I'm shopping for a new windlass, and much like anchors, there are various charts and guides that make recommendations based on boat length, weight of ground tackle etc.
What I'm surprised at is the difference in what's behind these recommendations. Lofrans, which I favor from use on other boats, has me right on the cusp of the Tigress vs Falkon model. That's 2.5K to 5K jump in cost.
The "smaller" Tigress has a 1500watt motor, whereas the offerings from most all other manufacturers recommend a model for me with a 1000watt motor or less. Am I missing something?
In addition, the oft repeated advice abounds that one should take a sample of chain to the store to ensure it fits the windlass. Is that REALLY necessary? Are windlass's or chains so out of spec that this is a true problem? What about the new offerings that fit all sizes of chain?
I've had several windlass brands on several boats over the last 40 years. One thing I've learned is many manufacturers have good model runs, and bad model runs for whatever reasons. [Company sold, management, etc.] My point is feedback regarding a 20 year old windlass may not apply to that make and model today... so research carefully...
Following our philosophy that we can't afford cheap tools [especially with regard to ground tackle...] in mid 2014 we opted for a solid stainless steel housing Lighthouse 1501 to replace our Neco Marine windlass and the rusting 3/8" BBB chain [need parts?] The Lighthouse is extremely well engineered. If we ever needed to remove/replace that is a 1 hour job because the windlass sits in a cast polyurethane gasket; it isn't glued down with bedding compound... The waterproof, purpose-bult motor is separate below deck and is easily removed/replaced too... Lighthouse makes windlasses for large vessels, and their small boat windlasses are built the same way...
And I don't know of another windlass that- using only a winch handle- provides over 10,000 lbs of pull [think kedging...] as one of two manual retrieval options...
That may come in handy one day as we also managed to fit 550ft of 5/16in G43 [high test] chain in the anchor locker- split between two bow anchors. [Anchorages can be deep up here...]
Jordan at Lighthouse sets the standard for customer support. They will even made us custom deck and backing plates for a much better price than I could have them made in Washington state (where the boat was at the time I installed mine...)
One thing you might find interesting is to compare the weights of the windlasses you are considering... This is one time where heavier is likely stronger and more durable... Look at $/lb as a comparison criteria as well... Lighthouse compares competitively per pound...
Our windlass replacement is documented in this blog post
which includes a link to a detailed storyboard of annotated photos in case you are interested.
Since we installed ours, I know of at least one other sister-ship [Raven's Dance
] that has gone the same route and has the same rave reviews...
Regarding chain fitment, now is your chance to change size if desired, and yes, it is important to test the chain in the gypsy, or just buy proof tested ASME standard chain like ACCO.
Have fun and choose wisely [i.e., cry once...]