What power tool to turn a sailboat winch?

Unpowered sailboat winches pull in lines manually usually with something like a 20:1 mechanical advantage. There is a winch handle that goes into the middle of it and you crank it to pull a line in. There are powered winch “handles” that you can buy which are sort of like power tools that have a fitting which mates with the winch. These specialized tools can cost in excess of 2000 dollars.

Bits that will fit in most power tools and mate with the these winches can be purchased for about 25 dollars.

I am looking for the highest torque cordless power tool that could be used in this application. I’ve been looking at perhaps the big right angle drills such as the Milwaukee super hawg… not a cheap tool but substantially cheaper than 2000 dollars.

Right angle drills like the Super Hole Hawg - do provide enough torque to use with big selfeed bits. But I’m not sure how they compare to one of the newer hi-torque impact guns that have hit the market. There are add-on chucks to convert a square drive to accept drill-style bits.

the few times I’ve been on a sailboat have be wondering

how much torque is really needed, there is a reason why those cranks have a sun gear 16:1 and higher ratio setup. How much body are you putting into the crank you have now? The crank is what - foot long - 2 ft long for the big ones. or is it less than that?

are you one arming it or do you have to stand shoulder width apart and get your back and shoulders into it? what’ I recall and it’s been a long time. cranks were under 1 ft and you could one arm them or well I could if I recall.

So 2 versions. let’s say it’s a 1 ft crank and you are one arming it - so lets say you put down to a 80 lb bicep curl. so let’s say if you had to you could put around 120 ft lbs into the crank - at least as initial oof not the full time. so a tool that could run that and be fairly smooth - I’d lean into something like a power ratchet or a larger spec drill likethe new dewalt DCD 800/805 or the milwaukee fuel equal. Flex etc.

I did a quick search and let’s assume you are wanting to make a device instead of the eWincher. which looks to be a nice piece o kit. it supposedly tops out around 90 Nm and around 220 watts of power run. Nearly any cordless drill of 18V class should do the job but you might want to consider a hammer drill with a supplemental handle - but don’t use the hammer mode. 90Nm = 67 ft lbs.

what cordless drill do you have now - that might work out for a test run. Oh and what does the adapter look like?

I would stay away from anything that impacts - so no impact drivers or wrenches. and only other thing I’m consider from an egronomic use case and as a replacement crank would be a cordless ratchet - again I’d point to something like a dewalt 20v - 3/8 drive device. just enough torque - not crazy speed - and push comes to stranded it could turn the winch manual - but you’ll still have your OE handle too I guess.

Drill might actually go too fast so that might become an issue but again - give it a try if you have one already. Post back what you use I’m curious.

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After reading Napalm’s comments - I’m not sure why you want the max torque tool.
But thinking about what I’ve bought recently that fits into that category - I’m thinking that my Makita Earth Auger Drill - probably fits that description. It might be too big and unwieldy for use on your boat: I have the 36V (LXT18V x 2) version - but there is also a newer 40V tool


Well, I’ve seen some videos of people trying to do it and some of them say the tools don’t have enough torque. I guess it will just have to be an experiment. I agree impact tools should be avoided as they might damage the winch.

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I agree with you and Napalm here, I think that impact tools are to be avoided, I seriously doubt the winch would be designed to handle those kinds of shock loads. But a cordless drill should work fine, especially a heavy-duty model. I think you were onto the right trail, I’d look at stud-and-joist or “mixer” type drills. Those are designed to run high torque for long periods of time. They typically have lower gearing than a standard drill so they don’t spin as fast.

Id think a super hawg would have plenty of torque and its a bit easier to use having a long body for leverage. Ive only used the corded version. It has two speeds and both are slower than most drills. Theres a video I saw of a guy who setup a superhawg instead of the gas outboard motor on a small boat, actually got decent speed.
Milwaukee also makes a mud mixer, im not sure of the power output but its likely geared for appropriate mixing speeds and designed with different ergonomics.

there’s a maker video out there of a guy that 3d printed a propellor and shell (hydrojet) setup to put on the end of a cordless drill and motivates his bass boat with it.

but out of that.

I still think replcating the one boat tool I could find in a google search - a cordless ratchet would be the better options. you can hand wrench if if needed - it would have some length of it’s own. the torque and rpm closely match that sail boat power winch I found.

IT 70 ft lbs of toruqe and 200 or less RPM. I think something like a hole hawg or the flexvolt joist drill would run too hard for what you wnat to do. right torque and then some but too many RPM’s.

Another option with the cordless ratchet is a toruqe multiplier tool - they are made for ratchets - you often see them on diesel tool boxes. thing 1/2 drive ratchet end with a 1/2 drive receptical on the back - long handle - and inside is a sun and planet gear offering 2 or 3 x reduction. If you had to use one which I doubt that would be the way to go.

Another thought. take a torque wrench out on your boat with it and that adapter. see how much torque it clicked or (or digital readout if you have that adapter) and that would indicate what torque needs to turn your winch. specifically.

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