Wow! It works! Installing the electric windlass (part 2 of 2).

Installing the windlass itself was only half of the job.  Now we needed to wire it.  It looked to be a daunting task based on the wiring schematic and our electrical skills, but fortunately we had friends at Shenny we could bounce things off of when we were stuck.

Very basic for anyone with decent experience.  For us?  Not so much.

Some people install a separate battery in the bow of the boat to use exclusively for the windlass, but we didn’t want to add even more weight up there.   We figured the 38 gallon water tank, a 33 pound Rocna, and 125’ of 5/16” G4 chain plus 175’ of 8 plait rode was already enough.  That left us with running the wires back to our battery bank in the quarter berth.  Before we could do that, however, we needed to find homes for the up/down control switch, the reversing solenoid, a manually resettable breaker, and a breaker/isolator switch.

Up/down switch; reversing solenoid; manual breaker; breaker/isolator switch

The up/down switch was easy.  We wanted to put it in the cockpit so the helmsman could operate it, so we pulled out the now-unnecessary stop engine pull for Thumper.  After enlarging the existing hole slightly with the Dremel, we had the switch installed.

Next came the breaker/isolator switch.  This needed to be located within 72” of the batteries so we decided to put it on the quarter berth interior wall.  Jeff carefully used a jabsaw to cut the hole while I held the various cables located on the other side of the wall out of the way.  You know you trust your partner’s skills when you can place your arm uncomfortably close to a jabsaw in action!

The reversing solenoid pack went under the sink in the head, easy-peasy.  As for the manually resettable breaker, this is where our inexperience reared its head with a vengeance. 

We spun our wheels for a while trying to decide if we even needed it given that we weren’t installing foot switches (at least for now), and it wasn’t included with the windlass like everything else was.  We asked various people and received different answers, but then were told “yes” by two people that we really trust with all things electrical.  O.k.  Guess we need the breaker.  Off to Defender!

Breaker purchased, where the heck would we put it?  It needed to be within 40” of the battery and we were running out of places to cut holes in the interior quarter berth wall where the breaker could still easily be reached.  Ultimately we decided to attach it to the engine-side of the interior quarter berth wall with a piece of velcro.  Not ideal, but it worked.

With all of that set, it was on to the wiring.  Running the wires would have been impossible if we hadn’t read about fish tape from the Boat Galley blog.  Fish tape is a spool of narrow spring steel that can be guided through confined spaces.  We used Gorilla tape to attach the end of the wire to the fish tape, and then pushed the fish tape to where we needed the wire to go.

We ran the wires from the windlass down the forepeak, under the top of the v-berth (above the bow water tank), along the space where the holding tank used to be, and then through a pre-existing hole (which had been used for the old holding tank hose) into the sink cabinet where it attached to the reversing solenoid.  

There were two sets of wires that needed to be run from the reversing solenoid pack.  We ran both sets from the reversing solenoid, under the floor in the head, past the mast, and along the underside of the sole parallel to the keel water tank.  One set then continued through the engine area and up to the cockpit switch, while the other set ran to the opposite side of the engine area to the breaker/isolator switch and the battery.  Finally, we ran the wires from the manually resettable breaker with one going to the cockpit control switch and the other to the breaker/isolator switch.  

I’ll be honest, there were many times during this project that I wished that we could simply have a manual windlass or hand-over-hand the anchor.  I thought about the Pardey’s and how they didn’t have any electricity on their boat, and it sounded damn good to me.  However, eventually we were finally finished.  It was time for the moment of truth.  We started the engine and I flicked the switch while Jeff stood up at the bow.  When I saw his thumbs up, my “whoo-hoo!” could be heard throughout Shenny.  We did it!  We installed an electric windlass on a Bristol 29.9!  

With this project behind us, I can now say that I’m glad that we’ve installed it (not that we had much of a choice given Jeff’s lifting restrictions).  Having the electric windless permitted us to upgrade to a larger anchor (we went from 22 pounds to 33 pounds) which will undoubtedly let us sleep much better at night regardless of the weather.  That’s no small consideration given our upcoming travel plans.  Now to head out to an anchorage so we can really put it to the test!

4 thoughts on “Wow! It works! Installing the electric windlass (part 2 of 2).

  1. Great article here and in Good Old Boat! I have a shallow locker on my Pearson but would also like to install a windlass. Could you share info on how you handle the chain and rope as you bring in the anchor? I would imagine that you need to manually move it away from the drop area as it comes in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bill! Jeff uses hand signals from the bow to let me know how much chain to bring up in one go (in five second increments) and he flakes the chain inside the aft end of the locker as it comes up. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any other questions.



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