The Electric Boat Anchor Windlass

The boat anchor windlass. After my last cruise I didn't realize how much I would miss the electric anchor windlass. It was all hard work and lots of serious manual exercise either using the double action ratchet systems or resorting to hand over hand pulling in anchor chain when I was in a hurry to get the anchor in.

For myself the boat anchor windlass has a level of importance way up there with the sails, rig and engine and it's right up there now on my list of things that must be good on the prospective new boat for sale listings.

It is however crucial that an anchor windlass be properly selected and installed, and in my experience they are rarely maintained properly and subsequently many fail to get the performance they should.

If you have just put your boat up for sale sign up, making sure the anchor windlass is in good condition helps to sell the boat, if it doesn't a prospective buyer sees big dollar signs to repair or replace it.

Which Boat Anchor Windlass?

If you are replacing a well worn boat anchor windlass unit, or upgrading from a manual windlass unit there are many points that must be considered. It is a good time to review your whole ground tackle anchor arrangement, and your boat anchor techniques.

The principal selection criteria are the type of rode, rope and chain or all chain; the length and weight of anchor rode; the anchor weight; the boat size and the displacement.

Then comes the choice of horizontal or vertical windlass, which are then related to available space and the boat anchor chain fall. The minimum boat anchor winch capacity is derived from the following formula after working out the chain weight or chain/rope weight from the table for your vessel size.

The x3 factor covers windage, tidal current and a safety margin.

Windlass Capacity = (Anchor Weight + Chain Weight) x 3

Most boat anchor windlass manufacturers have useful charts to assist in selecting the right unit, and many prudently add in a safety margin of 15- 25%. If you are lucky that boat you intend buying has all the information still on board. In fact most boat specifications rarely give boat anchor type and weight, or rode type and length recommendations so make sure you check.

Vertical boat anchor windlasses have the motor located below the deck, and horizontal ones everything is above deck. Vertical boat anchor windlass units take up less space on deck, although they can impinge on the below decks space.

The electric motor is protected, however access isn't always easy. They do allow the anchor rode to come in at a range of angles. Horizontal units must have the rode properly aligned if jamming is to be avoided. It is really important to ensure that the chain lead in angles are correct.

Boat Anchor Windlass Safety

A boat anchor windlass is not designed to take the entire load when riding to anchor. This is especially true in large swells or heavy conditions, and you can damage the gearbox with heavy shock loads.

As a safety precaution always transfer the load to a bollard or load bearing point using a rope snubber or use the chain stopper. It is worth checking how solid a base the boat anchor windlass is mounted on, I was horrified to see how much stressing the foredeck suffered on one of my boats.

Use a good swivel between anchor and chain, so that the anchor rolls and comes neatly into the stem-head fitting. One thing I look at with every boat is signs of stressing on the deck area under a windlass, if its stressed or fatigued the chances are the boat anchor anchor windlass has sustained some hard stress too.

Part 2 of this 4 Part Series on the Boat Anchor Windlass covers in detail the correct installation of a boat anchor windlass. Click on this link to read PART 2 Anchor Windlass and all you need to know. Install an electric boat anchor windlass to your boat.