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Old 03-27-2017, 11:07 PM   #1
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Locating Windlass Breaker Switch

A while back, when I had Muir replace the windlass motor, the electrician doing the diagnosis said, with a wry smile, that my main 12V switch was being used as the winch main switch. There is a breaker on/off switch on the switch panel, it tripped once when we had a chain jam, but I think it`s a 20A like the others on the panel.
While I was replacing the windlass foot switch recently, a neighbour said I must have a proper breaker. Muir says to fit a 150A one, the motor is 1200watts.
Question is, where to put it? Inside the mainly enclosed under cover windlass pedestal box would be easy, would use the existing cables and be accessible. Should it go there, or should it be close to the main batt switch, where it will be hard to access? The back of the switch panel was in the fwd cabin but that part of the cabin is now the shower, so the "removable" access cover panel is kept sealed.
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:24 PM   #2
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It seems to me there are two scenarios where a fuse will trip. One is a jam/overload of the winch motor. Second is a short in the cable run between the battery and the winch motor. In both cases the hazard is high temp in the electrical cable, melting insulation and potentially starting a fire. The fuse only protects wiring/equipment 'downstream'. If you put the fuse in the winch housing you have no protection from a short in the wiring run. To me the maximum protection from a fuse would be to have it as close to where the winch positive wire connects to the battery as possible.
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Old 03-28-2017, 12:24 AM   #3
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The fuse/C.B. should go as close to the main supply as possible. Specifically within 7" [ABYC] which is not always possible of course especially in boats that were not designed with this in mind. But as close as possible.

Better to have a bit of a pain at fuse replacement time than a short circuit in the wiring or a windlass motor failure that causes a lot of collateral damage because the protection is in the wrong place. Or use a C.B. with a lever reset so you only have to reach in and reset the thing. Some of these C.B. can be panel mounted in such a way that only the reset lever shows.

If the battery switch is the main supply that the windlass is supplied from then as close as possible to the switch but best 7".

If you install it close to the windlass it will be useless in the case of a supply wiring problem. Would be usefull only if the motor were to short which would leave the wiring unprotected. Not a good plan.

The odds of it blowing are very low unless the windlass jammed and you held the control switch for several seconds. The right size and type of fuse or C.B. has a time curve that will allow short term overloads in excess of the rating but in case of an actual short circuit it will appear to be almost instantaneous. In other words a jam should not trip the protection unless you hold the control down for a while. A heavy load, not overload, should not trip the fuse/C.B.

Look at Blue Seas site for time curves. They show them for their various C.B.s.

It has been a while but I think they also show time curves for type T fuses but look. Type T or high current break capacity C.B. or similar are suggested as in a real short circuit the amperage can go sky high and not every fuse/C.B. can reliably break the current flow.

For a 1,200W motor at 12V the C.B. or breaker should be on the order of 125A minimum. YOu say Muir suggests a 150A so I would go with that.

On my own, a 1,500W motor , 12v Lofrans Tigres I used a 135A, not out of line.

Of course the wiring must be up to the full windlass operating current allowing for Vdrop and distance. But since that is already done all you should need to do is mount and wire in a safety protection, fuse or C.B.
I suspect Muir would have recommendations for wire size, AWG or mm2 vs wire length.

That panel mounted breaker you referred to as 20A will be only for the control circuit, not the actual windlass motor. That's good as that circuit also needs protecting but I seriously doubt it was the actual windlass motor.
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Old 03-28-2017, 01:00 AM   #4
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The fuse/C.B. should go as close to the main supply as possible. Specifically within 7" [ABYC] which is not always possible of course especially in boats that were not designed with this in mind. But as close as possible.

Better to have a bit of a pain at fuse replacement time than a short circuit in the wiring or a windlass motor failure that causes a lot of collateral damage because the protection is in the wrong place. Or use a C.B. with a lever reset so you only have to reach in and reset the thing. Some of these C.B. can be panel mounted in such a way that only the reset lever shows.
I'm a bit confused. Isn't the fuse at the battery supposed to be sized to protect the wire, not the motor? The fuse would be sized based on the cabling, regardless of the wattage of the motor.

As such, the fuse at the battery should never need to be changed. There are a variety of options if room and access is difficult, even a terminal fuse. I think you can get them up to 300amps. I used them on my sailboat when I redid the wiring there as it was the most convenient place to add the fuse.
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Old 03-28-2017, 06:49 AM   #5
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The 20A breaker as you say can not be for the windlass motor, If (?) there is one it's more likely just for the control circuit therefore disabling that, would disable the windlass. Windlass fuse is out of the question !, ( chain jams or overloads happen and at the worst of times ) as anchoring is stressful enough and time dependent without the burden of physically changing the fuse or looking / getting at the Main breaker.

Re: The main C.B. for the windlass motor, I'm surprised that you have a 150A as I had hell of a time finding a 120A for ours. That said IMHO, it should be located somewhere where you can get to it in a hurry ie. at helm.

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Old 03-28-2017, 07:26 AM   #6
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.................

Re: The main C.B. for the windlass motor, I'm surprised that you have a 150A as I had hell of a time finding a 120A for ours. That said IMHO, it should be located somewhere where you can get to it in a hurry ie. at helm.
Nope, C lectric has it right. Overcurrent protection belongs at the source of power. Put the breaker at the helm and the wiring from the battery to the helm has no protection.

I feel a bit uncomfortable trying to tell someone how and where to install a circuit breaker or a fuse in a situation like this without actually inspecting the boat. It's too easy to have a misunderstanding and that could lead to a dangerous situation.

In this case, this should be handled by a competent marine electrician. Installing a circuit breaker is not difficult. Knowing where to install it and what breaker is the tricky part.
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Old 03-28-2017, 08:24 AM   #7
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Nope, C lectric has it right. Overcurrent protection belongs at the source of power. Put the breaker at the helm and the wiring from the battery to the helm has no protection.

I feel a bit uncomfortable trying to tell someone how and where to install a circuit breaker or a fuse in a situation like this without actually inspecting the boat. It's too easy to have a misunderstanding and that could lead to a dangerous situation.

In this case, this should be handled by a competent marine electrician. Installing a circuit breaker is not difficult. Knowing where to install it and what breaker is the tricky part.
I totally agree WesK ..... my opinion was based on the main battery power cables being fused at the source and I'm looking at the windlass feed as a branch circuit only. As such you are allowed a " certain " length of run to the next protection point ie. the windlass breaker .... ? just sayn ' FB
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Old 03-28-2017, 11:04 AM   #8
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Greetings BruceK!

I would like to offer up some detail and expansion on C lectric's great post....

Last season I blew the fuse on my Tigres winch (same motor as C lectric's).

It blew because the foot-operated pin switch in the deck jammed in the ON position, the chain got jammed in the down pipe to the chain locker, then the chain kept wrapping around the jypsie until that jammed, stalling the motor until the fuse blew.

This left me with about 90 feet of chain/anchor out, in a crowded windy harbor.
Thanks to the boating skills at the helm we were able to back down and clear the mess without fouling other boats.

I got rid of the deck mounted pin switches and went to a radio-remote control of a big solenoid switch block for the winch, much more reliable, easier to use safely. I shortened the down pipe to lessen the chance of jamming, and I haul in in shorter pitches, allowing the chain to flake into the locker better.

I am going to change out the windlass fuse to a panel mount levered breaker as C lectric suggested, as loss of windlass function without timely recovery is unacceptable to me. Takes too long to change the fuse, it is buried similar to your situation. And 2 fuses can cost more than a new panel mount breaker!
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Old 03-28-2017, 05:00 PM   #9
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My windlass came with a surface mount circuit breaker designed to be used as a switch as well. In my case it was convenient to mount it close to the source of power.


If you are starting from scratch and want the circuit breaker in a convenient place but it's far from the source (batteries), you can use oversized wiring from the source to the convenient location for the circuit breaker and use appropriate overcurrent protection for the oversized wiring at the source.


The breaker for the windlass will trip before the one at the source unless there's a wiring fault between the source breaker and the windlass breaker.
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Old 03-28-2017, 05:13 PM   #10
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Thanks to all, question well answered. I get that locating it at the power end gives protection for the windlass itself plus the wiring from winch to the breaker, it makes good sense. An experienced electrician should be smarter at figuring out the breaker fitting with access.
Blue Seas make breakers up to 200A, there are other mfrs too.
Lewmar has a wired remote plug in switch on a lead to replace a footswitch. At this stage I`ve gone back with another footswitch, hopefully with a better job of fitting and sealing it.
Even with a totally remote switch, if at all possible, I think someone needs to be at the bow during retrieve.
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Old 03-28-2017, 05:17 PM   #11
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If you are starting from scratch and want the circuit breaker in a convenient place but it's far from the source (batteries), you can use oversized wiring from the source to the convenient location for the circuit breaker and use appropriate overcurrent protection for the oversized wiring at the source.


The breaker for the windlass will trip before the one at the source unless there's a wiring fault between the source breaker and the windlass breaker.
This looks like a great idea. We should have protection for the wiring at the source. Your windless should not blow that, or your wiring is too small. A fuse to protect the wiring is something you install and then hopefully never think about again.

If the wiring protection blows, you do NOT want to close that circuit again until the fault can be found. Fire can result.
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Old 03-28-2017, 06:06 PM   #12
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One thing to mention even if it sound stupid, don't go to the largest breaker you find. Don't forget the breaker should not exceed your wiring amp capacity.
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Old 03-28-2017, 07:49 PM   #13
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I did not suggest the C.B. at the battery wiring to the battery switch because if the windlass blew the protection it could shut down the entire control/electrical system and that could be just as bad or worse.

I agree the batteries themselves should be fused to the battery switch, then the windlass protected separately.

For example my batts., 3 of them, are each protected with a 100A fuse, then the leads go to the main + buss bar for a combined 300A capacity then the windlass comes off the buss bar to its own C.B. of 135A.

You could do similar. Fuses at the batteries protect the wiring to the battery switch, then the windlass C.B. protect the windlass and its wiring. This way the battery to switch fuses could have a much higher capacity to supply the whole boat, then the windlass takes off a lower load through its own C.B..

I also agree with WesK that if this is not clear then discuss with a marine electrician.

I have an advantage, not perfect of course, as I am a no longer practicing dirt electrician. I made a point of learning a lot about boats but not enough to go on my own, too late for that. Still have fun sometimes with it.
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Old 03-28-2017, 07:58 PM   #14
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While probably not helpful to you, mine is near the battery switches.

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Old 03-28-2017, 08:27 PM   #15
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Speaking of windlass, I have one and never used it, this beast scares me, too easy to loose a finger I find pretty easy to pull the rope/chain by hand and at the end a bit of reverse thrust and the anchor is free.
Am I crazy not to use the windlass?

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Old 03-28-2017, 08:35 PM   #16
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Speaking of windlass, I have one and never used it, this beast scares me, too easy to loose a finger I find pretty easy to pull the rope/chain by hand and at the end a bit of reverse thrust and the anchor is free.
Am I crazy not to use the windlass?

L.
Little need to get hands/fingers in the works. I just use foot pedals adjacent to the windlass or switches in the pilothouse.

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Old 03-28-2017, 08:50 PM   #17
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Speaking of windlass, I have one and never used it, this beast scares me, too easy to loose a finger I find pretty easy to pull the rope/chain by hand and at the end a bit of reverse thrust and the anchor is free.
Am I crazy not to use the windlass?

L.
Short answer "yes". Evidence: we did a manual retrieve in 14 meters of water when ours failed. I can`t imagine having one and not using it.
How long have you been nervously edging your way around this scary beast? What make is it? It might not be working by now.
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Old 03-28-2017, 09:03 PM   #18
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Well I never used it since I got my boat so 1 year now. We anchored a lot but never got issue to pull the rope by hand except once in the wind but it was not so terrible that is one of the reason we never used it. Usually we are anchoring in shallow water, around 3 meters.
I will need to check the brand next time I go to the boat as I don't remember it.

My apologizes for the thread hijack.

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Old 03-28-2017, 09:19 PM   #19
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The Maxwell winch I installed on our LeComte NE 38 had a breaker/switch which I mounted alongside the boat's main battery switch, as instructed by their materials.

Our FuHwa has its winch's breaker/switch mounted near the door into the chain locker, over the centerline berth. There's no primary breaker for it on the panel, so I imagine the power is unswitched/unprotected from the main battery switch up to the breaker/switch. It's been there since the boat was built, but it won't be there forever!

Lou, we have one of those old windlasses with a drum that you have to tail. Don't stand near it; don't have your hands anywhere near it. The only annoyance, besides having to tail it, is that it's not so hard to get an override. And the switch on deck is a simple on-off toggle which is not all that convenient.
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Old 03-29-2017, 11:20 AM   #20
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Speaking of windlass, I have one and never used it, this beast scares me, too easy to loose a finger I find pretty easy to pull the rope/chain by hand and at the end a bit of reverse thrust and the anchor is free.
Am I crazy not to use the windlass?

L.
Any piece of power equipment or power tool carries some risk of personal injury. The trick is to read and heed the safety instructions. Most trades people have replaced many hand tools with power tools. Drills, saws, etc. Most still have all their digits.

When I bought my boat it had a manual windlass. I used it exactly once before buying and installing an electric windlass. If you have an anchor sufficiently large and heavy enough to hold a trawler in place while you're sleeping in an area with 2+ knot reversing tidal currents, your anchor and chain will be heavy enough to make an electric windlass pretty important.

I say, read the directions, keep your hands and fingers out of the danger zone and use the windlass you already have. Don't let someone else control it while you are handling the anchor or chain, do it yourself.
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