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Judging by my lack of posts, you can probably guess that we’ve been busy here. Even though we’re supposed to be on holidays, Rebecca and I have been working hard to check off all this season’s refit items as quickly as we can. In general, we’ve made some excellent progress. We had tradespeople lined up almost immediately after arriving on island (well, after carnival finished that is) and we’ve done our best since then to stay on track with our projects. To date we have:

  • replaced our broken genoa furling line
  • replaced our main halyard
  • rerouted main halyard back to the helm
  • replaced our vhf radio with a new Standard Horizon one
  • replaced our old stove with a new shiny Force 10 stove/oven
  • installed all of our slide-out galley organizers

Our shiny new stove!

One of the larger projects that we have on tap is the conversion of one of our helm winches from manual to electric. While it started off well with us exposing the underside of the winch, removing it from the deck and running the very large electrical cables (1/0) from that spot to the main battery bus bar, we ran into a very large obstacle: the winch motor wouldn’t fit!

The winch in question and the motor to be installed below deck.

How is that possible? I was certain that Leopard 4600s came with the same winches in an electric variant. It seemed to be the case though; we were at a stand still.

One solution we considered was adding a spacer under the winch, either purchasing one if such a thing was available or fabricating one if not. Presumably, if the winch was higher off the deck, the motor would be raised higher underneath it, giving us more room to hide it. Our friend Nick from X-Marine was not at all sold on that idea.

His alternative solution was to remove the galley cabinet above our sink, lower it a couple of inches and then, after fitting the motor unit, glass in around the motor. While he insisted that he could make it all look original, the project still seemed immense to me and I was not at all happy about making that kind of modification. What to do though?

I put out numerous feelers to friends with access to Leopard 4600s but no one replied with any info. Without any additional input, I decided to go ahead and remove the cabinet as Nick suggested to explore that option. Rebecca and I took a bit of a crack at removing the cabinet ourselves but that was a non-starter. “It will be easy to remove” we were told. No, it was not! In addition to the screws holding it, the cabinet must have been glued on by 5200 (a permanent adhesive)!

As we were unable to get that job done ourselves, Nick sent a couple of his guys over yesterday afternoon to take the cabinet down for us. While they were prepping to remove it, I felt like a death row inmate waiting for a stay of execution from the governor. I kept waiting for one of my contacts to reply with a great solution that would stop us from having to take that cabinet down but sadly, none came.

While the X-Marine guys worked with knives and a Fein MultiMaster to remove the cabinet, I walked the deck. I took note as our friend Simon was being raised up the mast on the boat adjacent to ours. It was only then, pretty much at the same time as our cabinet came down, that I had an epiphany. The guy winching Simon up the mast had taken a turn around one winch, using it as a turning block of sorts, and then lead that line to the electric winch on the opposite side of the cockpit. Apparently this is fairly common for racers to do when working on a boat with only one electric winch. Not having experience with that, it never occurred to me. If it would work in this case though, why couldn’t we do the same? I wanted to be able to raise our dinghy and main sail with our electric winch and both of those lines lead to the port winch, the one without enough space underneath it. But, if I took a turn around that winch and lead the line(s) to the starboard winch, we could still accomplish our objectives, and there is room to install the electric conversion kit on that side! Could this be a real solution?

Galley, sans cabinet.

Excited, I called Rebecca to share my thoughts. She followed my thinking. I phoned Simon and asked him to come take a look. He concurred and suggested I sleep on it. I described my idea to Nick over the phone and he seemed to get it too. I certainly like this idea a lot more than making major surgery on the boat. Of course, it would have been nice had I come up with this solution before the cabinet was removed but as the saying goes, better late than never.


  1. Good solution!

  2. Well, spacers are more than common for this issue, though there is almost always more than one way to skin a cat. Electric Lewmar 65s came with our T52…both sit atop spacers.

  3. As well, we also use other winches as turning blocks (of sorts) to take advantage of the electric 65s…

  4. a. What was the cause of failure of the furler line? I’m interested for 2 reasons: I’ve been researching anti-wear coatings for PS, and because I’ve been having chafe issues on mine ever since I started using my genoa partly rolled on a regular basis to windward (with the new inside tracks I need to roll in about 2′ to clear the shrouds). If it was a chafe problem that could be solved, I’d love to see pics. In my case it rubs on the furler cover, and because of the sag of the forestay from side to side and the random way it winds, it always seems to find a place to rub. Perhaps fitting a Dynema chafe sleeve to the offending ~ 2′ of line is the best and simplest answer; I’m leaning that way, it is easy, and the NER Chafe sleeve wears ~ 50x better than polyester. That may be the right answer for you also, if there is only one wear spot.

    b. If you raise the winch you may need to upgrade the backing plate (more leverage). One of my winter projects will be to add pads to the 2 aft winches on the 32; now that I’m really pressing the genoa to windward, there seems to be a little flexing of the deck. Better to add backing now than to repair damage later.

    • I’m not really sure about the chafe, Drew. The line was chafed in multiple spots and it was like that when we took possession of the boat. I need to give the hocks and guides the line runs through a close inspection.

      The increased leverage was what concerned Nicholas. I think we’re going to reinforce the underside of the deck a bit anyway since we have it all exposed.

      • Until I started using the sail partially furled under load there was no chafe and the line lasted a long time. I suspect the only way you will see the bad spots is to sail with a little rolled up and walk the deck, looking.

        I tried RP 25; I should have gone with Maxijacket, since RP 25 doesn’t seem to do much. Hey, it was a free sample, and trying stuff is how I get stuff to report on. I think I’m going to go straight to a chafe sleeve, since it is only one spot. The Maxijacket is doing great on docklines and other non-cutting abrasion.

        • Yes, with it furled all the way or unfurled all the way there should be little load. I’ll have to check it.

          I still need to get my hands on some Maxijacket!!!

  5. Just out of interest (as a potential future Leopard catamaran owner), did you check with Leopard (R&C) as to their thoughts on this? (The original plan, not the epiphany). Any experience in dealing with Leopard in general? How responsive/helpful they are?

    • I did not contact R&C directly. I’d still like to know how they install them on cats that come from the factory with electric winches.

  6. You wanted to check the wiring on those instruments and lube the steering gear anyway, right? 🙂

  7. Mike,

    When I installed the electric motor on our port side winch, I too had difficulties. I had to disassemble and rotate the head (worm gear) to get the correct angle then rotate the motor 180 degrees to put the terminals on the bottom side. After all this, it still required a spacer to prevent the end of the motor from hitting fiberglass. The spacer, actually four large nuts, lowered the unit enough to provide clearance. This installation was challenging because I could not remove the cabinet on my L42, but it was soooo worth it.

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