“Not today!” said the windlass

It took a bit of tacking upwind, but we had a lovely day sail from Horta, Faial to Velas, Sao Jorge.

view of Pico

Anchoring is free at Velas, and we obtained a reliable report that good holding could be found in sandy areas between the shoreline and the marina’s breakwater.  We were looking forward to swinging on the hook once again, and of course saving some money while the weather enabled us to stay outside of the marina.  Detour was in position, and so was I at the bow, I pressed the button to drop the anchor.  The chain caught in the windlass, a familiar occurrence, so I opened the chain locker to see if the chain was twisted or tangled up on itself.  Everything looked clear.  I tried to drop the anchor again, again the windlass stopped.  I pressed the UP button and heard, “CLICK, CLICK” and nothing happened.  I shouted back to Brian that we had a problem; he’d have to re-position Detour while I tried to sort the problem or else we’d slam straight into the breakwater, wind having now spun around from behind.  I pressed the UP button, “CLICK, CLICK.”  I walked toward the cockpit, “this anchor’s not going to come back up if we put it down,” I informed Brian, “I’m getting nothing from the UP button, just clicking.”  In his usual, calm voice Brian replied, “that’s probably not good.”  Fortunately, conditions were safe and I wasn’t in a predicament where I had to haul the anchor back up by hand.  We entered the marina and were directed to a prime spot on the docks.  And so, with an island abundant in nature waiting to be explored, our first stop would be the anchor locker for an in-depth tour of the inter-workings of a windlass.

Troubleshooting was underway.  Brian found corrosion and rust, and basically nothing that looked promising.  He began disassembling the windlass motor and cleaning it.  

Martin, who is an auto mechanic on Sao Jorge, inserted himself into the project when he observed Brian at the marina parking lot flushing the windlass motor with diesel.  Martin tested the motor by connecting it directly to a battery, and it worked!  Martin took the motor, with an explanation in Portuguese.  We had no way of contacting Martin and had no idea where he was taking the motor.  “He’s good, don’t worry,” our friend, Phillip reassured us.  When Martin returned the motor the following day it had been cleaned, apparently filled with the appropriate lubricant, and resealed.

Martin continued to assist throughout re-installation.  Communication, however, was difficult; a conglomeration of Portuguese, French, English, and hand gestures.  Technical explanations were excruciating and often required props, but general conversation was a bit simpler and with a bit of patience we learned about Martin’s family, his career, and is interest of sailing.  Brian had an opportunity to take a peek beneath the decking, where there were some bubbles alerting potential aluminium corrosion.  He cleaned and primed the bare aluminium, and resealed the decking before re-installing the windlass.  Once the windlass was mounted, Martin assisted to add a gasket, oil, and grease.  The job was nearly finished; buttons installed, wiring reconnected, and then Brian discovered the windlass was not receiving power.  Brian removed and disassembled the solenoid, first suspect, fortunately it worked.  After several hours of troubleshooting, the culprit was a bad connection on one fuse.  A bit of sandpaper did the trick to clean the connection and finally, the windlass was back in action!

3 thoughts on ““Not today!” said the windlass

  1. I am just curious if these glitches/malfunctions that pop up here and there have made you both keep a big supply of spare parts with you? Or do you just ‘wing it’ and get parts as needed, as in this case. It’s so good that Brian is good at taking things apart to find problems! LOL You both really have to be a Jack and Jill of all trades, don’t you? Wow! Impressive.

  2. Oh my, what a story. I really enjoyed the details and photos. Sounds like there are some friendly citizens in Velas. Enjoy the island.

  3. Marilyn,
    We carry a variety of tools and spares; better to be prepared since we tend to visit remote locations (although sometimes wish we could carry two of everything!)

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