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Refit a Classic Yacht with an Electric Windlass

  • By David Schmidt
  • March 16, 2022

anchor system test

I still remember (­robustly) arguing with my dad when he announced his plans to add a windlass to the J/44 he owned. He was thinking of easy anchoring. I was thinking of weight and the boat’s ability to hit its polars. I lost that fight, and I’ll admit to having some smoldering feelings—until we went cruising and I was charged with anchor retrieval. I reached down to start sweating in the ­7-to-1 scope and the big Danforth anchor, until I saw the windlass foot switch. I ­remember pulling in the rode until it came vertical, waiting for my dad to break the anchor’s grip by nudging the boat forward with the engine, and then nonchalantly employing the switch, hoping he wouldn’t ­notice. No dice. 

Bottom line: As a racing sailor, I wasn’t going to admit that the windlass was an ­upgrade, but there’s no question that it allowed my parents to ­enjoy years of additional cruising, while also saving me from back pain more than once. 

The premise behind a ­windlass is simple: It ­employs power and mechanical ­advantage to make it easier to ­retrieve a vessel’s ground tackle and feed its rode into the anchor well. To do so, over time, windlass design evolved into two camps: horizontal and vertical, allowing boat owners or, more likely with new boats, the builders, to ­select equipment that best fits their particular yacht. 

While high-quality ­windlasses are effective and dependable, a cost-cutting trend emerged in the 1970s and 1990s whereby boatbuilders offered windlasses as optional—not standard—equipment. As a result, many cruising boats were delivered sans windlasses. Flash-­forward to the 2020s, and many of these boats are now ­changing hands. Their new owners, however, are less interested in footing chiropractic bills. Here’s a look at how a windlass works, the design and installation considerations involved, and the benefits it provides.

The Big Picture

A windlass functions as part of a larger system that includes the anchor, sometimes a swivel and chain, sometimes rope, some sort of a snubber or chain stopper, the anchor roller, the windlass itself, the anchor well, the windlass controls, and the windlass’s power supply. All of these ­individual pieces of equipment need to be correctly spec’d for the ­system to work properly. 

“Start with what size anchor you’re going to use,” Harcourt Schutz advises. He is Lewmar’s senior director of aftermarket sales. He explains that the total weight of the boat’s ground tackle (not just the ­tackle that you expect to deploy) should represent one-quarter of the windlass’s working load. “It’s based on the anchor and rode, not the boat’s displacement. The anchor and rode are what you’re picking up. If you ­already have the rope and chain, match what’s there.” 

If you’re starting from scratch, Fred Cook, ­president of Schaefer Marine, ­advises that not all chain is ­created equal. “I wish everybody would use high-test chain,” he says, adding that while this is more expensive than a ­standard galvanized marine alloy, it delivers considerably greater strength. 


Cook says that the windlass’s chain wildcat, or gypsy (the coglike mechanism that controls the chain), must be spec’d to match the ­specific chain with which it will be paired. (Wildcat is the term typically used in the States; gypsy is preferred by Brits. To further confuse matters, in the US, an additional drum around which an anchor rope is wound is called the gypsy; the Brits call it a warping head.) 

Wildcats typically ­are ­modular, and Cook suggests that cruisers mail a small section of chain to the windlass’s manufacturer (or distributor) to ensure that the chain wildcat’s web (that is, the teeth that engage the chain links) is properly matched.  

While chain-and-rope rodes are common in North America, this isn’t the ­international norm. “No one uses rope ­except the US. Everyone else ­uses all-chain rodes,” says Jim Thomas, Imtra’s product ­manager for Lofrans and Muir ­anchoring products. He says rope-to-chain rodes evolved in the 1990s as a cost-cutting measure. These setups are rigged with the chain attached directly to the anchor on one end and spliced to rope (typically three-strand) on the other. While this setup reduces bow weight (“aah,” the racing sailor says), anyone who might eventually want an all-chain rode should consider this when spec’ing their windlass. 

Swivels are sometimes ­situated between the chain’s last link and the anchor. ­Thomas notes that swivels are helpful in removing twists from the anchor rode during recovery. Meanwhile, if the anchor-roller wheel has a notch or a groove, this helps in aligning the links for entry into the gypsy, he adds. And the swivel’s articulation helps align the chain as the anchor is pulled onto the roller. Additionally, swivels can help a set anchor negotiate windshifts and rising and falling tides, but Thomas and Schutz are both quick to point out that each additional proverbial link in the chain could be a point of failure. ­Because of this, both experts encouraged customers to use only high-quality swivels.

Any boat that’s equipped for anchoring with a windlass should have a bow-­mounted anchor roller, which ­safely contains the anchor on deck and helps keep the rode in line with the windlass. As ­mentioned, it’s important to ensure that the roller’s shape matches the profile of your ­anchor chain.

There’s still more to note when it comes to assessing a vessel’s anchoring system. “­Anchor lockers are ­unfriendly environments,” Schutz says of the belowdecks space where the rode is stowed. “They’re oversaturated with salt air.” This is a result of the ­inevitable water and harbor mud that windlasses raise along with the hook. The rub is that anchor wells usually contain the windlass’s power cables and, depending on the design of the windlass, its gear box. As a result, experts suggest that cruisers employ a bow hose or shower to rinse the rode as it’s ­hoisted, and to give the windlass, the ­anchor, and its rode freshwater rinses when possible.

Up and Down or Sideways

As mentioned, there are two common windlass designs: horizontal and vertical. While both retrieve anchor gear, the drive shaft on horizontal ­windlasses is horizontal, while vertical windlasses employ vertical drive shafts. This means that the chain wildcat on a horizontal windlass spins like a Ferris wheel, while the chain gypsy on a vertical windlass turns like a merry-go-round. 

“Horizontal ­windlasses don’t have as much ­contact with the chain,” Thomas says, adding that the wildcat on a horizontal windlass ­typically has 110 degrees of chain ­contact. Conversely, “a vertical windlass has 270 ­degrees of surface contact. Vertical windlasses are better with rope-and-chain rodes, while horizontal windlasses are better-suited for all-chain rodes.”

Because of their fixed-­volume nature, anchor wells often dictate how much rode one can carry, and they can ­influence one’s purchase decisions. “The distance between the windlass to the top of the line stack in the locker matters,” Schutz advises, adding that horizontal windlasses work best if this distance is at least a foot, while vertical designs work best when there’s 12 to 18 inches separating the windlass from the top of the line stack.

The other major design ­difference involves how much of the windlass is situated ­abovedecks. Horizontal windlasses are typically entirely deck-mounted. This frees up bow-locker space, but they occupy more deck real estate than vertical windlasses, which typically employ a belowdecks gear box. While Thomas advises that deck thickness can sometimes steer purchase decisions, given that most vertical windlasses use drive shafts that top out at 5 inches, Cook points out that custom shaft lengths can usually be accommodated. That said, unless you sail a wooden classic, odds are good that your fiberglass deck is only an inch or two thick. 

Besides their design ­orientation, there are a variety of ways to control their ­operation. One common way is to employ deck-mounted foot switches, with one pedal lowering the rode and the other reversing the ­direction of the wildcat to retrieve it. Manufacturers also offer ­handheld controllers, wireless ­key-fob-like controls and even helm-mounted controls. 

Lowering an anchor and its rode is fairly straightforward. Some cruisers install chain or rope counters in the system to help quantify the amount of deployed scope. Others paint the chain and rode at ­regular intervals or use a variety of plastic or cloth markers. It’s worth noting that at present, windlasses still employ solenoids to control the direction in which the wildcat turns. This means that windlasses have yet to become NMEA 2000 compatible, and therefore they currently ­cannot be controlled via the vessel’s chart plotter, a networked smartphone, or a digital-­switching system. However, the experts interviewed for this story suggest that NMEA compatibility is coming in the next year or two.

Put It to Use

Once the anchor is set and the scope properly ­adjusted, ­experts suggest transferring the load off the windlass’s gear box and onto independent hardware. If you’re ­running a chain-to-rope rode, the easy solution if all of the chain is out is to tie the rope to a bow cleat. If you’re using an all-chain rode, manufacturers offer various hooks and/or snubbers that attach to a cleat and to a link in the chain, thus transferring the load off the windlass. As an aside, most modern catamarans come with a bridle arrangement that’s been pre-installed and which keeps the rode centered ­between the two hulls.

One of the smartest things anyone told me about sailhandling involves ­constantly looking at the sail or ­running rigging that’s affected when jumping a halyard or ­spinning a winch to ensure that ­something isn’t ­accidentally overloaded. Windlasses are no different. All experts agree that it’s wise to station one crewmember at the bow and another at the helm for ­anchor-retrieval work. They all also strongly recommend keeping the engine in gear (low RPM) and using it to drive the boat toward the anchor, with the forward crew either manually sweating in the rode or using the windlass. Once the rode is taut and near-vertical, it’s best to use the engine—not the windlass—to break the anchor’s grip on the seafloor. Once the hook is free, the crew can reengage the windlass, keeping a constant eye on things to ensure that the anchor roller or bow section isn’t damaged by overstraining the system once the anchor is on board.

If used properly, ­windlasses can greatly simplify anchor retrieval, but it goes without saying, just as with any high-torque system, it’s ­critical to pay attention and keep one’s hands clear of lines and ­moving parts.

As with all electrical ­systems, windlasses require DC juice. In a retrofit, this means an owner will ­typically have to run two, or ­possibly three, heavy-gauge cables forward to the bow from the house batteries. If you have a bow thruster installed that’s serviced by a local battery, this well of DC ­power can ­service the windlass too. The experts stressed the ­importance of situating a suitably sized windlass ­breaker as close to the battery as ­possible. “The circuit ­breaker ­protects the wires and the windlass ­motor,” Thomas says, advising that it’s wise to use thermal breakers.


Given that boatyards typically require two days of labor to install a windlass aboard a 40-footer, it’s tempting for do-it-yourselfers to tackle a windlass refit on their own. “It’s pretty straightforward, but you need to be comfortable cutting holes in fiberglass,” Schutz says, ­adding that vertical windlasses ­usually necessitate ­larger apertures. “It’s not super easy, but if you’re comfortable with power tools, it’s not a deal-breaker. Running the wires is the hardest part.”

Maintenance is the last ­major consideration. Aside from keeping the rode clean and occasionally rinsing it with fresh water, it’s important to use your windlass several times per season (more is better) to ensure that the lubricating oil inside the windlass’s case is evenly distributed along its internal worm drive. “The worm gear is set in oil halfway,” Cook says. “The worm gear can rust out above the oil” if it’s not regularly used. Cook also suggested periodically checking your windlass’s seals to ensure that water isn’t entering the casing and affecting internal oil levels. Schutz recommends that owners with vertical windlasses keep the belowdecks componentry properly painted to avoid rust or ­corrosion—in other words, touch up nicks and dings. Thomas also recommends keeping the system’s clutch cones clean and greased. 

Provided that users apply proper care and maintenance, a modern windlass should ­provide years of great service. And while there’s no ­escaping the added bow weight, this matters only if you’re more ­interested in winning pickle dishes than enjoying peaceful nights in beautiful locales with your friends and family. 

David Schmidt is CW ’s ­electronics editor and occasionally writes on other gear topics.

Vendor List

Bainbridge distributes Italwinch: bainbridgeintusa.com/italwinch from $1,060.

Imtra offers windlasses from Muir and Lofrans: imtra.com ; from $1,200.

Lewmar: lewmar.com from $1,000.

Vetus distributes Maxwell windlasses: vetus-maxwell.com from $2,210.

Quick Spa: quickitaly.com from $1,500.

Schaefer Marine carries the Ideal windlass brand: schaefermarine.com from $4,000.

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How to Install an Electric Windlass

  • By Jim Hendricks
  • Updated: August 23, 2017

There are two types of electric anchor windlasses: horizontal-gypsy models with the unit fully enclosed above deck and vertical-gypsy models with much of the unit concealed below deck.

Both automaticaly feed line and chain into the rode locker. We chose the Pro-Fish 1000 horizontal windlass from Lewmar ( lewmar.com ), which has a free-fall function. This feature lets you drop anchor quickly, allowing more precise anchoring than slower “power-out” models, but requires a deeper rode locker to prevent tangles. It is suitable for boats to 38 feet in length.

1. Mounting of the Windlass Select a mounting location on the bow that allows the rode to drop directly into the anchor locker and also puts the gypsy in a straight line with the anchor roller. The minimum anchor-locker depth is 12 inches to the top of the rode pile. Use the supplied template to cut the holes to feed the rode into the locker and to accommodate the wires and the three supplied mounting studs. If the deck is not flat, create fairing blocks for both the top and underside of the deck. Also consider a backing plate made of aluminum or plywood. Secure the studs inside the windlass with Loctite. A rubber gasket seal fits between the windlass and the mounting surface.

2. Up/Down Contactor Installation We ordered an optional up/down contactor (part 68000939) that allows for multiple control switches and relays 12-volt power from the battery to the windlass. This allows control from the helm and from on the bow. The contactor needs to be installed vertically in a dry area. We through-bolted ours to a bulkhead in the bow and connected the wires from the windlass to the output studs on the contactor.

Quick tip: To resist corrosion, use tinned-copper marine wire and marine-grade connectors with heat-shrink nylon sleeves. Also, enclose all connections with heat-shrink tubing.

3. Bow Switch There are a number of optional bow switches, but we chose a hard-wired, waterproof, hand-held control (part 68000599) with a coiled electrical cord. When not in use, it can be snapped into a vertical bracket (which we mounted inside the anchor locker) or unplugged and stowed. We wired it to switching posts on the contactor.

4. Helm Switch The Pro-Fish 1000 comes with an up/down rocker switch. Using the supplied template, we cut a rectangular mounting hole near the helm and drilled four holes for the supplied screws to install the switch. We then extended its two size 14 American wire gauge (AWG) wires and snaked them forward to connect to switching studs on the contactor.

5. Power Delivery A windlass requires heavy-gauge cable from the battery to the contactor. Lewmar provides charts to determine cable size. Our run of 25 feet called for size 4 AWG cable for both the positive and negative feeds. For circuit protection, the positive cable must be fed through a supplied 70-amp breaker switch, which also allows you to shut off power to the windlass.

6. The Right Rode The gypsy on the Pro-Fish 1000 is designed to fit 9/16-inch three-strand or eight-plait line and 5/16-inch G4 chain. To function properly, it also requires a rope-to-chain splice. You can buy a pre-made windlass rode ($284.99 for 200 feet, westmarine.com).

For more on horizontal versus vertical windlasses, visit boatingmag.com/windlass .

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The Marine Mag

5 Best Anchor Windlass – (Reviews & Buying Guide 2021)

Imagine that you’re in the sea for an entire day—fishing, diving, or just enjoying some quality time alone. You sail to get home after the long and tiring day. When you reach the port, you press a button to drop your anchor and go back home. No time or more energy wasted to pull down your anchor. It’s possible with the right anchor windlass.

Our team at The Marine Mag has done the research, collected useful facts, and has also prepared some  anchor windlass reviews . We want to help you, our readers, on your journey to finding the best products and devices to equip your boat. This post is meant to help you find the  best anchor windlass  for your vessel.

Best Anchor Windlass Comparison Chart

Best anchor windlass (top picks ).

The following reviews are not in a particular order. Check them out and see for yourself the pros and cons of these top-selling anchor windlasses.

1. Lewmar Vertical Windlasses

Lewmar Vertical Windlasses

You can use this product with boats which are up to 35 feet long. The windlass is equipped with a breaker, a rocker switch, a control arm, a clutch wretch, a dual-direction solenoid, an under mounting plate, a mounting gasket, and a cutout template.

In addition to this, if you cannot afford to give the whole amount of money to pay for this product, leasing can be arranged. Doing so, you will provide smaller quantities of money every month for half a year, and this won’t increase the initial price. If you want to benefit from this opportunity, the only requirement is to be approved for an Amazon store card.

  • Thanks to this windlass, anchoring is already an easy task.
  • Everything necessary for its installation is included.
  • Lewmar offers a 5-year warranty.
  • The unit of this windlass is made of stainless steel, which is considered to be a durable material.
  • This item doesn’t come with foot controls.

2. Lewmar Windlass – Anchr ProSport

Lewmar Windlass - Anchr ProSport

Despite its price, this windlass is actually a budget-friendly option because it consumes a small amount of energy. Since the manufacturers are aware that you may not have all the money to pay the product upon purchase, they offer you the opportunity to make equal monthly payments for six months with 0% interest. The only condition to be able to do this is to get an Amazon store card.

Keep in mind that this windlass is suitable for boats that are up to 40 feet long, and its maximum pulling power is 550 lbs. Another advantage of this product is that it comes with everything necessary for its installation – a base gasket, fast mounting studs, an installation wretch, a toggle switch, and a circuit breaker.

  • Since this windlass features low power consumption, it is a budget-friendly option.
  • For your convenience, you can install this item above the deck.
  • A dual-direction power operation characterizes this product.
  • Everything needed for installing this windlass comes with it.
  • This item doesn’t feature a free-fall, which you can remotely control. In other words, it can be manually operated to free fall.

3. Maxwell Windlass

Maxwell Windlass

Another benefit of this product is that its installation is very easy as the item consists only of two parts. Thanks to its special spacer tube, this windlass can be installed through any deck thickness. If you need to disassemble the unit, you can easily do this by using the handle, screwdriver and Allen key provided with the item. This windlass has proven long term durability because of the fact that it is made of stainless steel. You can operate this tool manually if you want it to free fall.

  • Thanks to the clear instructions, the installation of this product are very easy.
  • The maximum pulling power of this tool is twice one of the similar products.
  • You can be sure that this item is going to last for a long time as it is made of durable stainless steel.
  • Disassembling the unit is also not a challenge, as you have all the necessary tools for it provided.
  • You have to purchase the rope and chain separately, which will add to the initial cost of the product.

4. Five Oceans Horizontal Anchor Windlass

Five Oceans Horizontal Anchor Windlass

Another advantage of this product is that it is very durable as it is made of stainless steel. This windlass is suitable for boats that are up to 35 feet long. Everything needed for the installation of this item comes with it – a circuit breaker, a solenoid, a rocker switch, and a deck footswitch. Receiving all these tools in the package of the windlass, you will save a lot of money.

Keep in mind that with the horizontal units, the whole windlass remains above the deck. If you follow the given instructions and template, the installation of this unit should take you about an hour.

  • This item features a very powerful 600W motor.
  • You can use this windlass with three-strands, eight-plate and double-braided ropes.
  • The durability of the item is ensured by the fact that it is made of stainless steel.
  • Everything needed for the installation of this windlass comes with it.
  • This product doesn’t feature a free fall. However, it drops and retrieves very fast.

5. Five Oceans Vertical Anchor Windlass

Five Oceans Vertical Anchor Windlass

Thanks to this motor, the Five Oceans product can provide a maximum pulling power of 1450 pounds, and a maximum line speed of 131feet per minute.  You can use this windlass with double-braided, eight-plate, and three-strands ropes. Keep in mind that this item is suitable for boats that are up to 35 feet long.

Like most of the other similar products, this one is also made of stainless steel, which ensures that it is sturdy and durable. Unlike other windlasses, this one has a free-fall feature, and it comes with a helm switch. For your convenience, this windlass comes with a ready mounting template.

  • This windlass has a very powerful motor – a 900W one.
  • Thanks to the stainless steel it is made of, this product is very durable.
  • The Five Oceans windlass features a free-fall mechanism.
  • All you need for the installation of this item comes with it.

Horizontal or Vertical Windlass

Best Anchor Windlass

  • Horizontal windlasses are the ones that stay above the deck only. These are suitable for smaller boats, even though they take up more space on deck. These windlasses provide a 90-degree wrap of the locker. Such devices require a minimum of 12 inches fall in order to stack the anchor rode adequately.
  • Vertical devices are positioned both on top and below the deck. These provide a 180-degree wrap of the anchor rode and are more stable than horizontal ones. Such windlasses are suitable for larger boats that allow for a fall of a minimum of 18 inches.

To know which one is suitable for your boat, measure the distance from the top anchor locker to the top anchor rode. The result is the ‘fall’ which your boat allows. Based on the number, you can choose which the right type is for you.


If you go with a horizontal windlass, you shouldn’t have a problem with its installation. The only thing you need to do is drill holes onto your boat so that you can position and bolt it down. On the other hand, if you have to install a vertical one, you will need to make a large enough hole to insert the windlass below the deck.

Furthermore, it also matters whether your device is manual or electric. For the latter, you have to figure out and install the wiring. If you’re not sure of your capabilities, because  electrical windlass installation is complicated , you can always hire a professional to do the job.

Types of Anchor Windlasses

Based on your boat type and size and your budget, you can choose one of three anchor windlasses types:

  • Manual devices are the simplest and most affordable ones. As the name suggests, these do not require any wiring or plumbing. These are the most useful for small boats that don’t have much battery power. Using such a device makes anchoring by hand easier than without a windlass. These devices are available with two types – one uses a back and forth motion, and the other a circular one.
  • Hydraulic windlasses are the most complicated to install. However, they offer unlimited power, and you don’t have to worry about draining your batteries. They require a hydraulic system within the vessel to power them. These are incredibly efficient and are often used on large yachts and boats.
  • Electric windlasses are relatively compact. They are powered by the vessel’s existing electrical system. These devices are probably the most powerful ones, a range of boat types and sizes. Electric windlasses have excellent lifting power, and using one makes anchoring effortless and straightforward. All you do is press a button. However, this type only works when there’s power on the boat. To avoid awkward and unpleasant situations, you may need to install a dedicated battery for the windlass.

How to Choose an Anchor Windlass

Anchor Windlass Reviews

Pulling Power

This is the performance of the windlass and is the most crucial factor when choosing a device. To calculate the windlass’ pulling power that will be enough for your boat and anchor, you should:

  • Combine the weight of the anchor and its chain or rope. The result is the ground tackle.
  • Then, multiply that number three times, and you will receive the maximum strength your windlass must-have.

The calculations are measured in pounds. For example, if your anchor weighs 66 lbs, the chain and rope weigh 126 lbs, the ground tackle is 192 lbs. Multiplying this number by three, and you need a windlass with maximum pull power of 576 lbs.

The second thing to keep in mind is the gypsy. It may be small, but it’s an essential part of the windlass that does an important job. The gypsy is the rotating part of the device, usually designed for the exact size of the chain. So, take a look at each product’s gypsy specifications because your rod type may not be a match. Even though some models may have automatic handling of a rope-chain rode, not all do. However, most products are suitable for a variety of gypsies.

It is vital to match the windlass to the gypsy, and then to the anchor rode because otherwise, you’re risking one of the three to wear out fast.

Anchor Rod Type

This is the other important factor to consider before choosing a windlass. As you may or may not know, there are three types of anchor rods:

  • A rope is the most affordable option and is commonly used on small boats only. It is only natural because the rope isn’t as sturdy as a chain, or a combination of both. This type may be more suitable for manual windlasses, which are also for smaller vessels.
  • Chain only is perfect for large vessels. Naturally, it is more durable and more expensive. It also makes the anchor heavier, and you need a powerful and sturdy windlass to pull their combined weight.
  • Chain and rope is probably the most popular type since it allows for more length. Plus, this type is very powerful at holding the anchor and pulling it. However, there are some ups and downs to this type of anchor rod. You should take a look at our  guide on getting the top anchor ropes and chains for more detailed information. Furthermore, you should maintain your chain and rope combo because it may chafe.

Safety Tips  

Using an anchor windlass isn’t a joke and should be handled with care and diligence. So, we have some safety tips for you.

  • Use chain stoppers and chain snubbers. They prevent accidental self-launching of the anchor, which also keeps your windlass safe.
  • If such isn’t available, you should make sure that when your anchor is up, and the windlass is not in use, the rope rode is attached to a load-bearing point. That is also a way to prevent the anchor from unexpectedly deploying.
  • For electrical devices, always shut off the circuit breaker when you are working on your windlass and when you’re not using it.
  • Make sure to tie the rode to a strong point when you’re at anchor.

Common Problems with Anchor Windlasses

These aren’t meant to be considered as disadvantages. We simply want to include all sides of these devices, and the common problems you may encounter using them shouldn’t be left out.

  • Sometimes hydraulic windlasses may have a problem with cable wires, which cause a motor failure when you’re trying to weigh down the anchor.
  • Bad weather and sea conditions may cause problems for the windlass. That is, flying debris can injure the device. Also, make sure the anchor is retracted or down completely when the sea conditions begin to worsen.
  • Another common problem is that chrome windlasses flake off the upper friction of the gypsy. Then, the chain or rope start slipping and are hard to deploy or retract.
  • After you replace the windlass, the chain or rope may begin jamming in the new gypsy.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is a Chain Stopper Necessary?

It is good to have one regardless of the type or model of your windlass. Some may not require a chain stopper, if they are powerful enough or if you’re using a strong point to tie your anchor.

Do I Need Any Other Accessories?

It depends on your situation, vessel, anchor rode. Aside from the device, you may also need to purchase: chain stopper, circuit breakers, toggle switch, wires, a news anchor rode, etc. However, if your boat has everything ready and you just need the windlass, you won’t have to invest in additional items. What is more, if you are looking for an anchor as well as a windlass, be sure to check our top boat anchor reviews and buying guide , so you can easily pick the right one for your vessel.

We must end our comprehensive guide here. Now that you’ve reached its end, you are more aware of what the  best anchor windlass  for your boat is. As you see, we at The Marine Mag strive to provide our readers with easy-to-digest information on various marine equipment. We also do our best to deliver up-to-date information, and we also regularly update our  anchor windlass reviews .

So, please, if you found our post useful, say a few nice words in the comments below. Also, if you have some questions or any other kind of feedback that you wish to share with us, feel free to do so. We would greatly appreciate it.

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Electric Windlasses for anchoring are standard equipment for most new sailing yachts and motorboats.

Upgrades on older yachts are increasingly popular with the advent of improved DC electric charging systems and the tendency towards longer lengths of anchor chain.

The Jimmy Green Team can advise you on all the options regarding your anchoring system, whether you are looking for a suitable matching component to replace a part of the existing setup or starting afresh.

Team Jimmy Green can help you match a new or replacement windlass to your existing chain and anchor, advising you on all aspects of the selection process, including the calibration of the gypsy and all the accessories required to finish the installation.

Team Jimmy Green can also provide you with all the necessary information to determine the optimum new windlass, including suggestions for your corresponding anchor rode setup, i.e. chain, warp, combinations, connectors, shackles and anchors.

Select from four top-quality windlass manufacturers: Lofrans, Lewmar, Maxwell and Quick. Each brand also has a wide range of Windlass Accessories, including Chain Counters, Foot Switches, Control Boxes, Circuit Breakers, Remote Controls, Handles, Maintenance Kits and Spare Parts.

The Windlass Selection Guide provides more information about windlass selection criteria, and you will find more specific information for each manufacturer in their category below.

Boat Length (Windlasses)

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yacht electric windlass

Lofrans X2 Vertical Windlass

Quick prince dp2 vertical windlass, lofrans x1 vertical windlass.

yacht electric windlass

Lewmar VX2+ Vertical Windlass

Lofrans kobra horizontal windlass, lofrans royal manual horizontal windlass, lofrans dorado horizontal windlass, lofrans x3 vertical windlass, lofrans falkon horizontal windlass, lofrans cayman horizontal windlass, lofrans tigres horizontal windlass, lewmar v700 vertical windlass.

A Guide to Yacht Windlass and Anchoring Systems

  • by yachtman
  • September 20, 2023 August 26, 2023

yacht electric windlass

Yacht windlass and anchoring systems are a must-have for sailing fans. These complex mechanisms ensure safety and stability during seafaring adventures. Here, we’ll take a look at the intricate details of these systems, their purpose, and their place in history.

When sailing, a dependable yacht windlass is key for securely anchoring the vessel. By expertly deploying and retrieving anchors, it brings peace of mind to sailors in choppy waters. Plus, these strong systems help reinforce safety measures on board. Knowing the ins and outs of yacht windlasses gives sailors the confidence to make good decisions when navigating rough seas.

Not only do yacht windlasses offer great functionality, they also feature impressive engineering feats achieved over the years. From manual winches to modern hydraulic or electric models, they showcase ongoing innovation driven by the desire to up the sailing game. This has resulted in a wide range of options, so sailors can find the right windlass to suit their needs.

Looking back, we see fascinating stories about yacht windlasses and anchoring systems. The journey from primitive contraptions to advanced machinery is rooted in centuries of maritime exploration and trade. The tales of brave seafarers relying on these mechanisms are a testament to human ingenuity and determination.

Whether you’re a professional sailor seeking top-notch gear or a passionate enthusiast on a leisurely journey, understanding yacht windlass and anchoring systems is vital. Exploring their complexities reveals a world of function and finesse – where engineering prowess guards against the unexpected forces of nature. Prepare for a captivating journey through the realm of maritime excellence in this article.

Understanding Yacht Windlass and Anchoring Systems

Yacht Windlass and Anchoring Systems are important for a safe experience on board any seafaring vessel. It helps to know their components, functions, and importance.

Components like the Windlass, Anchor, Chain/Rope, Gypsy, and Control System are the foundations of these systems. But, different yachts can have variations in design and equipment. Larger vessels may need more robust windlasses and anchor chains.

Electric Windlasses , with powerful motors, are modern advancements. They offer more convenience and efficiency than manual windlasses. Plus, they need to be durable enough to withstand harsh weather and saltwater.

Masthea.com provides expert advice on choosing the ideal Windlass and Anchoring Systems, based on vessel requirements. Knowing how these systems work helps yacht owners to select and maintain them in the best possible way.

Types of Yacht Windlass Systems

Yacht windlass systems come in many shapes and sizes. Let’s explore some of the popular ones available. Manuals are operated by hand, with a crank or lever. Electric ones are powered by electricity and automated. Hydraulic ones use hydraulic power, and are often found on commercial yachts.

Combination windlasses offer both manual and electric power sources. This is great for power outages or emergencies. Vertical windlasses save space and are easy to install – they’re becoming more and more popular.

Invest in a reliable system for your yacht. It’ll give you peace of mind during your sailing adventures. Check out the perfect windlass system today!

Components of Yacht Windlass Systems

A yacht windlass system is an assembly of essential components that work together for efficient anchoring. These components include an anchor, chain, windlass unit, clutch/brake, and electrical power source .

See this table for a breakdown of the system’s components:

Modern yacht windlass systems can have advanced features such as remote control, auto anchor deployment, and chain counters. Investing in high-quality components will make your boating experience safer and easier. Don’t miss out on equipping your yacht with a top-notch windlass system. Upgrade now for effortless anchoring and heightened safety on board. Take action today and let your sailing adventures thrive!

Choosing the Right Yacht Windlass System

It’s vital to pick the right yacht windlass system for smooth anchoring. Boat size, anchor type, and power requirements impact your selection. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Option 1: Small boat – Danforth anchor – Manual power.
  • Option 2: Medium boat – Plow anchor – Electric power.
  • Option 3: Big boat – Claw anchor – Hydraulic power.

Weigh these factors when selecting a yacht windlass system. For added guidance, consult experts or experienced sailors—they can provide invaluable advice.

Installation Guide for Yacht Windlass Systems

  • Positioning: Pick a spot on the deck with enough space for the anchor and chain.
  • Preparation: Make sure you have all the necessary tools and check compatibility.
  • Mounting: Securely fix the windlass to the deck using bolts or screws.
  • Wiring: Connect the system to the yacht’s electrical system, using marine grade wire and connectors.
  • Chain Integration: Attach the chain to the windlass using the right gypsy or drum mechanism. Test it by raising and lowering a few times.
  • Safety Measures: Install a circuit breaker, overload protection and an emergency stop switch.
  • Consult Professionals: Get help from experienced sailors or technicians for guidance specific to your yacht model or brand.
  • Sail Smoothly: Install for a smooth sailing experience and enhanced maneuverability.
  • Enjoy Hassle-Free Anchoring: Take action now and install a high-quality windlass system for peace of mind during every voyage!

Proper Use and Maintenance of Yacht Windlass Systems

Yacht windlass systems need proper use and care for a smooth sailing and anchoring experience. To grasp this concept better, here’s a table of key factors:

Plus, only trained personnel should operate the system to avoid serious accidents.

For example, I once knew a yacht owner who neglected maintenance. In a crucial anchoring situation, the system malfunctioned due to debris and lack of lubrication. The yacht drifted, damaging other boats. This costly lesson highlighted the importance of regularly taking care of yacht windlass systems.

Safety Considerations and Tips

Safety is top priority when it comes to yacht windlass and anchoring systems . To ensure a pleasant sailing experience, consider and adhere to safety measures and tips. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Use proper gear: Invest in quality anchor chains, ropes, shackles, and swivels that can withstand force. Inspect and replace any damaged equipment regularly.
  • Familiarize with area: Know the area where you plan to anchor. Be aware of potential hazards like rocks, coral reefs, or underwater cables that could be a threat.
  • Check weather: Before dropping anchor, check for changes in wind direction or strength. Storms or strong wind can put strain on your anchoring system.
  • Anchor securely: Let out enough scope for the depth and expected conditions. As a rule of thumb use five to seven times the depth for chain rode, or seven to ten times for all rope rode.
  • Have a backup plan: Carry additional anchors or alternative methods like using multiple anchors. This will provide extra security in case of unexpected circumstances.
  • Stay vigilant: Monitor your position while at anchor and be prepared to take action if you start drifting or dragging. Check your anchoring system throughout your journey.

Also, know local rules and regulations regarding anchoring. This can help avoid legal issues.

Yachting has seen many changes over time. In the past, sailors used manual labor for hoisting anchors, but motorized windlasses are now the norm, reducing physical strain.

Though safety considerations and tips have stayed constant, modern windlass systems have revolutionized boating. Now, sailors can anchor their vessels securely with minimal effort, allowing them to enjoy their time at sea without compromising safety.

By following safety considerations and tips, and taking advantage of modern anchoring systems, sailors can navigate the waters with confidence, ensuring a great yacht experience.

This guide reveals all you need to know about yacht windlass and anchoring systems . Have a look at the types, components, and maintenance tips to make an informed decision when buying your vessel’s equipment.

We’ve checked out the importance of picking the right windlass for your boat size, anchor weight, and anchoring method. Looked at the advantages and limitations of vertical and horizontal windlasses.

Discussed the wildcat (gypsy) and drum components of a windlass system. And gone over considerations when choosing an anchor. Also shared installation techniques for optimal performance and safety.

Plus, given maintenance tips and troubleshooting advice to help yacht owners extend their windlass lifespan. Cleaning, lubrication, and inspection routines need regular attention to stop wear and malfunction.

Time is precious! Get seamless anchoring with a dependable yacht windlass system. Take action now for boating experiences with peace of mind and effortless anchoring.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ 1: What is a yacht windlass?

Answer: A yacht windlass is a mechanical device specifically designed for anchoring systems on boats and yachts. It is responsible for raising, lowering, and storing the anchor and its chain or rope.

FAQ 2: How does a yacht windlass work?

Answer: A yacht windlass works by utilizing an electric or hydraulic motor to turn a drum or gypsy, which then pulls in or releases the anchor chain or rope. It is operated through a control system, allowing the captain or crew to handle anchoring without much effort.

FAQ 3: What are the key components of a yacht windlass system?

Answer: The key components of a yacht windlass system include the windlass unit itself, an electric or hydraulic motor, a drum or gypsy, a chain wheel or wildcat, a control panel, and appropriate switches. Some systems may also have a remote control option.

FAQ 4: What features should I consider when choosing a yacht windlass?

Answer: When choosing a yacht windlass, consider factors such as the boat’s size and weight, the type and size of anchor chain or rope, the power source (electric or hydraulic), the speed and power of the windlass, and the available space for installation.

FAQ 5: How do I maintain a yacht windlass system?

Answer: Regular maintenance of a yacht windlass system is crucial for its optimal performance. This includes cleaning and lubricating the components, checking for any wear or damage, tightening bolts and connections, and ensuring proper electrical or hydraulic system functioning.

FAQ 6: Are there any safety precautions associated with yacht windlass systems?

Answer: Yes, safety precautions should be followed when using a yacht windlass. These include wearing protective gloves and eyewear, keeping hands and clothing away from moving parts, using proper anchoring techniques, and reading and understanding the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines.

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Windlass guide

Windlass guide

Any kind of anchor manoeuvre that is done without mechanical assistance requires great strength. If you can't get the anchor to set on the first attempt, and it has to be raised and lowered several times, doing so manually can quickly become a real workout for any crew. Having a mechanical windlass on board, with which you can hoist your anchor and chain either with a handle or at the push of a button is therefore a must on any boat over a certain size. It's important to know what type of windlass is right for you, as this depends on size, power and shape and should be appropriate to your type of boat and where you are taking it.

In our windlass guide, we hope you will find all the answers to the most important questions and plenty of helpful tips!

Table of Contents

Mounting a windlass, manual and electric windlasses, horizontal and vertical windlasses, operation & installation, using a manual or electric windlass, gypsy / wildcat, choosing and installing a windlass, installing an electric windlass, manufacturers, material and specifications, where is the best place to mount a windlass.

An anchor windlass is a type of winch that is located on the foredeck of the boat. It is used to raise or drop the anchor quickly, easily and reliably. It can either have a vertical or horizontal axis and can be operated with a small motor ( electric windlass ) or a crank/handle ( manual windlass ) bedient werden kann. Some windlasses are also operated hydraulically, although these are usually only found on larger vessels and are not common in recreational boating.


What is the difference between a manual and electric windlass?

Manual windlasses are lighter and cheaper than electric windlasses . They are operated by turning a handle so that you can effortlessly raise your heavy anchor, albeit slightly slowly. Perfect if you have no battery or generator on board. A hand-powered windlass is also easier to install. However, if your boat has enough space and power to operate one, you can’t go wrong with an electric windlass - it makes it easier to perform anchor manoeuvres single-handedly, plus you can raise the anchor much faster. These are ideal if your boat is over ten metres and has more than 10 kilograms of anchor equipment (chain 8 millimetres).

However, some models do not have an emergency manual override function, which means that if electric operation fails, the chain has to be hoisted by hand.

Anchor windlass

Image of TIGRES Windlass

Operation and function of a windlass

How does an anchor windlass work.

An anchor windlass consists of a chain wheel or mooring drum and gypsy, which are driven by a series of gears to increase the force many times over. In an electric windlass, a gearmotor is used instead of muscle power. When the gypsy rotates, the links of the chain interlock and the anchor is hoisted. The chain is slowly fed through the hawse and into the chain locker. The windlass has a strong brake whose holding force is always less than the chain breaking load. When dropping anchor, the brake can be used to stop quickly, provided there is enough chain length in the water. A chain stopper, pawl bar or 'Devil’s Claw' is used to hold the anchor rode in place.

Chain Stopper

Image of Chain Stopper

What is a horizontal windlass and what is a vertical windlass?

There are typically two basic types of anchor windlass: vertical or horizontal . With a horizontal windlass , the main shaft goes horizontally across the windlass, in a vertical windlass, the shaft is mounted vertically. Both have advantages and disadvantages. With vertical windlasses, more of the unit is hidden below deck, and often only the small stainless-steel housing is visible on the foredeck. However, this requires sufficient space in the chain locker to house not only the rode, but also an electric motor and gearbox. If space is limited here, the drive unit could take up too much space below deck and impair cabin space and comfort. Horizontal windlasses , where the motor and gearbox are housed in an enclosure on deck, are a good solution if space is an issue.

Whether you choose a horizontal or vertical windlass mainly depends on the space you have on the deck and in the chain locker. If the chain locker is very shallow, horizontal windlasses are more suitable. The chain then runs vertically from the gypsy down into the chain locker, leaving a few important centimetres of headroom (drop height). When the chain locker is full, there should be at least 40 cm of drop height so that the hanging part of the chain is heavy enough to pull it down. Otherwise, the entire system can jam should a mountain of rode build up. Stainless steel chain is good if space is limited in your chain locker. As it is smoother, it tends to spread better in the locker. With a vertical windlass, the anchor rode makes a 180 degree wrap around the gypsy and is more secure should it unexpectedly slip. On the other hand, on a horizontal windlass, the rode enters the gypsy, makes a 90 degree turn and feeds into the anchor locker, using only half the bearing area. Many models feature an extra capstan, which can be used to wrap a line around and bring in, for example.

Horizontal windlasses

Image of FALKON Windlass

What is a capstan?

Some winches may have a capstan for hauling in ropes, which is either mounted on the side or on top, depending on the model and manufacturer. It can be used to pull in your dock lines and facilitates mooring manoeuvres, especially in strong winds. Sometimes a capstan is also used to haul in an anchor line. However, a windlass without a capstan head is more compact and sometimes more suitable, at least for sailing boats, because it could get in the way of the foot of the foresail. On top of that, a capstan is potentially unnecessary as there are usually enough winches on deck.

How is a windlass operated?

While a manual windlass must always be operated by a person at the bow of the ship, an electric windlass can be controlled by a relay that is activated via a control unit that can, in principle, be located anywhere on board. There could be a simple switch located near the winch, or more sensibly, directly at the helm. This is a good way of operating the windlass single-handedly, but does depend on reliable function of the anchor and bow roller. Electric windlasses with a remote control are now also available and widely used. These are either wired and connected to a socket in the anchor locker or are wireless. The advantage of radio remote controlled windlasses is that they can be operated from anywhere on the boat. A further advantage compared to wired versions, is that cables and sockets tend to get damaged easily which can result in malfunction. Some modern windlasses also feature a chain counter, which is shown either on a display at the helm or on the hand-held remote control .

Hand-held remote control

Image of Type L Control Panel

The remote control can also be used to release the brake on some models. In this case, we recommend electric anchor winches with a motor that can turn in both directions in a controlled manner. They may cost a little more, but an anchor manoeuvre can be carried out with much greater control. Moreover, quickly lowering the anchor chain and letting it fall freely puts enormous strain on the windlass and should be avoided. In general, experts recommend not to overload the expensive mechanics unnecessarily. The windlass itself should not be used to pull the boat towards the anchor when retrieving, always motor up to anchor. Use the engine to hold the boat while at anchor. When retrieving, keep the engine running to ensure a stable power supply. Windlasses are not designed to break out a heavy anchor that is firmly set. In this case, move the boat so that the anchor chain is at short haul and use a chain stopper to relieve the strain on the windlass. Short haul is when the boat is directly over the anchor, so that the chain is running almost vertically down. A chain stopper is a fitting used to secure the anchor chain when riding at anchor and prevent it from slipping. The anchor can then be broken free by moving the boat back and forth using the engine, or sometimes it is the motion of the boat on the waves with the chain taught that frees it. Once the anchor is released, the windlass bears only the weight of the anchor hanging freely on the rode.

anchor winches

What is a windlass gypsy and how do I know what size sprocket I need? (What are the norms?)

Anchor chains come in standard sizes that must match that of your gypsy. In Germany, chains are manufactured according to the industry standard DIN 766. Chains from other European countries often correspond to the ISO standard 4565. DIN sizes correspond to uniform dimensions that have been established according to the German Institute for Standardisation (DIN). The International Organisation for Standardisation, ISO for short (from Greek isos = equal), is a corresponding international standardisation organisation. Outside Europe, chains are commonly measured in inches. According to DIN and ISO, six and eight millimetre thick chains are identical. Differences in classification only exist from a size of ten millimetres of steel chain. For rode that is a combination of chain and rope, special combo-gypsies can haul in both chain and rope without needing to awkwardly transfer the rope-chain splice part of the rode to the other side of the windlass. However, a special splice is required for this.

Gipsy & equipment

Image of ISO Gypsy for DP3 / 10 mm ISO

How do I choose the right windlass and can I retrofit one on my boat? What power does my windlass need (watts), how powerful does my windlass have to be (pulling force)?

A windlass – whether manual or electric - can be retrofitted or replaced by the owner. When choosing a windlass you'll need to consider the overall length of your boat and its displacement. For a 10-metre sailing yacht, the power of the windlass should be about 700 to 1000 watts. Many manufacturers provide tables for calculating the necessary power. For the greatest possible safety, the traction capacity (pulling force) of the windlass must be at least three times the total weight of the anchor and anchor chain (or line and chain) and swivel/shackle. Some manufacturers even recommend this to be four times. If you want minimum wear and a long service life, we recommend an even higher working load. This will also provide additional safety and ensure that your windlass and equipment will perform well even in difficult situations. Furthermore, the stronger your windlass, the easier it will be to perform anchoring manoeuvres. If weight and space requirements and the size of your wallet are not an issue, don't try and save a few euros when choosing an anchor windlass, experts advise.

Many manufacturers specify the so-called "breakaway force" of their products. This refers to the force that a winch can briefly exert to release the anchor from the bottom. However, since it is not advisable to use the windlass to break an anchor free, you should really focus on pulling power when choosing a windlass. As previously mentioned, it's always better to haul the anchor short and use a chain stopper if the anchor doesn't come loose straight away. Once you have made the above calculations, you can choose your model. Experts advise making a template before buying or installing to check whether the windlass you want will fit at all. For vertical windlasses, the motor can always be rotated in some way. However, here you have to be careful that it doesn't block the anchor locker or prevent the chain from running freely through the hawse into the locker. When assembling and installing your windlass, make sure that the anchor chain can be pulled in safely by the windlass and that you can make adjustments if necessary. If you have any doubts, we highly recommend consulting an experienced marine technician or engineer.

How is an electric windlass installed?

An input power of 1000 watts or more is the norm for an electric windlass on medium-sized boats. This means a current of over 80 amps at 12 volts nominal voltage. If you want to use your consumer battery to supply this power, hefty cables with large cross-sections of 35 or even 50 square millimetres are required. It is therefore sometimes better to have a separate battery near the bow, charged by the alternator via an isolating relay. You can use a relatively inexpensive starter battery for this, as it won't be subject to high demands (shallow discharge, used for short periods). However, a sealed battery should be used on sailboats due to heeling. We advise an AGM battery as they are stronger, although more expensive. Experts recommend using the on-board 24 v power supply only on large boats with several electric winches and long cable runs. With double the voltage, the amperage is halved for the same power, which allows for a smaller conductor cross-section and also smaller fuses.

What is the best construction material for an anchor windlass, what manufacturers are there and what's the difference?

There are many suppliers and manufacturers of powerful manual and electric windlasses on the market . Well-known manufacturers of quality winches are Lofrans, Lewmar, Quick, Andersen or Maxwell Marine to name but a few. They all have powerful windlasses in their range. While similar in design, they do differ in construction material. Many windlasses are made of seawater-resistant, anodised aluminium. Some housings are made of chrome-plated aluminium, which makes them impact-resistant and weatherproof. Gypsies can be made of chrome-plated bronze, stainless steel or extremely robust special plastic. Lofrans windlasses are amongst the highest quality, with powerful models that are very popular on recreational boats. Their housings are usually made of silver anodised aluminium alloy and the drive parts of stainless steel. Lofrans also has versions where the gypsy is made of titanium. You can find more important hints and tips on „ anchor lines and chains “ in our guide!

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Ocean Navigator

Servicing your electric anchor windlass

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An electric anchor windlass is a standard piece of gear on a power voyaging yacht. One of its great advantages — other than pulling up the anchor for you — is that it requires practically no periodic maintenance other than an occasional fresh water rinse, and in the longer term, an oil change. But even though it is likely one of the more reliable machines on your power voyaging boat, you should still know how to perform basic winch maintenance. After all, when you need to reset your anchor at oh-dark thirty when the wind is howling, you certainly want it to work properly.

But before you tear into your windlass, do yourself a big favor and order a replacement seal kit for your particular windlass. The Internet will provide sources of parts, and also drawings or diagrams of your windlass. While this article is specific to the Lofrans Tigres windlass we own, it is of general use, as most electric windlasses follow the same general construction.

Lofrans recommends that the lubricating oil be changed every four years, and that’s where the fun begins. There’s no drain plug, only a filler hole and a sight glass for the oil level. To remove the old oil, the windlass must be unbolted from its mounting on the foredeck and physically inverted to pour out the oil through the fill hole. While going to that amount of effort, removing the electric motor to inspect the brushes and drive gear is relatively easy, and also a wise thing to do. Be sure to pour out the oil before unbolting the motor, lest the oil come out with the motor! Collect the old oil and inspect it carefully for metal particles or water. If the oil is cloudy, then you have a water problem.

Label the wires Three bolts hold the motor to the windlass housing, and the three electric cables are easily removed from the motor. You will wisely label the wires before removing them. Inspect the brushes and commutator for excess wear, and clean out the carbon dust as best you can. Gently pull each brush lead to ensure that the brush moves easily in its holder. The spring tension should be uniform on all four brushes. Treat any corrosion noted. Check the motor shaft for excessive play indicating worn out bearings. Inspect the gear on the end of the shaft for excessive wear or chipped teeth.   Remove the chain gypsy and set it aside for a good cleaning. It’s probably held on with a circlip (snap ring) or two. If these are rusty or damaged, replace them with stainless steel circlips. Look for replacements at auto part stores or stores that specialize in bearings and seals — they probably can supply your seals and O-rings, also. Buy an extra set for spares.

The first time that I serviced our windlass, I found that the shaft key that fits in the chain gypsy drive cones had almost torn out of the keyway in the relatively soft stainless steel shaft. (I admit to overloading the anchor windlass when we fouled our anchor in coral in the Tuamotus in the South Pacific.) The local machine shop agreed to machine the shaft for the next largest key, and also to cut a second keyway in the shaft and gypsy drive cones on the opposite side of the shaft from the original keyway. This modification has proved to be trouble-free for 10 years, and is certainly worth considering for your windlass. Ball bearing supports The shaft is supported by two ball bearings that should last forever, unless salt water has reached them. Gently clean them with a solvent such as WD-40 or clean diesel fuel, and rotate them slowly while feeling and listening for rough spots. NEVER spin a ball bearing with compressed air! You may as well drop it in the sand — the long term effects are about the same.

• Replace the oil seals, even if they do not show signs of leaking. They are not expensive and should be replaced if at all possible.

• Inspect the shaft gear for signs of excessive wear, chipped teeth, etc.

• Remove the rope capstan and inspect it for wear as you did the chain gypsy.

• Inspect the windlass housing for signs of cracks, and for corrosion especially around the bolts on the chain stripper and on the pawl bolt. These two areas are problematic as the housing is aluminum, the bolts are stainless steel, and they are regularly saturated with saltwater. If the corrosion is not too severe, it can be repaired with J-B Weld or Marine-Tex or an equivalent two-part epoxy material. The original chain stripper on our windlass tends to bend, requiring occasional adjustment. I ordered a new one, with the idea to install it next to the original one to obtain double thickness and hopefully double strength. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the new chain stripper was almost twice as thick as the original. Our windlass had a white powder coating when purchased. Starting anew, a better choice would have been the clear anodized finish as it is much more durable and thus less prone to chipping and corrosion. We had our windlass housing treated for corrosion and repainted during this last service.

Lubricate the new O-rings Reassemble the windlass in the reverse order of disassembly, carefully replacing the various O-rings and oil seals. Lubricate the new O-rings and oil seals with oil prior to assembly. Place the ball bearings in a plastic bag in your freezer for a half hour to shrink them a bit and thus make them easier to install.

Clean the threads of all of the bolts before reassembling the windlass. Replace any rusted or damaged fasteners. Use an anti-corrosive treatment such as Duralac on all mating surfaces of dissimilar metals. The mounting bolts for the windlass should be isolated from the windlass with insulating bushings.

When we replaced our previous windlass, we found the right rear mounting bolt on the new windlass was directly over the chain pipe — definitely a big problem. An elegant solution to this serious installation problem was to fabricate a mounting plate of 10mm thick aluminum. The mounting bolt was inserted from below the plate and a dab of epoxy kept it from turning, as it was then beyond the reach of a wrench. The other three mounting bolts were installed from above and terminated in backing plates under the foredeck. This idea, or some variation of it, may serve you well on your next windlass installation.

After reconnecting the power cables, coat the terminals with silicone grease to prevent corrosion. Seal the power cable opening in the windlass housing with RTV silicone sealant. Pay particular attention to the bolts that hold the motor housing in place, as they are prone to leak. Self-amalgamating electrical tape wrapped around the bolts at the point of contact with the interior of the housing, followed by a dab of RTV silicone sealant over the nuts and washers on the outside should prove to be watertight.

Check the windlass control box and remote control for signs of corrosion before returning the windlass to service. Oh, and don’t forget to fill the windlass with lubricating oil. Most windlasses use heavy gear oil, SAE 80 or SAE 90. Mark your calendar to do all of this again in four years.

Harry Hungate and his wife Jane Lothrop are long-time liveaboards having voyaged since 1997. They are currently cruising in the Mediterranean.

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The Boat Galley

making boat life better

Electric windlasses aren't cheap and require attention to detail in their installation, but provide important safety benefits.

Electric Windlass as a Safety Feature

Published on March 21, 2017 ; last updated on June 12, 2020 by Carolyn Shearlock

Prior to cruising, Dave and I saw an electric windlass as something nice to have, but not essential. After ten years — actually we came to this conclusion after just one year — we see an electric windlass as a major safety feature on a cruising boat.

Both of our boats came with an electric windlass and I understand that they are pricey and that wiring can be challenging. At the same time, I’ll argue that it’s money well spent.

Without an Electric Windlass

Cruisers without an electric windlass tend to anchor in shallower water and often use less scope so that it will be easier to retrieve their anchor. This combination means that they:

  • are more likely to drag anchor (being on short scope);
  • have less time to react before being aground (since they anchored closer to shore); and
  • will have a harder time and take longer to re-anchor, especially in deteriorating conditions.

When we were cruising in the Sea of Cortez, we knew of two boats that were lost due to this combination of factors, and several others that were damaged as they bumped the bottom.

Benefits of an Electric Windlass

One benefit of having an electric windlass is that it is relatively easy to re-anchor if you decide that you don’t like the spot you’ve picked after you’ve let the required scope out and can see where you’re sitting. Our rule is that we’re not anchored until we’re both comfortable with where and how we’re anchored. If one of us is a little nervous, it’s not good — we won’t be relaxed, won’t be enjoying ourselves and won’t get a good night’s sleep. And despite ten year’s experience in choosing our anchoring spot, sometimes we still feel the need to move a little after seeing how we lie.

We are also much more willing to move in response to changing conditions. Last summer in the Bahamas, a squall approached as we were in a tight anchorage between Leaf and Allen’s Cays. The wind shifted 90 degrees and put our boat closer to the beach than we were comfortable with. It took us less than 10 minutes to move about 100 feet — and thus it was feasible to do so before the squall actually hit.

The Problems with No Windlass

Obviously, having no windlass is the worst scenario as it is almost impossible to hand pull an anchor as winds build and white caps start forming in the anchorage. Injuries also become extremely likely . . . nasty things like broken bones, crushed fingers, and wrenched backs. Hand-pulling an anchor in a 40-knot squall with 2-foot waves is virtually impossible even if you try to motor up on the anchor as the wind will keep blowing the bow off and rip the rode out of the puller’s hands.

Even in calm conditions, hand pulling an anchor is tough work and not something that most of us want to do every day. On our Tayana 37, I could not have hand pulled our 66-pound anchor; if I absolutely had to, I probably could pull the 35-pounder on our current boat but it would be a very long and slow process. Even if Dave were willing to hand pull the anchor routinely, our rule is that we both have to be able to do everything on board in case the other one is sick or injured. An electric windlass makes it so that I can pull the anchor.

Manual Windlass

A manual windlass is definitely better than no windlass, and even has some advantages over an electric. But electrics also have their advantages.

The primary advantage is a manual windlass is they are less expensive and simpler to install as there is no wiring.

In general, manual windlasses are slower than electric ones — the exact speed difference depends on the two models being compared. That can be important in deteriorating conditions.

Manual windlasses are somewhat safer than electric: not that you can’t catch a finger or piece of clothing in one, but they can be stopped faster.

Manual windlasses aren’t susceptible to electrical gremlins, but they still have to be maintained to work properly.

Finally, manual windlasses are tough to use if you are single-handing — or effectively single-handing due to an illness or injury. While an electric windlass can be wired to use it from the helm (both of ours have been), you must be up on the bow to operate a manual windlass. It’s tough to motor up to the anchor and then run forward, pull up part of the rode as the boat drifts back, run back and motor back up, etc. Again, this can be a big problem if conditions are deteriorating, with winds and waves increasing.

Bottom Line

Dave and I firmly believe that an electric windlass is important for safety — anchoring a little further from shore, using more scope, moving if you don’t like where you are or if conditions change and also so that everyone aboard can raise the anchor if need be.

While we prefer an electric to a manual windlass, there are some advantages to a manual one and some will find them a better fit for their needs. Just also be aware of the cons and realize the tradeoffs you’re making.

Whichever way you go, your back will thank you!

Electric windlasses aren't cheap and require attention to detail in their installation, but provide important safety benefits.

And check out our other courses and products

yacht electric windlass

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Reader Interactions

Dorothy Rogers Marusak says

March 21, 2017 at 12:05 pm

I’m curious. … on our Gemini, the windlass is mounted forward of the chain locker. And the chain tends to pile up unless I tail it coming in. Did you relocate yours? And by putting it there, does it eliminate the pile up?

The Boat Galley says

March 21, 2017 at 12:14 pm

This is where the previous owner installed ours. And no, it doesn’t prevent the pile up . . . and it’s a pain to open the locker with the chain coming across it. We have to pull some extra chain to have slack, put the chain lock on, then open the locker and redistribute . . .

March 21, 2017 at 10:45 am

How do you know how much scope you have out? — we painted our chain different colors for different depths, but the action of winching wears off the paint eventually. Flag-tabs : could they catch in the winch parts?

Carolyn Shearlock says

March 21, 2017 at 10:50 am

Ours have never caught. Also, if you “etch” the chain with vinegar before painting, the paint stays on much better:


Geoff McClure says

March 21, 2017 at 3:10 pm

We current have an SL manual but will soon be installing a Lofrans Tigres for that very reason. The SL works just fine and it consumes only manpower but we do make decisions based on retrieval and it does concern me if we ever needed to move in a hurry and in less than ideal circumstances.

March 21, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Susan Kam says

March 21, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Totally agree! We had only a manual windlass on our current boat, a 37’ Gulfstar sloop, several years ago. We were trying to anchor in Boot Cove on Saturna Island in BC during a very windy evening. The anchor would not set after 3 tries of pulling up the anchor, moving, trying to reset. My husband had blisters on his hands and could not do it even one more time. Fortunately we were able to go around the corner to the dock and spend the night, where weirdly it was absolutely calm! Not sure what we would have done if the dock hadn’t been available. Probably motored to some place else and missed visiting with our friends. We installed an electric windlass right after that trip. It can also be deployed from the cockpit enabling John to singlehand when he wants to.

Rory Stewart says

March 21, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Good, succinct summary!

Dan N Jaye says

March 21, 2017 at 9:16 pm

The combination of being willing to put out more chain, and being willing to move if you don’t like the spot you’re in, are both excellent reasons for an electric windlass. You forgot one other benefit…we’ve happily put an oversize anchor on out boat, knowing that “Tiger” (our nickname for our Lofrans Tigres) will be doing the heavy lifting, and not my back! Our anchor is rated for a 45 foot boat even though we’re only a 33. In two different situations we have held ourselves, plus another unattended boat bigger than us that dragged in a squall, because of that. Safety all around!

March 22, 2017 at 1:06 am

That is another really good point.

Amy Domaratzki says

March 22, 2017 at 10:39 am

I’m planning on installing a Lewmar windlass on my Gem this spring. Would you mind taking a picture of the underside of the windlass so I can see how the glass is reinforced to take the load when using the windlass?

Harland Harris says

November 5, 2020 at 10:29 am

I installed a Lewmar V3 on my 41′ ketch. It had a vertical capstan for pulling into dock against wind or tide. It could also be good for retrieving sea anchor gear. With 55 lb anchor and 200′ chain, hand pulling the rode was impossible. Next time, I will put a battery very near the windlass to avoid long run of $$$ heavy cable.

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yacht electric windlass

yacht electric windlass

This article is an excerpt from NauticEd’s online Skipper Course , a comprehensive online sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors to learn how to sail large sailboats 26 ft (8m) and above. Or upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to also master maneuvering under power and docking!

You can learn to sail and improve your sailing with NauticEd, the international leader in sailing education.

Electric Windlass

An electric windlass is a powerful electric winch that greatly helps in the lowering and raising the anchor. Since they are powerful, they use a substantial amount of DC power that can rapidly drain your battery. You are therefore advised to run the engines when using the windlass. Some boats require that the engine is running.

The size and strength of electric windlass required depends upon vessel length, displacement, and type of rode. Most windlasses will accommodate both chain and line.

Usually, there is an electric breaker/reset switch for the windlass. The breaker prevents too much current from overheating the wires to the windlass. If this “pops” you had either too much tension on the rode or you held the button on too long. You’ll need to hit the reset switch, which is usually in an inconvenient location. For some unknown reason, manufacturers put the windlass reset switch in the most obscure locations. On some boats, it’s next to the battery switch. When skippering an unfamiliar boat, you should always ask about the location of the windlass reset switch. Manufacturers, if you are reading this book, for goodness sake, please put the windlass reset switch in a logical location. Why do you hide it? Is it some sort of a sick joke amongst all of you?

In the image below, the yellow lever is in the tripped-off position. It needs to be rotated up under the black bar to be reset to the on position.

Windlass reset switch

Windlass Reset

The electric windlass is not designed to pull the boat toward the anchor. The way to pull in the anchor using a windlass is to use what is called the catenary effect. This method uses the weight of the chain rising in a curve off the bottom. When the chain is pulled in a little, the new curve formed by the chain weight pulls the boat forward. In this manner then, when pulling in the anchor, you should first hold the windlass “up” button down for only 5 seconds or so. Then let off and watch the boat move forward. Then use another 5-second burst and repeat. If you don’t do this you could overload your windlass and reduce its working life. At the very least you will blow the windlass breaker.

Watch out also for the chain stacking on top of itself in the anchor locker. It can quickly back itself up into the windlass and cause a nasty jam, which is difficult, at best, to get clear. Train your crew to watch for this.

When letting out, most windlasses allow you to loosen the winch spindle a little so that the rode can free wheel out. On some, you simply place the winch handle at the top of the center of the winch and turn counterclockwise to loosen.

Finally, you will find many windlass handheld controls on which the connecting cord has been repaired with black electrical tape. This happened because an amateur was not watching everything as the anchor rode came up and allowed the cord to be bound up with the chain and sucked into the winch. But you’re better than that—right?

You can learn more in the Skipper Course....

Knowledge and theory for longer distances and overnight sailing in diverse conditions. The Skipper Course is a comprehensive sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors wanting to learn how to sail larger sailboats 26ft to 56ft. Or upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to also master maneuvering under power and docking!

yacht electric windlass

Yachting Monthly

  • Digital edition

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Electric winches: a buyer’s guide

Sam Fortescue

  • Sam Fortescue
  • March 9, 2022

Electric winches are becoming cheaper and simpler to fit, making effortless sailing an affordable option, says Sam Fortescue

Converting to push-button powered electric winches is easier than you might think

Converting to push-button powered electric winches is easier than you might think

Electric winches have been with us for decades, and are often specced as upgrades on cruising boats. But as the idea of all electric yachts becomes more prevalent and battery performance improves, electric winches are also fast becoming more comonplace.

The technology behind it is pretty unimpeachable these days, but manufacturers are always finding small incremental improvements to distinguish their product from the competition.

Take major supplier Lewmar, now part of the US Lippert Group. Its sleek Evo winch, which weighs 20% less than the familiar Ocean range, is available in a fully electric version from size 40 upwards.

And so is its Revo range – designed to backwind so that you can sheet out at the touch of a button too.

Though touted as a racing feature, this is exceedingly useful for shorthanded crew or solo sailors, where it might otherwise mean letting go of the helm to dive into the cockpit and manually slip a line.

An electric Evo 40ST costs from around £2,810, while the Revo version is priced according to exact requirements.

You can use handles in electric winches, but the technology is very reliable

You can use handles in electric winches, but the technology is very reliable. Credit: Mike Turner

An upgrade even allows you to connect two electric winches together, so that one backwinds while the other takes in the slack when tacking – at the touch of a single button.

‘We would not generally sell the Revo winch system to an aftermarket customer, as they require very specific set-up requirements,’ says Claire Martin, group marketing manager at Lippert.

Harken is often considered a step up from Lewmar, with racing pretensions.

Here, too, the basics are well covered with a range of instantly recognisable black anodised self-tailers (bronze and chrome finishes are also possible).

Electric versions start at size 35, and cost from around £2,586.

And the Harken Rewind Radial is also able to backwind at the touch of a button, like the Lewmar Revo.

It goes a step further in that a knob on the winch itself allows you to switch between forward-reverse mode and two-speed winding in one direction.

The Selden E40i has an internal motor. Credit: Selden

The Selden E40i has an internal motor. Credit: Selden

This feature kicks in from size 40, costing from £4,168.

Antal is another strong winch brand with a stout electric option in the XT.

You’ll need the control box that houses the solenoids, and should consider the additional load control box, called the WBC.

This starts the winch in its fast gear, then steps down to the more powerful slower speed when the winch reaches its maximum safe working current.

It cuts out altogether when it hits this limit in slow gear. At £3,220.87 for the winch plus more for the WBC, this is not a cheap option.

If there’s a limit to Lewmar, Harken and Antal’s otherwise well-engineered and soundly priced systems, it is the choice of control buttons available.

Continues below…


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Mainsail furling systems: an expert guide

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Electric anchor windlasses: a guide to the latest tech

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There are just two options, both for deck mounting, which have a housing that allows them to be activated with a finger when closed, or by a foot when open.

It doesn’t allow you to put a button on the instrument console or wire it into a digital switching system.

Denmark’s Andersen is reputed for the quality of the build of its all-stainless steel winches, which run from size 12 up to 110.

The E1 is its entry-level electric winch, which operates with just a single speed.

Two- and even three-speed versions start from the 60ST size, which roughly equates to genoa sheeting on a 45ft-plus boat.

The Harken Performa winches are available with manual, electric or hydraulic drives. Credit: Harken

The Harken Performa winches are available with manual, electric or hydraulic drives. Credit: Harken

A super-simplified Compact Motor system is available, where all the gubbins from gearbox to controller is built into a single, low-profile unit.

‘It uses a brushless DC motor matched to a low profile planetary gearbox, which requires less space for installation and draws considerably less current than traditional motor/gearbox configurations,’ explains Andersen’s Thomas Galster.

‘Simple electrical installation requires no external control box, and the low profile above or below deck motor allows installation even if the original boat design did not allow for space under the deck for a motor.’

Another nice feature of the Compact Motor is the variable speed system, where a pressure-sensing button controls the rate of rotation: the harder you press the button, the faster the winch will turn.

Pricing for the Compact Motor starts at around £2,250 for the 28ST unit, and £2,940 for an E1 of the same size.

A relatively slim plastic or stainless-steel hinged lid protects the button, which is designed with a built-in LED which tells you when the system is powered up.

Electric winches: connectivity

When it comes to connectivity, however, Selden is streets ahead with the launch of its E40i electric winch (£2,850).

This is unique in its ability to talk to other Selden devices in a push-button system that might include a furling main or headsail.

It uses its own bus network to shuttle information between units and in principle, just a single power supply unit (£592) is required to run all the components.

It is not yet compatible with a multifunction display (MFD) or your NMEA instrument network, but that is surely just a question of time.

The motors involved all run on 42V, which has several benefits over 12V or 24V without running into the restrictions associated with ‘high-voltage’ equipment over 50V.

Electric winches can make sailing shorthanded a lot easier. Credit: Selden

Electric winches can make sailing shorthanded a lot easier. Credit: Selden/Dan Ljungsvik

This higher voltage means lower amperage during power-intensive use, so wiring runs can be lighter and motors smaller.

This has allowed Selden to engineer a powerful motor that actually fits inside the drum of the E40i winch, so there’s no heavy-duty drilling required to install, fitting on deck exactly as a manual winch does.

Launched last year in Sweden, the E40i has proved popular with boat owners in the 35-45ft range, especially those who sail with limited or inexperienced crew.

‘It’s convenient and easy for everyone onboard, such a simple way to hoist, furl and trim the sails,’ says Anders Lagerberg, owner of a Najad 400 with an E40i installed.

‘I’m experiencing much smoother sailing than ever before, especially when sailing by myself.’

Anderson's electric winches are all stainless steel. Credit: Anderson

Anderson’s electric winches are all stainless steel. Credit: Anderson

Six years ago, Jeanneau teamed up with Harken to launch the ultimate in connected winches.

A Harken Rewind was linked to a dedicated sail handling display to automatically trim sails without the skipper having to raise a finger.

It could handle wind shifts, gusts and course changes, and even to tack the jib.

Jeanneau had expected 20% of those buying its 50-plus foot boats to opt for the €15,000 system, but it appears to be no longer available, which tells its own story.

Electric winches: main brands

Lewmar electric winches

Credit: Lewmar

The Ocean and Evo (above) winches can be electric but conversion kits for manual are also available.


Harken Electric Winches

Credit: Harken

Harken’s motor drives the central shaft, using the winch’s gears, rather than driving the drum directly, so reducing the power draw.


Antal electric winches

Credit: Antal

Antal says its winches deliver 490W or 700W at the winch drum, compared to a human arm at 400W.


Anderson Electric winches

Credit: Anderson

Andersen winches are distinguished by the use of a ribbed drum surface, which doesn’t abrade ropes like the commonly used rough finish.


Selden electric winches

The E40i’s internal motor means that there’s no big hole in the deck, and no motor protruding into the space below.


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Electric winches, handles and furlers – a buyer’s guide

  • March 14, 2020

From the cockpit to the pulpit, there are Electric winches, handles and furlers on the market that can help take the strain out of sailing. Duncan Kent reports

yacht electric windlass

Maybe you want to spend more time sailing single-handed, or perhaps you’re reaching the age when winching up the mainsail by hand is starting to take the fun out of a weekend sail. Whichever it is, why not accept a helping hand from Mr Volt?

The best Lithium-ion battery for your boat – we test 12 units

Kitting out a sailing boat with electric winches and furlers may look to be expensive, but if it keeps you on the water isn’t it worth it? In fact quite a few sailors end up moving over from sail to power because they no longer have the physical strength to manually winch in the sheets or haul on the halyards. But the extra cost often works out at considerably more than if they had invested in simply upgrading their sailing yacht.

For instance, a good many manual winches can be electrified by buying a conversion kit (Lewmar, Harken and Andersen all sell manual-electric upgrade kits for their two-speed winches), which often works out costing half the price of a new winch – especially if you’re good with the DIY and can modify the drive unit, and install the electrics yourself. The latter is easier than you may think as all the components are supplied, along with full instructions and an easy-to-understand circuit diagram.

yacht electric windlass

Andersen electric winch

To keep costs down people often just convert one halyard winch, usually on the side of the mainsail halyard. Then, with a bit of clever rerouting of the genoa sheets via one or two new turning blocks, you can often use the same winch for hauling in the bulk of the genoa. This is a fantastic help if, like me, you have a huge overlapping genoa. If you’re feeling a little flush, why not convert one of the primary winches too?

In fact, I’ve sailed on a boat that had one electric primary, to starboard, that could be used haul up the halyards and take in the port genoa sheet simply by taking one turn around the manual winch and then leading the sheet or halyard onto the powered one. This way, once the bulk of the sheet/halyard has been hauled in, it’s easy enough to take another couple of turns around the non-powered winch ready for manual trimming if necessary.

Depending on your boat’s layout, you may want to install a second deck switch so you have a clear view of the headsail on both tacks. The owner had even set it up so he could electrically winch the kedge anchor from the stern – essential when mooring bows-to in a Mediterranean harbour to protect the rudder or for privacy in the cockpit.

yacht electric windlass

Comparison table: electric winches

Reduce friction

In a similar way to reducing your power consumption before planning a new electrical system, it makes good sense to look at reducing the friction in your sail control systems before considering how best to assist you with the hard graft of winching and hauling.

Boats older than 20 years will probably have outdated blocks with plain bearings, as will many of the newer, lower cost production boats. Just spending a few hundred pounds replacing blocks and travellers with ball-bearing versions can reduce frictional loads by up to 40 per cent. Now ally this with a little thought into how you can reroute lines so as to diminish the angle of turn and maybe even take a turn out altogether where possible, and you could find you need half the elbow grease you did previously to hoist the main or sheet in a genoa.

Then there’s the sail plan. Changing to a non-overlapping jib will noticeably reduce the effort required when tacking and you can still save the big genoa for when your kids join you. Besides, with a well-cut jib you’ll lose little speed to windward in a good breeze and if you add a furling asymmetric downwind sail you’ll notice little difference on a reach too.

Modern yachts frequently sport non-overlapping jibs and sometimes even self-tailing headsails, but this usually means the mainsail is bigger to compensate, thereby increasing the effort required to hoist it in the first place.

Reefing can also be exhausting, particularly if you have a single-line reefing system, as they create a lot of friction due to the reefing lines turning around multiple blocks. If you can, use a two-line system – one line for the luff and another for the leech. Okay, it’ll mean a little more string, but it’ll need far less winching effort to drop in a neat reef.

Lastly, regular maintenance of deck gear is essential. If you don’t service your winches every year, not only will they eventually fail, but also the amount of effort required to operate them will increase until half of your hard work is wasted in turning the winch rather than doing the job. The same goes for electric winches – the increased friction will simply decrease your battery power more rapidly and you risk the circuit breaker cutting out just when you don’t want it to, should it become overloaded.

Keep a close eye on any deck switches, too. After a while water can penetrate their seals and if one of these goes faulty there’s a danger the winch or windlass might remain on – possibly with disastrous consequences.

Powered winch handles

Before you start planning to upgrade your manual winches to electric, consider the possibilities of buying a powered winch handle instead. Like everything there are pros and cons of course – as with most bits of boat kit – but we have had many boat owners writing to us to say that they’ve only been able to continue sailing thanks to one of these devices to help them on board.

First, the cons: they’re not particularly cheap, they need charging regularly and they can be lost overboard if the user is careless or loses their balance. Furthermore, if you’re sailing singlehanded it will be much easier and safer if you have self-tailing winches in order to keep both hands on the electric winch handle, as there will be a fair amount of rotational torque once the power really comes on.

The pros: they will effectively electrify every standard top-drive winch on board (although obviously only one at a time) and they don’t require you to modify your boat or install heavy-duty power cables as you would need to when fitting an electric winch.

yacht electric windlass

Winchrite powered winch handle

The most popular is the Winchrite (£599), now in its second generation with more power thanks to a greatly improved motor and gearbox and extended charge duration. Yes it’s still a little noisy, but then so is any electric winch. Being low-geared for maximum power, they’re a bit slow (120rpm), so you might still prefer to pull the bulk of the sheet in by hand before letting the Winchrite take over. It also needs a steady grip to keep it from rotating when under a heavy load.

A recently launched ‘power assist’ winch handle called the ewincher is a little less bulky and lighter than the Winchrite and, better still, has two-speeds, making it more suitable for hauling in and trimming headsail sheets without needing to resort to hauling the bulk of it in by hand.

Shaped more like a traditional winch handle, the ewincher allows the user to winch manually as normal, but then assists when the load really comes on. Alternatively, it can be used purely as an electric winch handle, like the Winchrite. The good news is the 24V battery pack is removable, as with all modern cordless power tools, so you could have a second, back-up power pack sitting on the charger ready for a quick swap out. The bad news is it currently costs close to £2,700, so you really wouldn’t want to drop it overboard!

yacht electric windlass

Milwaukee 8 drill

Another alternative is to use a right-angle cordless power drill, although it would need to be very powerful. A popular model is the 28-Volt Milwaukee drill, which has a 16in (40cm) long handle and is available on eBay for around £400, including a single 28V lithium-ion rechargeable battery. You can even buy a purpose-made, 8-point ‘winch-bit’ or Cranker chuck replacement for this and other 0.5in (12mm) chuck drills. Spare battery packs and a padded cover are also available, but it only has a 220V AC charger so it can only be recharged underway using an inverter.

A note of warning – both the electric winch and the powered winch handle manufacturers strongly advise you not to use any of these devices for hoisting a crewmember up the mast. This is because they have been known to fail and endanger the lives of the crew being hoisted and others below. I, too, wouldn’t condone this practice for my own reasons, but in reality many do use them for just this purpose. If they’re sensible they take additional precautions, such as not relying on self-tailing winch jaws to take the strain and attaching a second halyard with someone else other than the wincher taking up the slack and belaying it between hauls. Having another person standing by at the main power switch in case it gets stuck on is also a good plan.

Of course, the usual point of not using an external halyard to go aloft counts for both manual and powered winches. If a sheave or bearing breaks on an internal halyard at least you’re not going to plummet to the deck!

Electric furlers

yacht electric windlass

Loop eFurler

In truth, headsail furlers on small to medium-sized sailing yachts shouldn’t ever need winching – manually or electrically. If they do then something is usually wrong. Either the swivel bearings are salted up or dried out, the halyard has been hoisted up too hard, or you have halyard twist at the top swivel.

But for those that simply want to ease the amount of physical work involved in sailing, there’s no reason why you can’t fit an electric furler, or an electric winch that the furling line can reach.

Code 0 and asymmetric spinnaker furlers usually have continuous loop furling lines that can require a crewmember to leave the cockpit.

However, since the advent of small but powerful Lithium-ion battery packs other solutions have been developed. The new, German-made Loop EF1500 E-Furler uses a small 18V Li-ion battery pack to drive an electric furler, designed so that it is all neatly contained within the bowsprit pole itself. It comes with a wireless remote control so the sail can be furled and unfurled from the cockpit and a spare battery can be kept in an onboard charger ready for a quick swap out if necessary.

Anchor windlass

yacht electric windlass

Lewmar V1 electric windlass

Cruising sailors, both power and sail, have long been aware of the delights of an electric anchor windlass and since the development of the rope/chain combination gypsy, the whole process of lowering and raising the anchor can be automated by remote control from the cockpit.

Once again the least expensive way to take the strain out of anchor hauling is to find a mechanical windlass that can accept a standard winch handle and then buy something like the Winchrite to operate it. This saves on the expensive and heavy wiring necessary for a permanent electric windlass and doesn’t put so much load on your house batteries.

yacht electric windlass

Windlass comparison table

Power considerations

Whatever way you decide to electrically ‘assist’ your sailing you’ll need to consider the effect on your boat’s electrical energy reserves. An electric winch or windlass draws a serious amount of power when operating, some 80-150A, so make sure your battery banks and circuit protection can cope with this.

While adding an additional battery to the service bank is easy, keeping it fully charged is less so. Boats that have more than one deep-cycle battery need a proper charging regime – usually in the form of a smart alternator regulator and/or more powerful alternator.

But along with more Amps going in and out comes the need for better monitoring and overload control, with careful thought given to the safety of the electrical system. Using wires that are too small in diameter not only lowers the voltage available to the device, but also increases the risk of fire on board should any of the wires overheat.

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yacht electric windlass

VESSEL REVIEW | Sinichka – Electric commuter boats designed for Russia’s Moskva River

yacht electric windlass

A series of three new electric monohull commuter ferries have already begun operational sailings on the Moskva River in the Russian capital Moscow.

Built by Russian shipyard Emperium, sister vessels Sinichka , Filka , and Presnya – all named after rivers in Moscow – are being operated by the Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development (Moscow Deptrans). They are the first units of a planned fleet of 20 vessels that will serve the capital city and other nearby communities. The new ferry system will be the water transport system to be operated on the Moskva River in 16 years.

Each vessel has a welded aluminium hull, an LOA of 21 metres, a beam of 6.2 metres, a draught of only 1.4 metres, a displacement of 40 tonnes, and capacity for 80 passengers plus two crewmembers. Seating is available for 42 passengers on each ferry, and the main cabins are also fitted with USB charging ports, wifi connectivity, tables, toilets, and space for bicycles and scooters. The cabin layout can be rearranged to allow the operator to adjust the distances between the seats and to install armrests of varying widths.

yacht electric windlass

An open upper deck is also accessible to passengers and is the only area on each ferry where smoking is allowed.

The ferries are all of modular construction with each ferry’s wheelhouse, main cabin, and other structural elements being built as complete, separate components. This enables the ferries to be easily dismantled for transport to anywhere in Russia by rail and then quickly re-assembled within seven days.

The ferries are also ice-capable. Recently completed operational trials on the Moskva showed that the vessels can also easily navigate under mild winter conditions with broken surface ice, though year-round operations are planned for the entire fleet.

The ferries are each fitted with 500kWh lithium iron phosphate battery packs that supply power to two 134kW motors. This configuration can deliver a maximum speed of 11.8 knots, a cruising speed of just under 10 knots, and a range of 150 kilometres.

Emperium said the transfer of rotation of electric motors to the propeller is carried out by direct drive. As a propulsion installation, a pulling rotary propeller-steering column with double screws is used. The installation of double pulling screws, with similar power, allows an operator to increase the efficiency of the propulsion system to deliver a slightly higher speed or to reduce energy consumption. This arrangement also provides the ferries with enhanced manoeuvrability necessary for navigating in close quarters.

The batteries themselves have projected service lives of 10 to 12 years and are fitted with safety features such as built-in fire extinguishers and gas vents. Quick-disconnect features allow the batteries to be easily removed for replacement or maintenance.

Some of our readers have expressed disquiet at our publication of reviews and articles describing new vessels from Russia. We at Baird Maritime can understand and sympathise with those views. However, despite the behaviour of the country’s leaders, we believe that the maritime world needs to learn of the latest developments in vessel design and construction there.

Click here to read other news stories, features, opinion articles, and vessel reviews as part of this month’s Passenger Vessel Week.

Related Posts

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Béria L. Rodríguez

Baird Maritime

Tags: Emperium Filka Moscow Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development Moskva River Presnya Russia Sinichka WBW newbuild

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yacht electric windlass

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Guides and tutorials for sea enthusiasts

How to use an electric windlass on a boat?

  • Deck equipment , Windlasses , Electric windlasses , Mooring

How to use an electric windlass on a boat?

There are a number of essential amenities on board a boat. Among these, we can mention the windlass. Thanks to it, you no longer need to force to raise the anchor of your sailboat. Its presence makes it easier for you to navigate. Corn how to use an electric windlass , and how to choose it? Here is a complete file on the particularities of the electric windlass!

What is an electric windlass?

A windlass is a kind of big winch horizontal or vertical axis which multiplies the force to drop the anchor or raise it. Arranged on the foredeck of a boat, it is equipped with a sprocket and a toothed wheel which is used to receive the chain. This gypsy is chosen according to the diameter of the chain.

The windlass can be cranked ( manual windlass ) or by means of an electric motor (electric windlass). The latter brings comfort and security to the navigator. It makes mooring alone very easy, and allows you to raise the anchor more quickly.

The electric windlass is either horizontal type (placed in the anchor locker or on the deck depending on the configuration of the boat), either vertical type (the gypsy flat on the deck). According to experts, horizontal models offer more mounting possibilities. But in both cases, the electrical wiring is the same.

How to use an electric windlass?

Before going far on how to use an electric windlass , you should already know that most of the elements that can be found on the equipment are: the locking nut used to disengage, the sprocket, the tailstock, the chain, the base of the windlass and the motor of the windlass . Some minimalist models do not have a doll.

We must act with delicacy when of use an electric windlass . The cockpit-level control consists of a remote control with two buttons: one for raising the ink, the other for lowering.

  • See the Italwinch remote control
  • See the Lofrans remote control
  • See the Lofrans wireless remote control
  • See the Quick wireless remote control

There is also the foot switch installed flat on the deck. It is the most efficient for maneuvers.

  • See the Lofrans foot switch
  • View Lewmar Foot Switch

The first thing to do to raise the part of the mooring rope (the rope) is to press the control button. The doll goes up the cable. The two elements are driven in a series of gears by the power of the electric motor which ensures the multiplication of the effort. In order to facilitate the passage from the chain to the cable, the sprockets are designed mixed (accommodate the chain and block the rope in the groove).

NOTE: Run the engine while using the windlass. And so as not to damage the gears,  never leave the chain on the sprocket during the wetting operation.  We recommend the use of a hook connected to an anchor damper, itself connected to a mooring line with splice. The mooring is then stretched over one or more cleats until the chain tension on the gypsy is removed.

  • See hooks for anchor chain ø 6 to 8 mm or ø 10 to 12mm
  • See the best anchor shock absorber 
  • See mooring lines with ø 10, 12, 14, 16, 20 or 24 mm splices

How to use an electric windlass: choosing the right equipment for your boat

The answer to the question ' how to use an electric windlass 'depends on the judicious choice of your electric windlass. Several parameters are to be considered in this case. You must take into account the length and displacement (light or heavy) of the boat to define the characteristics of the windlass. The choice of pulling power is dependent on the weight of the chain and anchor.

As a rule, to determine the power of the useful hoist , take the overall weight of the mooring (chain + anchor) and multiply it by 4.

-Thus, for a boat of 6 meters which has an inboard engine, you can be satisfied with a  500 watt pulling power.  We recommend the  windlass MAXWELL HRC 6  for Ø6mm chains or windlass  MAXWELL HRC 8  for Ø8mm chains.

- between 6 and 8 meters, one  700 watt force  would suffice. We recommend the  LEWMAR Pro-1000 series  for Ø6mm chains or  windlass LEWMAR VX2  for Ø8mm chains.

- from 8 to 10 meters, you need a  1000 watt hoist . We recommend the  windlass MAXWELL HRC 10-8  for Ø8mm chains or  ITALWINCH Devon windlass  for Ø10mm chains.

- beyond 10 meters, it will be necessary  choose between 1200 and 1500 watts . THE  windlass MAXWELL HRC 10-10  is our recommendation for 1200W power and 10mm chain. For a power of 1500W, we recommend the  LEWMAR VX3 windlass with gypsy suitable for 8mm chains  or the same  LEWMAR VX3 windlass with gypsy suitable for 10mm chains.

To learn more about windlasses, you can read our guide:  How to choose your electric boat windlass?

Even though its usage time is only a few minutes, the electric windlass is a heavy consumer of current requiring over 100 amps to operate. In order to compensate for this current, it is essential to combine it with an alternator and a battery with wiring dimensioned accordingly. Often, the energy from the sailboat engine or thruster is used for the windlass. Note that the electrical wiring line must be protected by a fuse or a power circuit breaker.

How to create a mooring line adapted to your electric windlass?

Your anchorage is not just about the electric windlass. All the elements of the mooring line must be adapted to each other to work in harmony. The davit adapts to the anchor, the chain to the windlass, the anchor swivel to the cable, etc ... Otherwise, you will quickly encounter problems. It is therefore imperative to choose all the elements of your mooring line. We explain everything in our article: how to make an appropriate mooring line for your boat?

The maintenance of an electric windlass

Concerning regular maintenance of the electric windlass , it is necessary to cut off the power supply before each maintenance action. Once done, you will be able to perform the following operations whether it is a Lewmar electric windlass , Lofrans, Quick , Plastimo or even a windlass Italwinch :

• Rinse the deck unit with fresh water after each navigation;

• Regularly check the electrical connections and ensure that they are watertight;

• Check the level of wear on the sprocket and the splice on the anchor chain, and repair if necessary. If the damage is too great, you must change the sprocket or replace the damaged chain links.

To change a sprocket, you can easily find a spare part online:

  • Sprocket for LOFRANS X1 windlass
  • Sprocket for LOFRANS X2 and PROJECT 1000 windlass
  • Sprocket for LOFRANS X3 and PROJECT 1500 windlass
  • Sprocket for LOFRANS KOBRA / CAYMAN / TIGRES / ROYAL windlass
  • Sprocket for LEWMAR CPX2 / 3 windlass  
  • Sprocket for LEWMAR V700 windlass
  • Sprocket for LEWMAR Pro-Series Windlass 

To change an excessively worn chain link, there are riveted chain links. It is advisable to always have a few on board (of the diameter corresponding to your chain) as well as a rivet pliers and rivets.

  • See a good rivet pliers and these rivets
  • See rivet links for ø 6 mm anchor chain 
  • See rivet links for ø 8 mm anchor chain
  • See rivet links for ø 10 mm anchor chain 
  • See rivet links for ø 12 mm anchor chain 

We advise you to use the riveted links above because they have breaking loads equivalent to or even greater than that of the original links. In addition, their dimensions in mm correspond exactly to those of anchor chains. Thus, you are sure to have a quality link that will not get caught on your gypsy.

Finally, we recommend that you always have a maintenance kit for your windlass on board. You have to choose the kit corresponding to your model:

  • See the Maintenance Kits for FALKON LOFRANS Windlasses
  • See the Maintenance kits for TIGRES LOFRANS windlasses
  • See the Maintenance Kits for ROYAL LOFRANS Windlasses

If you can't find the maintenance kit for your model online, you can always buy spare parts so you can repair your windlass on long trips:

  • V See the spare parts for Lewmar V3 and V2 windlass (Manual lifting kit)
  • See the spare parts for Lewmar V3 and V2 windlass (Control arm kit)
  • See spare parts for Lofrans Tigres windlass
  • See spare parts for Lofrans Tigres windlass (Spare gasket)
  • See spare parts for Lofrans X2 windlass
  • See spare parts for Lofrans X3 and PROJECT 1500 windlass

You will find many other parts on  Amazon ,  Ebay  et  Ticketmaster  in order to leave with peace of mind!

In all cases,  an annual review  of the device must be programmed and executed by an approved service. You can still grease your windlass from time to time, check the oil level and change it if necessary .

  • Use only  SAE 80W-90 oil  for your windlass.
  • And use  marine grease  to lubricate the gears.

Learn more about boat windlasses:

What is the best windlass for my boat?

TUTORIAL: How to lubricate a windlass on a boat?

You will also like :

What are the best inexpensive boat windlasses?

What are the best inexpensive boat windlasses?

Which oil to use for an electric windlass?

Which oil to use for an electric windlass?

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Cruising the Moskva River: A short guide to boat trips in Russia’s capital

yacht electric windlass

There’s hardly a better way to absorb Moscow’s atmosphere than on a ship sailing up and down the Moskva River. While complicated ticketing, loud music and chilling winds might dampen the anticipated fun, this checklist will help you to enjoy the scenic views and not fall into common tourist traps.

How to find the right boat?

There are plenty of boats and selecting the right one might be challenging. The size of the boat should be your main criteria.

Plenty of small boats cruise the Moskva River, and the most vivid one is this yellow Lay’s-branded boat. Everyone who has ever visited Moscow probably has seen it.

yacht electric windlass

This option might leave a passenger disembarking partially deaf as the merciless Russian pop music blasts onboard. A free spirit, however, will find partying on such a vessel to be an unforgettable and authentic experience that’s almost a metaphor for life in modern Russia: too loud, and sometimes too welcoming. Tickets start at $13 (800 rubles) per person.

Bigger boats offer smoother sailing and tend to attract foreign visitors because of their distinct Soviet aura. Indeed, many of the older vessels must have seen better days. They are still afloat, however, and getting aboard is a unique ‘cultural’ experience. Sometimes the crew might offer lunch or dinner to passengers, but this option must be purchased with the ticket. Here is one such  option  offering dinner for $24 (1,490 rubles).

yacht electric windlass

If you want to travel in style, consider Flotilla Radisson. These large, modern vessels are quite posh, with a cozy restaurant and an attentive crew at your service. Even though the selection of wines and food is modest, these vessels are still much better than other boats.

yacht electric windlass

Surprisingly, the luxurious boats are priced rather modestly, and a single ticket goes for $17-$32 (1,100-2,000 rubles); also expect a reasonable restaurant bill on top.

How to buy tickets?

Women holding photos of ships promise huge discounts to “the young and beautiful,” and give personal invitations for river tours. They sound and look nice, but there’s a small catch: their ticket prices are usually more than those purchased online.

“We bought tickets from street hawkers for 900 rubles each, only to later discover that the other passengers bought their tickets twice as cheap!”  wrote  (in Russian) a disappointed Rostislav on a travel company website.

Nevertheless, buying from street hawkers has one considerable advantage: they personally escort you to the vessel so that you don’t waste time looking for the boat on your own.

yacht electric windlass

Prices start at $13 (800 rubles) for one ride, and for an additional $6.5 (400 rubles) you can purchase an unlimited number of tours on the same boat on any given day.

Flotilla Radisson has official ticket offices at Gorky Park and Hotel Ukraine, but they’re often sold out.

Buying online is an option that might save some cash. Websites such as  this   offer considerable discounts for tickets sold online. On a busy Friday night an online purchase might be the only chance to get a ticket on a Flotilla Radisson boat.

This  website  (in Russian) offers multiple options for short river cruises in and around the city center, including offbeat options such as ‘disco cruises’ and ‘children cruises.’ This other  website  sells tickets online, but doesn’t have an English version. The interface is intuitive, however.

Buying tickets online has its bad points, however. The most common is confusing which pier you should go to and missing your river tour.

yacht electric windlass

“I once bought tickets online to save with the discount that the website offered,” said Igor Shvarkin from Moscow. “The pier was initially marked as ‘Park Kultury,’ but when I arrived it wasn’t easy to find my boat because there were too many there. My guests had to walk a considerable distance before I finally found the vessel that accepted my tickets purchased online,” said the man.

There are two main boarding piers in the city center:  Hotel Ukraine  and  Park Kultury . Always take note of your particular berth when buying tickets online.

Where to sit onboard?

Even on a warm day, the headwind might be chilly for passengers on deck. Make sure you have warm clothes, or that the crew has blankets ready upon request.

The glass-encased hold makes the tour much more comfortable, but not at the expense of having an enjoyable experience.

yacht electric windlass

Getting off the boat requires preparation as well. Ideally, you should be able to disembark on any pier along the way. In reality, passengers never know where the boat’s captain will make the next stop. Street hawkers often tell passengers in advance where they’ll be able to disembark. If you buy tickets online then you’ll have to research it yourself.

There’s a chance that the captain won’t make any stops at all and will take you back to where the tour began, which is the case with Flotilla Radisson. The safest option is to automatically expect that you’ll return to the pier where you started.

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