Monday, June 3, 2013

It's funny how things work out (sort of)

The band at Snappa's in Marsh Harbour
It's funny how things work out sometimes.

On Wednesday morning, we went to pick up our anchor so we could fuel up at Marsh Harbour Marina. The winds were strong but the seas were reasonable enough to make our way through Whale Cay cut, which can be challenging.

In the middle of raising the chain, the windlass buttons stopped moving the anchor chain up or down. After resetting the circuit breaker, checking the slow blow fuse and trying a number of other things, the buttons still did nothing.

After some troubleshooting (which involved emptying out the considerable contents of the forward berth that serves as our workshop and all-purpose storage area), Matt narrowed the issue down to the windlass motor itself rather than the wiring or controller. Matt removed the motor after several hours of work, some deadly corrosion removal spray, and lots of banging with heavy tools.

He emailed the windlass company and a rep answered right away and was very responsive and helpful. The only issue would be the money for a new motor ($800 plus international FedEx shipping rates) and the time it would take to get it shipped to us.

Matt posted on Cruiser's Forum and someone mentioned that there was an electronics shop in Marsh Harbour. Even though it was past 5 p.m., Matt went over to where the shop was supposed to be. It has been a charter boat operation (not an electronics shop) for several years but a guy named Terrence was very friendly and helpful and referred us to a guy named Carl. Carl Swann works on alternators and other electric engines and generators. Terrence dropped the motor off at Carl's house that evening and Carl had it fixed the next afternoon by cleaning and resurfacing the brushes, for less than $130. It turns out that although the outside of the motor is very corroded, the inside is like new.

Although it was disappointing that something else broke and we couldn't leave as planned, it could have been much worse. The motor could have died in some remote location rather than Marsh Harbour or with the anchor dragging on the ground (making it difficult to move the boat but not safe to leave it in place). We jury-rigged a way to let out a little more anchor chain but it was a very kludgey process. There is no good way to raise and lower our gigantic 110-pound anchor manually with our current set-up.

The main thing we learned from all this is that Matt can indeed fit into the anchor locker. However, he did need to pull off some Cirque du Soleil contortions to get in and out of there so it's probably still all me if we need maintenance in there.

Addendum: I'm not superstitious but right after I wrote this, while Matt was installing the motor, he bent a screw that had been stripped while trying to tighten it. This resulted in the motor no longer working and another $169 to Carl. Then as we were attempting to raise our anchor, we forgot to remove the small line that we had used to take the load off the windlass, which wrapped itself around the winch. This required the slow blow fuse to be replaced and the motor to be reinstalled yet again (due to the shear key that was slipping).

We finally left Marsh Harbour and have worked our way up to Green Turtle Cay. We will explore the area for a few days as we wait for the wind to carry us up to Charleston.

A church on Man-O-War Cay, which is a dry island (no alcohol).


  1. Hey...we will be in Charleston next Wed, 6/12-6/17...will you be there then??

    Shelley Frank

  2. Maybe.... we're headed that way as soon as the weather cooperates. But looking at the forecasts I don't think we can leave here before Monday the 10th at the earliest- so we wouldn't be in Charleston until the 13th or 14th at the earliest (and that's only if a weather window opens up- forecasts only go out a week). If it works out it would be great to see you guys! I'll let you know when we know more....


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