windlass or just a hand-cranked one, run the rode back to a mast winch or use a rope and chain claw to haul the chain and you now have a powerful electric windlass.
If you hoist your dinghy on davits using winches or tackles you can now forget that slow twin hauling hand torture. Just run the hoists to a winch, even if that means extending the hoisting lines to a cockpit winch, and this machine will effortlessly wiz the ‘dink’ up in no time even with an outboard attached! It's so easy you can hoist your dinghy at night at anchor to prevent theft.
A storage cradle is available and can be mounted somewhere were everyone knows where to find it.
You can also transfer your investment from boat to boat, unlike all those other expensive gadgets you fitted and left for the new owner. The warranty is two years.
A Powerwincher will enhance your sailing enjoyment by reducing the heavy tasks and for those who sail single handed, or even short-handed, one would be invaluable, reducing effort in so many ways.
A Powerwincher and cradle is $1440 including delivery from Australia. The price without a cradle is $1350