Photo: Bringing in the anchor chain without a windlass. Note the rope mooring line around the halyard winch.
We were raising anchor in Tee Harbor on Lynn Canal, just north of Auke Bay, Juneau, when the windlass changed from its usual rumble to a whine and the chain stopped coming in. A string of swear words from Steve followed. The hydraulic motor was spinning but the capstan was not.
A remote harbor was not the place to take apart the windlass to investigate. We would have to bring in the remaining 240 ft of our 275 ft of chain and 60-pound anchor without the windlass. Using a chain hook attached to a mooring line led to the halyard winch at the mast, it took us an hour to raise the anchor. Fortunately, the wind was calm and we didn't have to worry about wind blowing Osprey ashore once the anchor was off the bottom.
That afternoon at the Auke Bay Marina, Steve took the windlass apart (I served as operation room nurse handing him tools). After much agony, and lots of grease everywhere, we discovered that the Woodruff key, which ensures that the hydraulic motor turns the windlass, had sheared in a way that made it impossible to remove. We were in trouble. Even if we had been able to remove it and find a replacement, putting the replacement in would have required the help of a machine shop to press the bearing onto the gear shaft. In SE Alaska at the height of the fishing season, getting a marine service business to return a phone call from a recreational boater, much less do work, is a near impossibility. With friends coming to join us in three days and a reservation in Glacier Bay three days after they arrived, we didn't have time to wait.
"Just be thankful we have a sailboat not a powerboat," said Steve. "At least we have other winches." (He was right. Later, we met some power boaters with the same problem. They spent 10 days in Ketchikan waiting to get their windlass fixed.)
But an hour to raise the chain wasn't going to cut it. We disconnected the anchor from the chain and connected it to our secondary rode (of rope) which resides in a locker just forward of the chain locker. By switching to rope we could use a halyard or sheet winch directly without the intervening moorage line and chain hook.
In the next three weeks we had to relearn how to anchor Osprey. Years ago we'd sailed a 32-footer from Boston to Seattle without a windlass. But Osprey's heavier anchor would be a challenge. We were glad to have our friends, John and Maureen Alvarez, aboard to provide extra hands.
The first thing we learned was to be a lot more careful in choosing anchorages. Shallow is good. Shallow and very protected is even better.
I thought raising the anchor hand-over-hand would be the most difficult, but we soon learned controlling the boat as we dropped anchor was also difficult. Without the heavy chain, the slightest wind caught the bow, turning the boat stern-to the wind and sometimes over-running the anchor. We wore walkie-talkie headphones so Steve, on the bow with the anchor, could give me directions.
To raise anchor, I drove the boat forward as John hauled the anchor rode hand-over-hand while Maureen fed the line into the rope locker. When the anchor was up and down, Steve brought the anchor rode back along the deck to a jib sheet winch and cranked it in. At first, we had trouble bringing the anchor over the roller, but then Maureen discovered if she pulled the line sideways rather than up, the anchor came right in.
Photo: Bringing up the anchor with the sheet winch.
After three weeks our ½" line was getting frayed and we replaced it with 5/8" line in Sitka. Now we just have to learn how to bring in the anchor with two people instead of four.