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  Topic Review (Newest First)
03-03-2006 05:51 AM
Anchor Windlass Selection

See also the Diagram at

There are a number of important criteria to be considered in selecting the correct anchor windlass (winch). These include the vessel size, displacement, windage, anchor size and rode selection. Practicalities such as locker space and depth of fall for the rode also play a part in deciding which windlass is ideal for you.

Begin by examining the depth of the anchor locker to determine the amount of 'fall' available. The fall is the vertical distance between the top of the anchor locker and the top of the anchor rode, when it is completely stored inside the locker. This measurement is important in determining whether your boat will be best suited for a vertical or horizontal windlass.

FALL: Generally chain rodes require a minimum perpendicular fall of at least 12". This is measured from the centre of the gypsy for Horizontal windlass’, and from the bottom of the locker deck for a Vertical windlass - hence a Vertical Windlass requires more cockpit locker depth.

When choosing a windlass, you face several choices. Electric or Manual, Vertical or Horizontal, what size windlass, chain size to be used, chain type, wire sizing, etc.
Manual vs Electric:

Manual vs Electric:
The advantages of a manual windlass include ease of installation, price, and less potential for things to go wrong. The advantages of an electric windlass are you don't have to use your muscles, they are quicker, and you are more likely to carry heavier ground tackle (as you don't have to lift it). Better electric windlasses have a manual operation option (in case of power failure).

Vertical vs Horizontal:
A vertical windlass has the chain gypsy and the rope capstan oriented at 90 degrees the deck, while a horizontal windlass has the gypsy and capstan parallel to the deck. Often the defining factor in choosing between vertical and horizontal is the number of anchors to be handled, the number of bow rollers, and how they line up. Often a boat with one bow roller on the center line will select a vertical windlass. A boat with two bow rollers might use a horizontal windlass.

The advantage of a vertical windlass is its low profile, its motor and or gear box is usually under the deck (& out of the weather), and therefore the vertical units use less deck space (but use more locker space). They allow the anchor rode to come aboard at almost any horizontal angle, but the rode must enter at nearly 90 degrees to the axis of the drum. The anchor rode makes a 180 degree turn the gypsy , then a 90 down, falling into the anchor locker. They are generally harder and more costly to install and service.

The horizontal windlass generally offers the best performance with small or unusual locker designs. As the anchor rode enters the gypsy it makes a 90 degree turn and feeds directly down into the anchor locker. The advantages of a horizontal windlass are that they offered in a wider range of gypsy variations, are easier to install and service, and do not interfere with space in the anchor locker.
The disadvantages are that the anchor rode must travel in a direct line from the bow roller to the windlass (often necessitating the windlass to be mounted off center) which sometimes looks odd. They also take up considerably more deck space, and are totally exposed to the elements.

Size - Capacity:
The two things to consider are the Maximum Pull Capability and, the Working Load of the winch. Maximum pull (sometimes referred to as stall load) is the maximum short term or instantaneous pull of the winch. Working load is generally rated at about one third of the maximum pull, and is usually considered to be the load that the winch is pulling once the anchor is off the bottom. To determine your required maximum pull capability:
a) Maximum Pull = Total Weight of your ground tackle x 3 (or 4). Pick the nearest LARGER pulling power. The factor of three (or 4) covers the effects of windage and the speed of tidal current and includes a safety margin for unknown circumstances.
b) Use the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Your chain rode and windlass gypsy (wildcat) must be matched (size & type).
There are three main chain types generally available in the market place. One is Proof Coil, which is not suitable for windlass applications due to the long size of the links. The other two are BBB or Triple B and HT or High Test, which are both suitable for windlasses. I generally prefer HT because it is stronger (or lighter)(it has a higher capacity per diameter/weight - increase capacity or decrease weight/size). Make sure you buy chain that is hot dipped galvanized, and that is I.S.O. Standard Chain.

Windlasses are not designed to hold high loads while a boat is at anchor. When the windlass is not is use and the boat is at anchor, the anchor rode should be secured using a chain stopper, or attached (via a “snubber”) to a load bearing fitting such as a cleat or bollard.

Gord May
03-02-2006 05:23 PM
TrueBlue Our vertical windlass self-tails up and down into the SS hawsepipe w/o crew assistance. However, for security while underway, we cruise with a retaining shackle connected to the CQR shank. Someone does have to go to the foredeck to disconnect this, prior to windlass operation.

I installed up & down foot switches by the windlass, in addition to two remote switches, both at the pilothouse helm and aft deck helm, to keep my options open.

Another reason for choosing a vertical windlass, was to serve the two anchors on my bow pulpit rollers. As mentioned above by Wayne, a vertical unit can accept wide horizontal rode angles, so is the best choice for this application.

The windlass location on my teak foredeck though, is set about 22 degress below the raised bulwarks and pulpit rollers. Lewmar limits vertical angles to 18 degrees. Therefore, I fabricated a 15 degree, wedge-shape windlass base from a 2" block of teak for better alignment with the gypsy. Works like a charm.
03-02-2006 12:14 PM

We use a horizontally oriented windlass on our Race Committee boat, with all chain to a plow anchor. It feeds in or out without having to have anyone on the foredeck, with no override issues. This has been useful when we've held races in four to six foot waves. Not having used a vertical one, I don't know, but does someone have to tail the line and feed it into its locker with a vertical windlass? If people are dragging down on you and you have to pull the anchor on a rough night, it might be safer not to need someone on the foredeck tending the line.
03-01-2006 08:28 PM
PBzeer Guess my thinking on it wasn't too far off then. Thanks for the info.

03-01-2006 08:17 PM
wwilson The vertical windlass is also less constrained to a narrow pick-up angle between the windlass and the bow roller. In fact boats with dual bow rollers can often use the same windlass (obviously only one rhode at a time!) because it is not dependent on critical alignment with the bow roller. That can also translate to a bit more installation latitude on where the windlass is mounted on the deck.

03-01-2006 07:42 PM
sailingfool John

We have an older Seatiger which is a manual horizontal design. I think the newer horizontals are somewhat smaller that the Seatiger - but you'd only have to whack your kneecap ONCE on the windlass unit while messing with a sail on the foredeck, to decide the best solution is the thing with the lowest profile. I didn't walk normally for about six weeks...So my vote would laso be a vertical.
03-01-2006 07:27 PM
yachtvalhalla Nope .. I agree with True Blue completely BUT in my case I have a bowsprit that sits a few inches above the foredeck so the horizontal one was about the only option I had. And, in the past 13 years my Lofrans Tigres has performed beautifully except for the paint (over aluminum) which is beginning to peel away. The brushed aluminum case was not available when I bought mine and would be my first choice now.

03-01-2006 04:11 PM
TrueBlue I went with a 1500 Lewmar S/L vertical for a number of reasons:

1. This was a replacement for an original vertical unit, so the hole was cut
2. The chain locker is very deep (as required)
3. I like the motor unit below deck, protected from weather
4. The gypsy takes > 3/4 turn of chain, providing better traction (horiz. gypsies are < 1/2 turn)
5. The vertical capstan is more versatile for warping lines
6. The smaller profile reduces deck clutter on my foredeck.

Someone else can chime in with cons.
03-01-2006 03:55 PM
Windlass - Horizontal or Vertical?

Looking for opinions on the pro's and con's of horizontal verus vertical windlasses. Will be for a 32' boat, using rope/chain rode to a CQR.


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