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Do you ever get so frustrated with trying to fix an object that you just say enough is enough? That’s pretty much where we stand with our windlass these days. I suspect that had we been back in North America, with Lewmar service centers nearby, I could have just sent the winch in to have the initial problem fixed and all would be well now. As it stands, my attempts at repairing the beast have been unsuccessful and at best, have only delayed its demise but more likely, have compounded the problems.

So now the question becomes “what do I do about it?”


1. Live without an electric windlass.

  • Definitely not. As an example of how important we feel a functioning windlass is, the last two days have been extremely windy here. So much so that numerous boats have been dragging their anchors around the lagoon. Trying to retrieve the anchor manually and then reset it under those conditions would have been awful. Doing it over and over again, as a certain boat we saw had to do, would have been brutal. In fact, we have decided to keep the boat where it currently is while Rebecca is gone primarily because the windlass is off duty. If it was working I am pretty sure I could raise anchor and reset it elsewhere all on my own. Having to do it by hand though, while dealing with the helm, would not be a lot of fun, especially in bad conditions, which would be the only reason to re-anchor in the first place. So, with that said, we believe we NEED a fully functioning windlass!

2. Continue to try to fix it myself.

  • I’ve already proven myself ineffective at that. Given that the mechanical issues have now spawned motor problems too, I think I’m over my head.

3. Take it to a professional and pay to have them to TRY to fix it.

  • I have already spent close to a couple hundred bucks trying to fix it back in Grenada. It may be time to stop throwing good money after bad.

OK, so we need to place it then. Even though the Lewmar windlass developed serious problems less than two years after its purchase, something that is pretty unacceptable, the easiest thing to do is to replace it with an identical model because the deck and electronics are set up for it. And if the worst should happen and the new one breaks down at some point in the future, having spare parts available for it from the current windlass would not be such a bad thing.

The problem is these things are not cheap. In fact, they’re expensive! Now, they’re available much cheaper back in the US, but even there, they’re still pricey. So, options for replacement, as I see them are:

1. Purchase a new one here in St. Maarten.

  • Very $$$.

2. Have one shipped here from the US.

  • Direct shipping by UPS ranges from $180.00 to 230.00 US. My friend suggested that I have it shipped to Miami and then have 4 Star Cargo bring it here. That would be much cheaper but adds a tiny bit of complexity to the issue.

3. Have one shipped to California and have Rebecca carry it back with her.

  • Could be done but I’m not sure how happy Rebecca would be having to deal with the 30+ pound box.

What to do? What to do?


  1. You must must must replace the windlass! Not sure how much your anchor weights, but I know ours is double than what was suggested to us. I don’t like to be suprised when I get up in the morning! So here’s what I think. Since your bride is flying ‘international’ she shouldn’t have to pay for one 50# suitcase. So, if you brings back the windlass in another bag, she can still bring 20# of MORE stuff and it should only cost $25.00 ( USD )…. Be sure to check with the airlines as well!! Good luck & CHEERS!!!

  2. Hi Mike,

    I know it looks expensive at the St. Maarten store. But Pride Marine has it for $977 CAD, West wants $959 USD; the cheapest I’ve seen it is at Jamestown for $807 USD. Add shipping and customs fees, and would you really be saving anything by having it shipped from the mainland?

    I had been considering the same windlass for our new trimaran, if and when it ever gets built… given your experience with it, I suppose I ought to consider other brands.

    • It is almost $300.00 difference between Defender in the US (807) and Budget here in St. Maarten (1098). That is a LOT. Shipping would certainly negate a portion of that.

  3. You have it shipped directly to you, its just the cost of cruising. We as cruisers waste so much time attempting to save ourselves money that we end up spending more in the end.

    The next thing you do is to purchase a Lofrans, lighthouse, Ideal, or a Maxwell. You are wasting more money if you buy a Lewmar. They are garbage. Also make sure that what ever you purchase is rated much larger than what you have, but in the end the Gypsy sizing for your chain will dictate which one you get. The electrical is all the same for most brands so there is not much you would have to modify. The pedals or remotes will all work for each other. As long as its a three wire system. If like the Lighthouse and some maxwells and a two wire system then you will have to purchase a new reversing box. As far as the deck goes there are plenty that will fit in that profile. Download some PDF files for the installation and go from there.

    Good Luck. When I work this is the type of work I do so believe me when I say that lewmars are garbage. Ive replaced lots of them through the years.

    • I don’t doubt for a second that there are better options out there but I opted to get an identical Lewmar replacement. It was the easiest and cheapest solution for a new one. We’ll see what happens down the road.

  4. Hey Mike, Sherri from Marine Yacht Wholesalers can ship to St Martin, too. Email her or call her to see if she can get you a better deal. Certainly her shipping prices will be better than anything you will be able to get, and she finds the best price she can in the States. Check the Grenada FAQ’s for her contact info.

    And I can back up the comment about Lofrans that was made above. We know a cruiser who has had one for about 12 years, trouble free, and we love ours (trouble free for over three years so far). Practical Sailor gave it big thumbs ups, too.

    • The Lofrans equivalent to ZTC’s Lewmar windlass comes with a price tag north of $2000. It is a very nice piece of hefty Italian engineering, though. I suppose you get what you pay for.

    • Hi Lynn. I did think of Sheri. We decided to have Rebecca carry one back from the US.

      As Matt noted, the Lofrans is a fair amount more $$$.

  5. Mike, there must be someone competent in Sint Maarten. Maybe you could get a mechanically minded friend totalk it through with the fitter concerned. These things are not rocket science. Then perhaps order just the bits you need from Lewmar. That would be MUCH lighter as well as cheaper.

    I would definitely look to repair not replace. The housing will be ok, the gipsy too, etc etc, these are expensive parts. a few standard gear wheels and washers etc must be cheaper.

    Bringing bits back might be a good way to put Rebecca’s fitness to the test when she has not had the TRX for a few days while away! 🙂


  6. Wish I could help. Good luck!

  7. Have you considered contacting Lewmar to see if they are willing to do anything about this? You could keep this debate going forever thus dragging their (good?) name through the dirt for a long long time. Seems to me they would want to avoid this negative discussion and simply send you a new one or at the very least a new one at a good discount.

  8. This might be the time to go with another brand. With that in mind other options open up. Make a list of makes and models that will work with your boat. With that list in hand start pricing local and work your way out from there.

    • I did that when I first purchased the windlass. These are pricey things and sadly we don’t have the budget to invest in a bigger and better unit. As for buying local, there is nothing available down island that can compare price wise to what can be purchased in the US. Everything is much more expensive here.

  9. Yikes! I guess if you never HAD to do it, it seems like sooo much work, but in reality hauling up my 35lb CQR with 50 ft of 3/8 chain for 4 years of living on the boat and rarely ever at a marina was “no big deal” Really! Motor up “slowly” while hauling chain or rode and pointing to the direction of the anchor so the helms-person can steer you to it. When the anchor rode or chain is “straight up and down” signal to put the boat in neutral. Cleat off the rode or chain and have the helms-person go in reverse till the anchor pops. Haul aboard! I’ve done this in all but storm conditions too numerous to count in very crowded anchorages and have never had a problem. Always the boat is in control, never working too hard. And neither did I feel “I” was working to hard. I also did this with a 45lb CQR on a much bigger boat. Of course I wasn’t anchoring in 50 ft of water either.

  10. Ouch. But we all seem to concur, a new one is needed. It’s not like you can carry a machine shop on the boat.

    I have a vertical windlass, the same the boat came with in 97′.
    I’m happy with it. I know you are considering direct replacement, but I have read and been advised that vertical windlasses are better protected from the elements. They can more easily dry, as the lower half of the case is more open. I’m not sure how big a difference there is in the deck hole. You could find out.

    The deck is more clear, which I like. They are ~ $100 cheaper.

    There is no manual option. However, popping the chain out of the gypsy and hauling is not terrible on the PDQ– did it when my switch failed–and is probably better than the wrench set-up, which is jimmy-rigged.

    Vertical windlasses are often said to be harder to install because if the in-the-bow aspect. I’ve worked on mine (new switches) and it wasn’t too bad. Done worse “boat yoga.” Not as bad as the propane cabin heater or reaching the seacocks.

    The electrical is most likely identical. Same maker, same horsepower. Even if you change makers, I wouldn’t worry about the power; they’re all similar and pretty basic. As others have said, they could require minor changes.


    You are anchoring in rougher conditions than most of us do, so I’m going to pop out a dumb question; please don’t take it wrong, as I’ve done so many dump things myself I could–have–write a book. While I’ve certain anchored through some storms, I’ve seldom had to deal with wind and chop while setting.

    I know you motor up to the anchor when lifting. I know you rest on a bridle. However, is it possible you are loading the chain hard for a few moments, before the bridle is attached? It might only take a few good wave induced heaves to put a hurting on the gears. I know I’ve made this blunder a few times; when it’s rough I’ve learned to cleat the near bridle leg off short while attaching and then quickly ease some chain. Then I lower another 15 feet of chain and rest on the bridle the usual way. I always try to get the bridle on before the boat is back.

    • You are absolutely right about loading the windlass prior to getting the bridle on. I am now going to change my procedure to eliminate that from happening.

      • Another process that puts terrible strain on the windlass is pulling the anchor up tight against the bow roller. I always stop a few inches short and then secure the anchor chain with a pin lock, but in the past I missed a few times. I’ve actually jammed the windlass this way; it would not simply lower. The only way I got it turning again was to cut the last link off the chain to release the tension. I’m smarter now.

  11. Not a Lewmar. Please not a Lewmar. If you have to get a new windlass, gold plate it. You’ll never regret it. Contact these guys.

  12. Oh… and as for not getting an electric windlass, don’t do that either. Just don’t… DrC’s comment is, “You don’t need a boat either.” There are very few pieces of equipment on Don Quixote which I feel are show stoppers for safe, enjoyable cruising. Really solid, easy to use ground tackle is one of them. If you have to haul your own, you’re going to be one miserable piece when you are in a situation where the best option is to either tea bag the damn thing several times to find a good spot or weather comes up and you need to get quick. Your plans include locations where this is going to become a serious issue.

  13. I have a friend headed down there in a few days. She probably would be willing to carry it. She’s just bringing one bag I think. Let me know and I’ll ask.

  14. My wife and I did the same thing Ken talked about in the previous comment. I motored the boat and she pulled up the anchor. We did it for 5 years on two different boats (O’day 32 and a
    Gemini). We sold the Gem to Slapdash and they’ve taken it around the world without a windlass. Considering the physical shape both of you are in and your penchant to exercise I think you should at least try going windlass – less for a while and see what you think.

  15. I agree with Ken Page, and I’m single handed, and over 70, but hand hauling is ok. Yes elec would be easier, but not compulsory.

    If you were to go the Buy New route, you might consider Quick winches. They are made in Italy, apparently have a very good name there. Now spreading north in Europe but I have not seen reference to them in a USA orientated site. The Practical Boat Owner forums spoke very well of them as being cheaper, good performance and well supported.


    • Not to be a contrarian but I would have liked to see a single hander get their anchor up here the other day (when the weather was bad) without a windlass. I don’t see how it would be possible.

      As for Quick, that does look like a good brand. The wireless remote that we have is made by them.

  16. Mike, I think you should get on the net and research replacements for the Lewmar. I suspect that you could find a better replacement without having to do TO much modification to wiring or holes. A winch which doesn’t last two years is not suitable for what you are doing, even if it were a good one. I fear that Lewmar has gone downhill recently in the quality of its stuff. Good luck!

    I also think that it would be good to call Lewmar and ask them which winch brands are considered direct replacements for their equipment. It might get a surprising out of them, especially if you refer them to your blog for additional information about the problem! 🙂

  17. If you have the time I would contact Lewmar direct! after all they have been around for many a year and do have a lot of satisfied customers, as well as great products, you could at least ask them how you could cure the problems, and if they could help.

    As for trying to “hold them to ransome” by dragging the debate on I don`t think that I would do that, I would give them the chance to show just what great world wide customer service they do provide, given that it first broke down within two years. Please let us know how you get on.

    As for running without a power windlass I wouldn`t do that either, Ive had 30 years of pretty much, solo boating and I was never happier than with a reversable power windlass, operated from the helm as well as from the deck :o)) Rob.

    • Hi Rob. At this stage of the game I’m not so sure what Lewmar could do for me. I may still email them though.

      • Hi Mike maybe I think I would let them tell me what they can or can`t do, this isn`t the first time they have had a breakdown in distant lands, you might even be pleasantly surprised (but then again if you don`t try you`ll never know? ) at least give them the opportunity, maybe.

        I have a longtime association with a few yachting forums, with well over a 100K members (all up ) so I will be very interested to se if you are treated fairlyand what help they are prepared to give you!
        Regards Rob

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