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dtempleton 08-02-2010 11:32 AM

Feeble Windlass
Our sloop carries a 80# Danforth anchor with 3/8 inch chain. We have a a Maxwell 2200 windlass that reportedly had the 'motor rebuilt' in 2009, just before we purchased it.

However, the beast is unable to fully lift the anchor plus 4-5 feet of chain without the clutch(?) slipping; the motor continues to turn, but the drum stops, or loses ground. I can get it in by providing probably 40# of muscle.

Can anyone provide advice as to if and how the clutch (I assume it has one) might be tightened, or what else might be at issue? Rated at 2200#, it seems like the windlass ought to lift 110# of anchor and chain...


Gene T 08-02-2010 11:41 AM

Maxwell has online manuals for download if you don't have one. My windlass has a nut in the center of the capstan that controls the clutch. It uses a standard winch handle.


svHyLyte 08-02-2010 11:57 AM

The chain gypsey should be locked in place with a key that slips into a machined groove on the drive shaft and a matching slot in the gypsey. From you description is sounds as if the key was omitted and the gypsey is merely held in place by friction, which is possible to some extent because the drive shafts are prone to some distortion due to overloading with only a single key verses a splined shaft. A 2200 normally wouldn't even notice the load you describe.


hellosailor 08-02-2010 01:57 PM

Most likely if it was rebuilt and has the capacity to lift that weight, that it simply is not getting enough power.

Running adequate size cables to a winch costs a lot of money, people cheat. Check the cable size, check your battery connections, check your battery charge. See what the voltage drops to at the winch terminals, when it is under load and when not.

All it takes is one green connection to kill the power.

Omatako 08-02-2010 03:14 PM

Is the windlass vertical (a capstan) or horizontal?

Many of the capstans have a cone clutch built in which allows for free spooling of the rode when deploying the anchor. The clutch is controlled by a large knurled knob on top that can be tightened or loosened as the case may be. I don't know the Maxwell 2200 capstan so this is just a suggestion.

I had a small capstan on a previous boat and the cone clutch was keyed onto the shaft using a round roll pin rather than a proper key and that sheared leaving the clutch turning on the shaft when under load.

If its a horizontal windlass with free spooling rather than a controlled electrical deployment, the same principle applies. If not, then I suspect there is no clutch and the keyway has possibly failed.

They're not hard to get apart - try disassembling it and having a look.

dtempleton 08-02-2010 03:57 PM

Follow up
Thanks all;

I found a series of manuals for Maxwell windlasses (and capstans) here:

User Manuals

Yes, it is a vertical capstan (one doesn't hear that term much any more, it seems). The manual has a diagram showing how to (apparently) use the emergency handle to turn the clutch on and off, and apparently adjust it. The clutch is apparently under a pry-off plastic cap. Looking at it yesterday it was not obvious that one could pry it off.

I think I have seen that emergency handle somewhere... sounds like something one could be in dire need of on short notice.

Mine does not use a star-shaped winch handle, though I see that on some of the newer models, seems like a good addition.

Thanks, all.

svHyLyte 08-02-2010 05:20 PM


You do not have to remove the plastic cap to tighten or loosen the cone clutch. The flat bar handle just inserts into the slots on the sides of the top of the windlass with the plastic plug in place. FWIW the windlass does require rigerous maintenance or the motor drive will deteriorate quickly.

Also, ignor my earlier post as I misread your original question and though you cone clutch was slipping on the drive shaft itself rather then the gypsey and capstan slipping on the clutch.


adaptable23 08-06-2010 12:20 AM

Maxwell Winch will not screw down
I am looking at some info on my maxwell windlass and this one is a standard profile one without the capstan.
The problem I am having is that the clutch nut does not screw down on the threaded spindle collar. It seems the thread may be stripped or some such problem. I think the winch is working electrically but the chain wheel upper just flops around and I cannot screw the clutch down. In an effort not to loose the parts overboard I just took the whole chain wheel upper and clutch out. I had to pull 70 ft of chain that I have up by hand ( or should I say back) and i wonder what I need to do to fix this puppy.

Could anyone recommend what parts I should pick up to fix this? What are the commonly used parts and is the thread on the spindle just under the cheeze-head screw/washer and above the tab washer a normal thing to wear out? ....or do I have BIG problems?
Thanks for your help. I am in Vancouver BC, Canada

P.S. there is a black plastic arrowhead looking thingy on the small line that hooks the chain in place after it is payed out. Any idea what it is ?


hellosailor 08-06-2010 12:07 PM

". I had to pull 70 ft of chain that I have up by hand ( or should I say back) "
Seriously, lift with your legs, not your back. Let your thighs lift your torso with the chain, they're the biggest muscles in most bodies and best stuied for the heavy lifting.

Not knowing what the inside of that windlass looks like...I'd say to break it down very carefully (take some digipix to document how it goes back together) and look for what is worn or stripped. And somewhere, someone has the manual for rebuilding it.

dtempleton 08-16-2010 02:32 PM

The final diagnosis

Originally Posted by dtempleton (Post 627800)

However, the beast is unable to fully lift the anchor plus 4-5 feet of chain without the clutch(?) slipping; the motor continues to turn, but the drum stops, or loses ground. I can get it in by providing probably 40# of muscle.

OK, answering my own question.
HyLyte came pretty close with the keyway comment.

I took the capstan apart last week; it took a heavy bar and a lot of pounding on it with a hammer to loosen the top nut (this model takes a 3/8 x 1 1/2 inch bar, the one I had was smaller). This top nut is the chromed piece you can see from the top of the capstan. It sits atop a drum intended for rope, which sits atop a bronze (or brass??) clutch plate that sits on the gipsy. The whole thing is held in place with a 1 1/2 inch drive pin with a keyway down its length.

The gypsy and the clutch plate are not caught by the key spline, so they can freewheel. The rope drum seems to be the only piece that is captured by the key spline, so it does not freewheel, and the top nut is obviously captured by the threads at the top of the drive pin.

I initially removed and cleaned the whole apparatus. The clutch plate was both greasy and covered with friction glaze. I sanded off the glaze, and while reassembling did not grease the clutch, just as I don't grease my car clutch or brakes. When reinstalled, though, the clutch was looser than ever, probably because I did not get the top nut as tight. Grrr.

I took it apart again, and noticed that the top of the key spline was proud of the rope drum by about 1 mm, and had a couple of grooves in it. Reasoning that this key spline was keeping the top nut from fully engaging the drum (and thereby the clutch plate) I took it apart once again and used my Dremel (gotta have one on board!) to cut about 4 mm of the key spline off of the top. When reinstalled, the spline now sits about 3 mm lower than the top of the rope drum (still with about 5 inches of spline engaged), and the top nut can spin down to fully engage the rope drum, and thereby the clutch plate.

Sorry I didn't get any pictures.

I tightened the top nut with the bar as tight as I could by hand, and it was still too loose. It took 2-3 swift blows with the hammer on a 10" bar and now the gypsy can lift the anchor into the rack even if it has to spin around 180 degrees.

This is a 20 year old Maxwell, and its assembly does not match that of the diagrams now on the Maxwell site. It seems in great shape though, and will certainly give another decade of service. Likely the clutch slipped and wore itself sufficiently so that the spline caused the nut to hold up.

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