Repairing the Windlass

By Thursday afternoon, a week and a day after we'd arrived in Acapulco, and 6 days after taking the parts to the machine shop, the windlass parts were ready. We took the dinghy to La Marina and caught a cab from there to the machine shop. When we got there, Alfonso showed us the gear that he had fabricated. It was beautiful, all brass and shiny and brand new looking. I also had a quick look at the worm gear and was ok with the work that they had done, so I paid him and we returned to the boat.

I decided to wait until the next day, Friday, to reassemble and re-install the windlass. At 7:00 am on Friday, I was already getting started. I quickly put everything together, including the new and only seal, only to discover to my dismay that the worm gear failed to turn ... it would bind up on the new gear. I muttered a few curses at myself for failing to test it more thoroughly at the machine shop, drilled a hole in the new seal to pull it out, and disassembled the gearbox again.

It turned out that the worm gear welding had been a little heavy and not quite exactly centered, so the worm gear would catch on the new bronze gear. I spent several hours with the Dremel, gingerly taking a little off here and a little off there until I got it so that the worm gear would turn freely. I used emory boards and sandpaper to smooth off the ridges as best as I could and then re-assembled the gearbox one more time. Unfortunately, as I had drilled a hole in the brand new seal, and was pretty sure I could not find another one, I had to make a jury-rig repair to it. I took some steel-based epoxy putty and fashioned a plug to fill in the hole I had made.

I filled the gearbox with 90 wt heavy oil, put the seal in, and assembled the winch. Then I ran it downstairs in the salon off the battery bank for about 10 minutes. Everything seemed to turn smoothly. Since I was concerned about the seal, I disassembled it one more time and was relieved to see that the seal was not leaking. So, good enough, I say.

One last time I re-assembled the windlass, then I had to re-install it in the anchor locker, running the wires thru a bulkhead, holding a wrench on the bolts on one side while I tightened the other, and so on. By about 4:00 pm, the windlass was installed. I did a little preliminary test, lowering the anchor about 10' and raising it up again and everything seemed to be working.