On The Road Again

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The first thing that struck me when Growler arrived was the absence of holes on the foredeck. The builder had securely bolted a beefy Butler Marine platform on the bow, but he had not yet installed a chain pipe or hole through the deck down into the chain locker.

Coincidentally, I've always admired those husky Alaskan trawlers with their ondeck windla ss drums. Rather than a traditional yacht's vertical or horizontal windlass, where chain and line fall down into a locker under the deck, these vessels carry the entire anchor rode nicely wound on a spool near the bow.

This kind of system makes a great deal of sense to me. No dirty, smelly chain and line come inside the boat, water from rain or spray can't come in through a chain pipe, and there's never a worry about kinks or snarly knots when letting out the anchor.

Given the clean foredeck on Growler, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to try something similar. I also knew that if I could not find this type of windlass drum, the folks at Imtra could steer me toward the appropriate traditional horizontal windlass. But since Growler is our platform to try new gear, I just had to give it a try before going the traditional route.

Also, another goal was to set up the anchoring system so it would not be necessary to have someone go up on the foredeck. A completely selflaunching, self-retrieving anchor storage system.

It was frustrating at first. I found most existing windlass drum systems are too big for a 28-foot boat, and require hydraulics. None of the yacht windlass companies apparently sees what I see, as not one offers a drum configuration.

But I did find one small company that makes electric versions of the windlass drum, and in smaller sizes that fit a boat never expecting a run to Dutch Harbor.

New Windlass Drum

E-Z Anchor Puller is a product that incorporates a reversible electric motor running through reduction gears that turn a stainless steel drum. The self-contained unit bolts directly onto the foredeck.

I spoke with George Towns, whose company makes the E-Z Anchor Puller (in Florida: 305.664.4374; in Michigan: 231.845.1838). All models use the same Ramsey electric gear reducer, with bronze gears running in oil. A worm gear drives a stainless steel spool, with equal pull in both directions, offered in five spool sizes.

After some discussion about Growler, we placed an order for their smallest windlass, Model No. 8.

The darned thing is one heavy piece of equipment, but installing the windlass was relatively simple. Five bolts secure it just behind the bow cleat on the foredeck. A thick backing plate was cut from King StarBoard. The E-Z Anchor Puller is designed to hold the boat when anchored.

The windlass came wired with two solenoids mounted on the side of the gears, with a switch to mount at the helm. I chose to remove the solenoids from inside the fiberglass housing to relocate them below for better protection from salt spray.

The most difficult task was running battery cables to the windlass, as there is no overhead or inner trim yet on Growler to hide thick battery cables. My friend Kevin Richter helped determine the best cable route, and we spent one rainy day drilling holes, running cable and soldering lugs.

Instructions specify No. 4 cable if the run is 25 feet or less, but we used No. 2 to minimize voltage drop. (When determining cable sizes, it is important to include both directions when figuring the total length of the circuit. If the battery is 20 feet away, for example, you'll need to determine cable size for a 40-foot distance.)

A 160-amp circuit breaker came with the E-Z Anchor Puller, which draws 50 amps at no load, and up to 150 amps when working hard.

To keep things simple, we did not put in a separate battery for the windlass.

We finished the rough installation, late in the afternoon, and I tried the switch. The heavy-duty motor came to life, and the windlass drum turned in both directions. I grabbed the anchor line and fed it around the spool, which easily took 150 feet of 1/2-inch nylon, all nicely stored inside the housing. There is space left on the spool for more line, or a length of chain.

The clean installation looks great, and fits Growler's lines.

Anchor Choices

I assumed we'd be able to use a Bruce anchor, my all-time favorite for Chesapeake Bay. I also like the Fortress anchor for its light weight and ease of storage, but the Bruce is like an old friend and has never let me down.

Unfortunately, a Bruce would not fit well inside Growler's bow platform. And the shape of the anchor, which does allow it to stow great on most boats, worked against the self-launching capability I aimed for.

Hmmm. I asked around, but it seems everyone has their own favorite, for a variety of reasons.

Several knowledgeable people suggested I try an anchor with which I had no previous experience. Unlike a plow or Danforth style anchor, the Super Max is an unusual shape, and includes an adjustable shank for the different demands of mud, sand and grass.

I'm told the anchor is popular with Kadey- Krogen owners cruising Florida and the Bahamas.

Okay, so let's give the Super Max a try. (Perhaps we'll try different anchor types over a season or two, comparing them in hands-on use.) I spoke with the folks at Creative Marine Products, distributor of the Super Max anchor (800.824.0355), who explained it does not even require a short length of chain, except when anchoring near abrasive coral. An all-line rode will work just fine. We'll see.

To ensure self-launching operation, we mounted the 32-pound Super Max using two Windline bow rollers on the platform. The second, upper roller holds the anchor at the proper angle to self-launch.

The E-Z Anchor Puller can't freewheel, so it is impossible for the anchor to deploy without using the helm switch. (While a malfunction or loss of electrical power will render the windlass useless, I don't see that as a big disaster. The anchor and rode can still be brought aboard manually, and a second Fortress anchor and rode stand ready for use.)

Steer Me Right

The boat came with a 15-inch-diameter wheel, which, while okay, seemed too small for driving our new boat, a better fit perhaps for a "white boat" than a Downeast lobsterboat.

A call to Will Keene of Edson (508.995.9711) led to the purchase of a 20-inch, stainless steel destroyer wheel. I had to purchase an adapter to fit the one-inch wheel hub to the 3/4-inch Hynautic shaft.

Will Keene was also keen on a new product just being introduced by Edson, the Power Knob. Much like the "suicide knobs" found on cars many decades ago, the massive piece of stainless steel and ball bearings makes it easier to steer a single screw boat. Back and fill manuevering often requires lock-to-lock steering wheel effort, made much easier with a knob on the steering wheel.

I followed the enclosed instructions and took the boat out for a spin. I saw an immediate improvement in boat handling ease.

Next Steps

Electronic installations are going on now, and we'll tell that story in the next issue. Cushions are here and awaiting installation, and I've got several boxes of Barnaclean resonators waiting to go aboard as well.

It's been a busy summer for us, and getting Growler finished has had to wait for my schedule to slow down.

But it's coming along, a little at a time.

Which is just fine with me.