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Joesplace 09-06-2012 01:50 AM

Manual or Electric Windless??
I need some input on this one, I need a windless on my 31' sailboat and am having a hard time deciding which way to go, electric or manual.

On one hand I heard stories about manual windless that couldn't get the anchor up in time and had bad luck in storms. I also heard about electric problems that can plague the switches and wiring.

My wife and I are in our 60's and still in good shape but I'm tired of hauling the anchor up by hand. We will be headed down to Mexico for a year and don't have a really big budget so that's the real reason I'm leaning towards a manual one. Good choice or bad?????

I'm sure there's a few experienced sailors out there that can give me some pro's and con's . . .


americanfrog 09-06-2012 02:04 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
lots of factor in play: how often are you going to use your anchor, how heavy is it? how much chain to you have etc... ability to fit on your boat (not be discounted)

But generally i'd advise a powered-windlass.. most of them have a manual setting drop and weigh anchor or in case of emergency; in way you get the best of both worlds. I have a maxwell 800 on my 40 hunter. I tried to leave w/o a windlass on my 36 catalina previously but found that it seriously limited our anchoring outings. If you're going to anchor regularly use power ;-)... You might be able to find a rebuild one for a lesser price. personally i think it is well worth the investment..

Freedom007 09-06-2012 05:03 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
Go with power if you poss can. Battery voltage will be important,weight,space etc. I am 62 and very strong and raise my anchor by hand for the exercise. However for raising it fast nothing beats power.

PBzeer 09-06-2012 06:11 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
If you're going to have a windless, it might as well be powered. This is what I have on my 32' boat, and it has worked well for me. Especially as I'm a single hander. I have an up/down switch in the cockpit, and an up foot switch at the bow. If properly wired, there should be no electrical issues.

Minnewaska 09-06-2012 07:50 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
There will be some purists that insist on having limited power equipment and others than argue electronic equipment just increases complexity, maintenance and failures. I think you get what you pay for and should install things properly, maintain them properly and buy good quality. Pay more upfront and less over time.

However, most importantly, electronic windlasses and winches make a huge difference in the usefulness of a sailboat. I have a buddy with a similar sized boat and no electric winches. He sails less than half the time that we do and fully admits that hand cranking the sails takes energy he doesn't always have. He motors a lot as a result.

Back to the windlass. I think that deck mounted buttons are both dangerous and the most failure prone, as they are exposed to the elements. I have seen a finger caught in the windlass when a button was accidentally stepped upon. Ugly. We have a controller on a stretch cord mounted inside the V-berth. It therefore remains in your hand while using the windlass. We open the hatch and reach in for it, then put it away when done. I would be even happier, if it had an on/off safety switch.

svHyLyte 09-06-2012 08:38 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
If you elect the manual windlass, the first time you have to retrive and re-deploy the anchor two or three times in lousy weather to get a set; or waken in the middle of the night and have to hoist and reset in a blow/rain, you'll rue the day. BTDT.

A reliable, strong, windlass with a capstan for warping is a god-send. I also agree that deck mounted controls are a mistake. They invariably fail and, equally invariably, at the most inconvenient times. We have a hand held controller that connects to a water-proof fitting in the anchor locker with a 3 meter coiled cable as well as a wireless controller that I hook to my belt with a short lanyard. We always use the wireless controller, with which I can launch and recover the anchor from anywhere on the boat, but have the wired control at the ready, just in case.

I further suggest that a vertical windlass with a reversing solenoid and without a captured chain is the best alternative as one can service bow rollers on either side of the head stay and lead warping lines, through snatch-blocks, from any direction. In any case, a good chain lock/stopper to relieve the load on the windlass when it is not being used is also wise.


CarolynShearlock 09-06-2012 09:01 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
Our thought is that a power windlass is a safety feature.

If you've got power and it's easy to reset the anchor, you'll do it several times if need be. Without it, you'll say "oh, it'll do." We had two friends who lost boats this way.

Further, you won't be tempted to anchor too close to shore. We know of many boats without electric windlasses who anchor in as shallow depths as they can. Unfortunately, if the wind switches or the anchor drags a tiny bit, or if they slightly miscalculated, they end up aground.

And if the weather turns nasty and you decide you need to head to a more protected anchorage (or just out to sea to get off a lee shore), it'll be a LOT easier with power. Yes, we pulled our anchor (66# Spade - love it by the way) when we suddenly had 3 to 4 foot rollers coming into our anchorage. I cannot imagine doing it with a manual windlass -- and doing it without injuring yourself could be next to impossible.

BUT -- if you're going to get an electric, get a good one and make sure the power system is set up properly. Just having one doesn't do any good if it doesn't work when you need it. Like most other things on a boat, it's a system where all the pieces have to work together. We had a Maxwell (can't remember the model, but it'd be larger than you need), professionally installed with heavy cables, never ran it without the engine being on, and literally never had a lick of trouble in 6+ years of full-time cruising. We always used the manual drop and power retrieve.

Have fun on your planned trip!

Stonecutter36 09-06-2012 10:37 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
Ill start by saying I’m 65 with bad knees my windlass is Hydraulic lots of pull It NEVER gets hot from repeat uses. I would not put a manual windlass on a boat with tackle that I couldn’t lift from 30 ft by hand (it will come too that). I keep a fender close in case I have to cut the nylon to get away quickly ( I have used it) . When I had to chose I gave electric a long look and would choose the larger size recommended by most salesmen. Consider the windlass as part of the Ground tackle and the extra cost as premiums to the insurance policy .

Joesplace 09-06-2012 11:07 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
WOW - Thanks for the great reply's! Guess I forgot to give enough info when posting. Our bow anchor is currently a #35 CQR, 90' 5/16 chain and 250 rode. Yes, we have plenty of room to install an electric windless so I guess that's our best bet and safest!

On to the next question, several others have suggested using a dedicated battery for the windless. Currently we have two battery banks with one battery on each. I have the room to add more and it sounds like a good idea, what's your option???????????????????????????

Thanks again . . . .

PBzeer 09-06-2012 11:30 AM

Re: Manual or Electric Windless??
As one other poster suggested, have the engine running when using the windlass. Which is almost always the case anyway in entering an anchorage. And in the morning, I start the engine to let it warm up before raising the anchor and motoring (usually) out of the anchorage. I'd certainly build a larger house bank if I had room, especially if I was cruising.

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