Smooth Sailing While Installing a Windlass
When Lewmar offered to let someone at Cruising World assess the difficulty of installing an anchor windlass on an older sailboat, I bravely stepped forward. Like a lot of guys, I've spent most of my adult sailing life cursing tangled rodes, avoiding anchoring altogether, or, better yet, standing in the cockpit and steering while encouraging my wife, Sue, to pick up the pace a little as she hauled in the chain. She loves to garden, I reasoned, so why wouldn't she enjoy flexing those same muscles afloat that she uses at home to pull weeds? Not that we discussed it much, but apparently she didn't see things that way; she was always wondering why she didn't steer while I did the pulling. Pushing a button seemed to be the solution for both of us.
Our boat, Jackalope, is an older Sabre 34, with a good-size anchor locker and hatch in a foredeck that's uncluttered and, therefore, a comfortable place to lounge. Decision One would be where and how to mount the windlass, given that the boat wasn't designed to have one.
Like most windlass manufacturers, Lewmar makes both vertical and horizontal models, which allow for several different mounting scenarios. In windlass speak, horizontal and vertical refer to the orientation of the motor and driveshaft, not the gypsy that grips the chain and rode. Who knew? It took me a while to get this straight, and so I had a couple of fairly confusing conversations with Bill Jennings of New England Bow Thruster, a local Lewmar installation representative, as we discussed my options.
One was to replace the existing locker cover with a beefed-up panel that could support a windlass and the considerable forces at work on it. I'd have to build the new cover in such a way that I could still lift it to access the chain locker below, but it would need to be fastened to the deck in a pretty solid fashion when the windlass was in use. The drawback to this plan was the amount of space a horizontal windlass would occupy on deck. I also wasn't wild about changing the anchor-locker hatch and, therefore, the overall look of the front of the boat. Due to life's circumstances, I've looked at a lot of older boats over the years, and I've come to the conclusion that one man's improvement may well be another's eyesore. So sticking to the look that Sabre founder Roger Hewson chose for this boat held appeal.
A second option was to go with a vertical windlass, which would have a much smaller footprint on deck that would be essentially the size of the gypsy. The drawback here, aside from cutting a hole in a perfectly good deck, would be the amount of space the motor would either eat up in the anchor locker or, if mounted farther back, in the V-berth.