- Capt. Eric
Campbell River. Back Cruising.
We struck gold in Campbell River: A very pleasant marina, with shops and marine related business close by. I called a marine repair shop on their opening, and luckily they had someone available and familiar with Maxwell windlasses.
At 13:00 the same day, on time, Andrew showed up with a big pile of rolling tool cases that I helped him unstack and bring on board.
I had already taken the windlass' top off, and we continued digging into the assembly. It was clear the windlass had suffered a mechanical failure somewhere along the drive with the electric engine was running fine, but not engaging the chain pail or capstan. The question was: What sort of mechanical damage? A simple and cheap key, or a major failure like the whole gear box?
Just to be safe Andrew called the Canadian Maxwell distributor (now owned by Vetus) and confirmed they had a full gear box in stock if needed. Worse case scenario shipping would take a few days, and we'd be on our way within the week. I crossed fingers that the fairly new windlass would not need such a large repair. I have kept up with its maintenance, and have checked the gear box oil regularly.
So we kept digging. Soon it was clear that the top side of the windlass was fine. Everything looked good, no broken shaft, keys or anything. Just nicely greased and well maintained parts from the last service I'd done in April.
We kept going, and went underneath in the chain locker. As you can imagine the windlass is fairly heavy (38 kg overall, about 84 pounds) so having 2 sets of arms helps when getting in the locker to disassemble the unit.
As parts kept coming out, I put them in a bucket for safe keeping and to ensure nothing would inadvertently end up rolling overboard. Pretty soon I was joking with Di that it was a very expensive bucket. I estimated the parts in there at about $4,000.
The further we went into the assembly the scarier it got since everything looked completely fine, meaning the problem was likely in the gear box itself. Once we got the gearbox disconnected and out, a simple inspection showed it was turning fine by hand, had clean oil to the right level and showed no signs of problem.
Turning to the motor finally revealed the problem: A sacrificial pin had sheared. A $3 tiny part that had done its job and protected the rest of the expensive unit by breaking.
I breathed a big sigh of relief, as it meant we'd likely not have to order a $1,600 gear box, or worse a $4,900 windlass!
Andrew took the gear box to his shop: Since it was out it was just easier to deal with there, including changing the oil. While he was at it, he kindly procured a spare shear pin for my big box of parts.
He came back the next day, and we reassembled the windlass in less than an hour, ending with a test drop of the anchor in the harbor. Everything went fine. I asked Di -who normally stands on the foredeck when we anchor- to confirm the windlass sounded and operated normally, which she confirmed as we kept raising and lowering the anchor.
Satisfied that we solved the problem and repaired the windlass, we decided we could restart our cruise, leaving ourselves an extra day to re-provision at the nearby grocery shops.
I am still unclear why the shear pin broke. I can only surmise that at some point I must have gone too brutally from lowering to raising the anchor? I'll be extra careful from now on, and for extra safety I'll also stow the anchor manually rather than letting the windlass reach its final taught position.
Before leaving I re-acquainted myself with the manual raising option of the windlass. I'm not sure I'd truly be able to raise 300 feet of chain entirely manually, but at least I know how to do it. I suspect if I took my time?
We decided to err on the safe side and that our first anchor drops would be in reasonably shallow waters. With Rebecca Spit Provincial Park only 13 miles out of Campbell River it was an obvious destination to anchor in beautiful surroundings with shallow and safe waters.
We had stopped there on the way up North and really enjoyed the place.
The park is easily accessed via dinghy as there is a boat ramp. There are dry toilets and limited garbage pickup. It has beautiful beaches with incredible views extending from Vancouver Island Mountains to the West and Desolation Sound to the East.
The best being nice trails in the forest, and wide open areas for Princess to run and play.
We stayed there a few days, each morning raising the anchor, moving the boat a short distance and dropping the anchor back in again. The windlass is working flawlessly, and both Di and I feel confident that we can restart our cruise.
We're off to explore Desolation Sound and some fjords.