Can Electric Winches Be Used Manually? – How To Install Them

Electric winches are a luxury item for your sailboat. Never having to crank a winch again would be very nice. You might be in trouble if you lose power to your electric winch unless it can be manually operated.

Electric winches can be used manually. To use the electric winch manually, insert the winch handle into the top of the winch. When you insert the winch handle, it disengages the motor, allowing it to be cranked manually.

Electric winches are a great addition to any sailboat. They do require power and a bit of extra work at installation though. This article will discuss electric winches and how they benefit the sailors that use them.

Why Would You Need An Electric Winch On A Sailboat?

There are two reasons you would need an electric winch on a sailboat. The first reason is that all of your crew has moved away leaving you to handle your sailboat alone. The second reason is that your age has caught up to you and cranking winches all day causes too much stress on your body.

The two reasons above are some of the biggest reasons people add electric winches to their sailboats. Another possibility for a reason to add an electric winch would be for fun.

Adding an electric winch is an exciting project and could be fun to have aboard. I would love to have a sailboat with one or two electric winches. It is definitely a luxury item but would be fun to show off to other sailors.

Raising the mainsail isn’t very hard but imagine having an electric winch nearby. That mainsail would go up so easily.

If you are solo sailing and you have the controls to your winches in the back of the cockpit, tacking would be almost effortless. Some might say this would take some of the fun out of sailing but I disagree.

The only reason I would do an electric winch is because of money or room for installation.

How Do You Mount An Electric Winch On A Sailboat?

To mount an electric winch on a sailboat, follow the instructions provided with your new winch. The biggest item to pay attention to is location. Most electric winches have a motor and gearbox on the bottom of them that need extra space for mounting.

Some electric winches allow you to mount the motor vertically or horizontally under the deck. This makes the winch much more adaptable for mounting on those smaller boats.

Installing an electric winch is very similar to installing a manual winch. The main difference is the electrical power. You will need to run power from your power supply to the location of the winch. This also means you will be drilling a bigger hole in the deck for this setup. Keep in mind, that you do not want the electrical components of this winch to get wet. Make sure your seal around the edges properly to keep water from damaging the electrical wiring and motor.

You will also have to mount the switch that controls the winch. If the winch is far away from the cockpit, think about where the switch would be most convenient when sailing. It will depend on your boat’s overall setup and what your preferences are.

The SELDEN company makes electric winches that have the motor up in the drum itself meaning no bulky motor and gearbox below the drum. This is very convenient and saves a ton of space. If you would like an in-depth install video of a SELDEN winch, check out the video below and be sure to subscribe to their channel!

Just remember when installing a winch on your boat, it might be a little different from the video. Every boat is different and requires a different setup. Mounting a manual winch would be very similar as well, you just eliminate the electrical steps.

If you want to learn more about manual winches check out my other article here!

How Do You Use An Electric Winch On A Sailboat? How To

To use an electric winch on a sailboat all you have to do is wrap the line around the winch, clockwise, and run it through the self-tailer. Once you have set up the line, all you have to do is push the electrical button to crank the winch.

When using an electric winch it is almost identical to a manual winch. You wrap the lines the same way and tail them the same way. The only difference is cranking them. The manual way is with a handle and arm strength while the other way is at the push of a button.

A lot of electric winches come with a two-button setup. The two buttons are for two different speeds, fast and slow. You would use the fast when initially raising the sail or pulling the initial line during a tack. Once the line becomes tight, you would switch to the slower speed and tighten the line just right.

You can get one-speed electric winches or even three-speed which is super fast and not necessary in my opinion. One or two speeds are all you need.

How Much Does An Electric Winch Cost? Multiple Options

The chart below shows different types of winches and their price points. There are a ton of options out there and this only shows some. Be sure to do your research when purchasing one.

Harken 900 Chromed -Electric UniPowerHarken4-3/8″1984 lbs$4311.99
Lewmar EVO E-Series – Size 40Lewmar4-5/8″1750 lbs$2902.99
Seldén E40i Self-Contained Electric Winch – AluminumSelden5-3/10″2517 lbs$2799.99
Lewmar REVO Backwinding Electric  Winch Kit – Size 50Lewmar7-11/32″2750 lbs$5037.99
Harken 900 Aluminum -Electric UniPowerHarken4-3/8″1984 lbs$4014.99
Lewmar Ocean E-Series Electric Self-Tailing Winch Kit – Size 48Lewmar6-13/16″2756 lbs$3880.99

As you can see from the chart above they vary in price quite frequently. It will depend on the size you need and the brand you want to go with. Just do the research and measurements before purchasing.

Final Thoughts

This article discussed electric winches and what they can do for the average sailor. If you have the extra money they can be a great addition to any sailboat. I personally have never used one, but I do find them interesting. I really hope to try them out someday. As I said before this is a luxury item and not necessary unless you are unable to crank a manual one. There are definitely better things to spend your money on such as new sails or solar panels. Just remember it’s your boat and do what you want.


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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