The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Why We Have an eWincher on a Small Boat

Some years ago I wrote a three-part review of the eWincher electric winch handle sharing how buying the unit was a game changer on our McCurdy and Rhodes 56, to the point that it was a better solution to sailing a big boat with high loads than electric winches, not to speak of one heck of a lot less expensive and way safer.

Three years ago we sold the big boat and bought a J/109…and immediately bought another eWincher (second generation), even though the loads on the new boat are easily managed without it.

Why? One big reason and several small ones.

Let’s start with the primary reason:

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Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I have written in these pages and elsewhere about my take that labor-saving devices and comfort-enhancing gear often trade for the added physical comfort and reduced physical effort with increased demands on mental discipline and attentiveness, especially to use these items safely.
I believe the EWincher comes closer to an uncompromised addition to a boat while little added mental discipline is necessary for use or for safety.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Rob Gill

Hi John,

We don’t have an eWincher aboard our 14.5 metre yacht, but then she came equipped with beefy electrified sheet winches and a halyard winch, all of which I swore we would never have.

We have got used to them and even come to like their convenience, but you can add a fifth factor to the powered-winch alternative ledger…the cost of sail repairs when a guest or crew use a sheet winch also, because they don’t understand how powerful these things are.

My brother, very experienced sailor and volunteer coastguard skipper did a coastal passage with me a few years back and ripped a hole in our Code 0 when unfurling it in light winds. He just didn’t react fast enough to the tension coming on, the lack of any feedback on the winch, the lack of any warning noise (until too late) and the low stretch Dyneema sheets we use. That cost about 150 USD to get repaired professionally – but could have been a lot worse!

I have thought about buying one for guests / crew to use, but also as an emergency back-up for our chain windlass should the motor fail; which has a manual mode that employs a standard winch handle directly on the gypsy, but is very slow and awkward to use being situated in the anchor well.

Pity no one makes a small manual chain / rope windlass for small/medium size boats, only powered by a winch handle. Maybe eWincher could make one, or OEM one…?

Colin Speedie

Hi Rob

we had a powered halyard winch in the cockpit, and were very aware of the problem you mention, i.e. the risk of sail damage through oversheeting. We overcame the halyard side by marking the halyards with a black sharpie pen with the express instruction that the mark was not to pass through the clutch. Stop, and gently work the last few inches through the clutch until the line was in sight and you were good to go. Same as we did on racing yachts, really.

Sheets are another thing!

Rob Gill

Thanks John,

I’m with you on Dacron sheets, which we use for the mainsail and our jib. But with our Code 0, we use the sail from 5 knots to 30 knots, so light weight Dyneema sheets work best, otherwise we would need to run heavy air and light air sheets in Dacron -> we cruise with the Code 0 rigged 24×7 (unless we have full gales forecast), so having one pair of all-weather sheets works best for us.

David Felton

Hi John,
We made the purchase for a second generation model 2yrs ago and I concur completely with your article.
It’s enabled and enhanced our aging short handed/ solo trips on our Bowman 40 enormously.
An added bonus is it’s easily transferred to alternative boats – possibly the reason I’m getting increased crewing invitations…

Iain Dell

I’d echo your comments, David. We’ve done a few thousand miles since getting ours and I’m convinced my wife would rather sail without me than the EWincher…. It’s a key element in the ‘geriatricification’ of our boat.

Matt Marsh

It’d be interesting to see a head-to-head practical comparison of the eWincher with the Powerwincher ( ). Powerwincher is *substantially* cheaper, and uses standard Milwaukee M18 power tool batteries. You configure it using a physical dial on the unit, rather than via Bluetooth. And it’s activated via a thumb trigger. Apart from those differences, the two products appear to be quite similar.

Allan Gray

Hi John
We bought an eWincher 2 years ago for our Sabre 402 and have been very happy with it. Initially we used it only for trimming the genoa as our boat came equipped with an electric halyard winch on the starboard side of the cabin top. . However I have since rerun our reefing lines to the port side winch where we can use the eWincher to complete the reefing procedure with ease. It certainly has reduced the load on tired backs during long cold overnight passages and would recommend one to anyone with a weak back. Although our electric halyard winch is nice, given the choice I would buy an eWincher before I spent the money on an electric winch.


BTW we saw your boat a couple of times this summer while cruising in Mahone Bay

Allan Gray

Hi John

Boat name is Dagny, we’re in the same marina as you.


Allan Gray

I meant winter storage, we’re on top of the hill at East River Shipyard.

Michael Corboy

A well rationalised article on the e-wincher. All winches on our Ovni 435 are manual. I prefer the feel and the odd exercise winching affords. Currently both the wife and I (late fifties) are able to do this. I like the simplicity. Our sail plan is conservative. Having this piece of kit if the need arises would be like powering all the winches with out the complexity.

Olivier Le Carbonnier

on our 39ft sailboat, I broke the main sail halyard. recent 12mm halyard. we were in the middle of the Atlantic. I find that 2 or 3 buttons are missing to be able to change the winch easily without using the phone/Bluetooth.

Scott Arenz

Hi John,

Glad to see that the eWincher is such a convenient remedy to several of the drawbacks of cabintop winches. There are many many boats where having one aboard would be a benefit!

I’ll add another item to the cost-savings list: prevention of glazing repairs on particularly cramped dodgers. If the under-dodger space is crowded or imperfectly designed, (as is so often the case when it’s an add-on), often a winch handle cannot make a full rotation without striking the frame, canvas or glazing. If the latter, repetitive contact from ratcheting the winch back and forth inevitably causes scratches, cracking, and eventually punches a hole.

So the eWincher potentially saves the cost of this glazing repair (or several, since it’s probably a recurring problem anyway), as well as the inconvenience of being without the dodger while it’s in the canvas maker’s queue.


My wife and I are approaching seventy. We recently downsized to a Bowman Starlight 35 as our last boat. My shoulders don’t work anymore, without paying a long price! So, we thought that we would install electric winches. The would have been a costly mistake. We read the original eWincher article here, went out the next day a did the deal. But, after sixteen minutes use it stopped working! And that is were eWincher truly excelled. They couldn’t have done any more for us. We live in a remote part of Ireland, they arranged pick up from France, and had a brand new replacement with us in days. It is a proper game changer. Now, my wife and I have exactly the same strength when sailing. I am two hundred pounds, she is one hundred. Just keep the batteries charged!

Terence Thatcher

Your earlier posts about the eWincher persuaded me to get one, along with a spare battery., Thanks. I sail single handed a great deal and as I age, my 135 genoa seems to have gotten bigger or something, even with sizeable winches. The eWincher has made sailing close hauled a joy again rather than a struggle.

Robert Andrew

John, the winch set up on your new boat sounds very similar to what I have, with cabin top winches and a double line reefing arrangement. I can see how the Ewincher makes that work really well. I know on your older boat you had multiple reef points, do you have more than one on the J/109?

Bob Andrew