You’ve Got the Power

Gear Review: The Australian-built Powerwincher aims to raise the bar in the electric winch-winder market.
This is a hefty machine, but once in a winch, it balances better than any other device I’ve owned because the drive spigot is in the middle of the machine. Roger Hughes

Over the years that I have owned Britannia, my 50-foot brigantine schooner, I have fitted as many systems as I could afford, all 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 meant a lot of winch winding, so I soon began to think about electric winches—until I looked at the prices.

A considerably cheaper alternative is an electric winch winder, which effectively converts all winches to electric. I now have the latest device on the winch-winder market, the superbly engineered Powerwincher.

The Powerwincher’s significant design advantage is the drive spigot, which is located centrally. The tool “sits” in a winch with a nice, balanced feel. The Powerwincher looks big, but the turning circle is still the same as a manual winch handle, so it doesn’t interfere with anything else in the cockpit.

The battery compartment is forward of this pivot point, giving the Powerwincher a solid, counterbalanced feel when it’s winding. Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This opposite-reaction force can be quite strong when a wincher is winding hard, but on the Powerwincher, you can grip the red battery lid with your free hand, for extra leverage. 

Sheeting in
With the stability of the unit, sheets can easily be worked single-handed. Roger Hughes

Powerwincher is hefty, but it won’t ever 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 reasons for the weight are the solid stainless-steel internal construction and the heavy, powerful electric motor. 

internal mechanism of the Powerwincher
The internal mechanism of the Powerwincher is beautifully engineered, using stainless fittings throughout. Roger Hughes

The controls are all clearly marked. A power switch activates the machine, but does not start it turning. The speed control knob adjusts the rotational speed, up to 100 rpm. A toggle gives clockwise and counterclockwise rotation. A large, round knob locks the machine in a winch. 

Most important: The button that makes the Powerwincher come alive is atop the hand lever. Other winders have speed controls built into the handle, and if Newton’s opposite reaction kicks in, it is natural to grip the handle tighter, which can inadvertently increase the speed—exactly when you don’t want it to. Taking your thumb off the start button on the Powerwincher stops it instantly.

Powerwincher controls
All controls are easy to see and operate. Roger Hughes

Another major advantage is the power pack. Powerwincher is designed to work with a regular 18-volt Milwaukee lithium-ion battery, or with most lookalikes. The machine is sold minus a battery, which is fine for anyone with Milwaukee tools. They can use existing batteries. A Milwaukee battery and charger combo is on the web for around $90, and lookalikes with two batteries and a charger are about $80. Two batteries are advisable for any wincher, because as one runs down, it can be quickly replaced.

Powerwincher battery box
A number of different makes of interchangeable batteries are available in most hardware stores and on the web. Roger Hughes

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.

Powerwincher will spin a winch faster and for a lot longer than even the strongest crew member can sustain. It’s useful for men, women and children alike. It will haul up any mainsail or jib in a jiffy. If you have roller-furling sails, it will rapidly reef or furl a large main, jib or genoa. 

If you don’t have an anchor windlass, or only have a hand-cranked one, you can run the rode back to a mast winch, or use a rope and chain claw to haul the chain. Now, you have a powerful electric windlass. 

Horizontal winches can also be safely wound with the Powerwincher because the drive spigot locks into the winch and will not fall out under load. Note: It’s very difficult to use one of these electric winders on a non-self-tailing winch and tail the rope at the same time. The help of another person is recommended. Photo: Roger Hughes

If you hoist your dinghy on davits using winches or tackles, you can forget that slow, twin-hauling torture. Run the hoists to a winch—even if that means extending the hoisting lines to a cockpit winch—and this tool will have the dink up in no time, even with the outboard attached.

Another way to use the Powerwincher is in manual assist mode. When pressing the start button, wind the handle at the same time, like you would with a manual handle. The contra-rotating force will reduce.

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 regular handles. If it is not locked, then the inch-long spigot could slip out of the winch socket. I know this from experience. There is also an eye pad to attach a lanyard as a safety precaution. 

A storage cradle comes with the Powerwincher and can be mounted in the cockpit. You can also transfer this tool from boat to boat. The warranty is for two years.

At time of press, a Powerwincher with cradle is around $1,440 ( including delivery from Australia. The price without a cradle is $1,350.