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With Michael on board the last couple of weeks, we have had plenty of opportunity to discuss some of the boat upgrades that we plan to take care of this summer. As we use the port side helm winch to raise the tender onto the davits, number one on the list is upgrading it (or both helm winches) from manual to electric. Knowing how many readers on this blog are both knowledgeable and willing to share their opinions, I’ll throw this out there. We currently have Lewmar 54s installed. Would you:

  1. Purchase the upgrade kit to make the present winches electric?
  2. Purchase brand new electric Lewmar 54s?
  3. Replace them with another brand of electric winch? Harken? Andersen?
  4. _______________________?

Let your opinions be heard!


  1. Hi Mike, We installed an upgrade kit to our Anderson 52 self tailing winch mounted at the base of our mast to electric last year. Expense was the primary motivator to do an upgrade rather than a whole new winch.
    If your winch is already a self tailor you could look at the upgrade however if not, seriously look at a whole new install less time and effort required. Conversion my require too many modification to the existing base where it attaches to the hull.
    BTW we have always loved our Anderson winches and have even installed to more since leaving Kingston, one for the boom preventor and the second for the out haul sheets.
    Good Luck

  2. Purchase the upgrade kit to make the present winches electric?
    If the existing winches are in excellent shape, then yes
    If there is sufficient room for the motors and the ability to cover them, then yes.

    Purchase brand new electric Lewmar 54s?
    If neither of the above upgrade questions can be answered yes, then yes.
    Certainly the existing winches are in good enough shape to sell on the used market.

    Replace them with another brand of electric winch? Harken? Andersen?
    If you already have Lewmars, then stick with them.

  3. I am in basic agreement with Conchyjoe.

    The new electric winches offer in/out capabilities, but the since main purpose/benefit appears to be creating a “self-tacking” jib/genoa system, that doesn’t match your need, so I would pass.

    FWIW, I am also not a big fan of how the lazy sheet appears to be loaded in the demonstration video. I have to think that could create some other problems with trim, moving around on deck, possible hang-ups while tacking, etc, etc.

  4. Switching to electric, in my opinion , is just one more thing to go wrong…

  5. You’ll never regret the investment if you install all new electric winches. I prefer Harken.

  6. I purchased two electric motors from a Leopard 46 that was converting to 24v, but only installed one on the port side. My primary reason for switching to electric was to ensure my wife could raise the main sail if something happens to me. I now run the main halyard through a snatch block at the base of the mast then back to the port side winch. I added a second toe switch near the mast which allows me to be topside with better visibility.

    Changing that one winch was the greatest quality of life improvement we have made to our boat. I highly recommend it. Although Dan is correct, it is another thing that can go wrong, but you can still use the winch manually if it stops working.

  7. Hi Mike,

    Purchase the upgrade kit to make the present winches electric. You already have some of the best winches available with those Lewmars so no sense in changing. Mine are 2007s (Leopard 43) and have been through the Moorings charter program same as your boat and they were in excellent condition.

    It is an easy upgrade. Just Drill a hole in the deck, change out some gears and the base, clean the existing ones and bearings, re-grease and reassemble and you are good to go. I did mine myself about a year ago and it is one of the best investments I have made on the boat. It took longer to make the box for the motor and wrap it in the same headliner material than upgrading the winch.

    I bought mine from Defender. They don’t list it on their website but if you ask a sales person they will order it and ship directly from Lewmar. Mine arrived in 4 days.

    Let me know if I can offer any advise or tips.



  8. If the existing Lewmar 54 winches are in good condition and have the power ratio that you need, then upgrading to electric is the best choice.

    Remember that Wallace Ross in his book “Sail Power” said that a sheet winch should be sized such that the smallest member of the crew should be able to grind in the sail. He went on to say that it mattered little “that a gorilla could grind in the sail unless the gorilla was a member of your regular crew.”

  9. Hi Mike,
    I guess my suggestion falls in the #4 line, “Other”. We didn’t want to upgrade to electric winches on our 46 yet as it is still in charter, so we purchased a Winchrite. You can get the whole kit for about $500, which includes a holder you can mount near the helm. We take it down with us in our carry-on luggage and it has made a huge difference in raising the main, which was our “main” reason to buy it. We also use it to raising the dinghy on the davits. Haven’t used it for genoa sheeting yet but it should handle that.


  10. We have electric Lewmar 65s for our two primaries…they came with the boat, and we love them. We use them for hauling up the mast and furling with our two roller furlers. Sure, they eat a bit of electricity but if they “go wrong” can still be used as regular manual winches. It’s nice to have the power if you need it.

  11. Hi Mike,

    I did the upgrade (myself) of both our coachroof Lewmar 46 and out main Lewmar 54 winch. Replacing the winches is quite easy of course. The difficult part is running the very heavy wiring and also installing the circuit breaker (150 amp for the 46) and especially for the 54 since it was too big for a circuit breaker and required a large 250amp fuse. The winches are both brilliant and have given us no problems since installing them 4 years and 3 years ago respectively.

    Good luck!


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