To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

The Heavy Lifting

Red Ranger's "ground tackle" (anchor and rode) weighs over a hundred pounds. Our primary anchor is a 44 pound Plow. We have a few hundred feet of BBB chain, at about 1 3/4 pounds per foot. Our secondary anchor is a thirty-pound Danforth. We also have a little 10 pound Danforth that belongs to Scout, the dinghy.

In order to repair the foredeck, the boatyard crew had to remove our windlass. We brought it home, took some of it apart and inspected it to check the immense gears and the clutch. It's a very clever piece of engineering, massively over-built. It weighs close to 40 pounds. At least two of those pounds is grease.

This is the Simpson-Lawrence SL-555, mk 11. Made in Glasgow, Scotland, back in the 80's. Nigel Calder's book, Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual uses this windlass as the standard exemplar of bi-directional windlasses. Apparently, this was the windlass to have.

We think we should call her Galadriel: the elf-queen who heavy-lifting in Middle-Earth, along with Elrond and Gandalf. Or maybe Gimli, the heavy-lifting dwarf.

[One could make the subtle case that Nenya, the ring, was an essential part of the heavy lifting and Galadriel was just a steward of the ring. If so, the primary Plow anchor would be Nenya. That means the other anchors are Vilya and Narya. Perhaps interesting to LOTR fans, but not really useful or helpful since the anchors already have names: Farmer Plow, Danforth and little Dannie.]

The windlass is operated by a long steel lever. You rock the lever forward and backward to retrieve the ground tackle. There are two gears with slightly eccentric spindles and a spring. When you push the lever forward, one gear engages -- the other is pushed out of the way -- and the gypsy pulls in some chain. When you pull back, the gears switch roles; the chain keeps coming on board. Very clever.

Maintenance is approximately zero. There's one grease nipple ("Zerk" fitting) that needs to be topped up periodically. A freshwater rinse from time-to-time. And work the gears to keep the grease flowing around inside.

What about repair parts?

The Simpson Lawrence company is now part of Lewmar, so they haven't vanished off the face of the earth. That's a good sign for getting parts. The Lewmar web site, however, doesn't show anything this ancient.

But, there's a company in the UK that seems to specialize in Simpson-Lawrence parts and spares. They list parts for the SL Seatiger 555, which looks really similar to the SL-555.

There's a warning in the owner's manual that the serial number is essential when ordering spares.

I think I need to order two "Operating Spindle Bush sets", a "Mainshaft Bush, port" and a "Mainshaft Bush, starboard" as well as the six O-ring seals. AFAIK, the various bushings in the windlass are 30 years old. They do leak grease.

The complete set of parts is £151 plus shipping and handling.

Engineering Changes

But what if the SeaTiger 555 is different from the SL-555?

Convert £151 of parts to dollars and it's still a whole lot less than a new windlass of equally massive, over-engineered, heavy-lifiting power. If the parts don't fit, we got hammered for £151; we'll muddle through with leaky bushings for another decade. If the parts fit, we'll get another 30 years of reliable service out of her. Considering the cost of foredeck repair, I shouldn't quibble over £151.

Perhaps there's a better way.

The O-rings are listed as a dozen: 4 #43, #45, #46, 2 #60, 4 #62, for a "Post Jan 76" windlass. That's a little more reasonable. We can place an order with Danco for those five sizes, replace just the rings and see if that cuts down on the weeping grease.


The windlass is right in the middle of the leaky, soft, ruined deck core material. She's held to the deck with four massive bolts, and it's backed with a massive backing plate. All good.

However -- And this is important --

The four bolts go through the deck. The bolts could -- if they were mis-installed -- expose the core material to water and rot. In cleaning, we didn't notice any rubbery water-proof polysulfide adhesive sealant. There was some sealant, but it was dried and crispy, like old spackling compound. Not really very water-tight.

Further, the anchor rode drops through a hawse-hole down into the forepeak. This hole -- if mis-constructed -- can expose the core material to water and rot.

FWIW, we theorize that the windlass was mis-installed and that mis-installation lead to major rot in the foredeck.