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Choosing Your Windlass

How do you choose from the wide array of windlasses on the market? Lewmar, Quick, Maxwell, Powerwinch, Vetus and Lofrans all manufacturer great windlasses. Important criteria to be considered in selecting the correct anchor windlass include the vessel size, displacement, windage, anchor size and rode selection. Practicalities such as locker space and depth of fall for the rode also play a part in deciding which windlass is ideal for you. Your windlass choice will likely be based on the following questions;

  1. What size windlass will suit my boat?

  2. You need to look at the maximum pull and the maximum working load of the windlass. If you have a 32-38 ft boat, typically a 600-700 lb. maximum working load windlass would be your choice. The rule of thumb is to add the weight of all your ground tackle (chain, rope and anchor) together – this number should be less than the maximum working load. Another way to figure it out is to add all the weight of the ground tackle together, multiply by three and the result should be less than the maximum pull of the windlass. If you are cruising or are anchoring often, go up one size in the windlass – you will never be sorry, the windlass will last longer and haul the chain up faster.

  3. What is your power source for the windlass?

  4. Electric Anchor Windlass: The most popular windlasses on the market are electric. They are easy to set up and available in many configurations, with vertical and horizontal drums as well as enclosed deck mount or below decks motor mount. You will need to be making enough power to keep up the batteries to run the windlass. Some electric windlasses also offer a power control for dropping the anchor with an electronic brake to stop it. Most electric windlasses have manual option for raising the anchor as back up for a power interruption or motor failure. There are more options available for this type of windlass than any other.

    See our selection of electric anchor windlasses
    electric anchor windlasses

    Hydraulic Anchor Windlass: Boats that have the capability to hydraulically power a windlass is rare in private ownership. Hydraulic power for the windlass has the advantage of little chance of windlass failure and is useful on large vessels with heavy ground tackle.

    See our selection of hydraulic anchor windlasses

    hydraulic anchor windlasses

    Manual Anchor Windlass: If you are hauling the ground tackle up and your boat has neither electricity nor hydraulic power you will need a manual windlass. Most manual windlasses have a drum on one side and gypsy on the other side of the housing body.

    See our selection of manual anchor windlasses
    manual anchor windlass

  5. Choosing the windlass design

  6. One of the factors affecting the choice of windlass design is what type of chain locker you are feeding into and how far is it from the underside of the deck to the top of the chain stack (when all the ground tackle is in).

    Horizontal Windlass: The Horizontal windlass is a no-nonsense design widely used by boaters requiring optimum performance from their anchoring system. Boaters who frequently anchor, especially in deep water, require a no hassle self-tailing system. This design is available in either motor-below-deck models or enclosed motor with windlass mounted as a sealed unit, all above deck. The horizontal windlass offers the best performance and the least trouble with small or unusual locker designs. As the anchor rode enters the gypsy then makes a 90º turn and feeds directly into the anchor locker. A minimum fall of 12" (30cm) is recommended.

    See our selection of Horizontal Windlasses
    horizontal windlass

    Vertical Windlass: Vertical windlasses provide aesthetic value and offer the added security of the anchor rode making a 180º wrap around the gypsy then falling into the chain locker. The inherent design of the vertical windlass requires at least 16" (40cm) of fall.

    See our selection of Vertical Windlasses
    vertical windlass

  7. I want to use chain and rope rode for anchoring, what do I need to consider?

  8. The recommended fall of 12-16” is the minimum for all chain rode to allow gravity to properly self-tail the anchor rode through a 90º vertical turn into the anchor locker. Due to the light weight of nylon line, you will need to increase the fall distance by double or you may have difficulty with untended feeding into the chain locker.

    If you are using line, the preferred rode is 8-Plait Nylon, because does not coil or create a "bird’s nest" in the locker like 3-Strand will. 8-Plait flakes and falls upon itself. 8-Plait pays off of the windlass into the locker much like chain, allowing for better use of smaller locker designs. 8-Plait will not twist, loop over or knot up and is 80% less prone to becoming stiff when used in salt water than 3-Strand.

  9. What else do I have to consider?

  10. Options: Most electric windlass manufacturers offer some options, from lighted handheld remote controls to cabin switch panels to chain counters.

    Make sure the chain and rope you get (or have) will work with the gypsy on the windless you are purchasing. Most windlasses call for HT or G4 chain and will not work well with BBB chain or 3 plait nylon rode or will not work at all with PC chain. Accessories such as chain stoppers or chain snubbers are highly recommended for safe anchoring.

    See our selection of windlass accessories.

    windlass remotes, panels, chains

Windlass Chain Guide

100' of  1/4" HT G4 = 79 lbs

100' of  5/16" HT G4 = 116 lbs

100' of  3/8" HT G4 = 153 lbs

100' of  7/16" HT G4 = 216lbs

100' of 1/2" HT G4 = 271lbs