Precision Anchoring with only Electric Windlass - SailNet Community

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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 08-02-2010
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Precision Anchoring with only Electric Windlass

The last couple of charter boats could only let out chain using the electric windlass, the clutch that would pay out the chain was jammed or non-existent. I find it hard to anchor when the chain can only go out at the speed of the windlass.

I’m talking about anchoring stern-to a jetty or with a line ashore, not just slinging the hook. With the clutch I find it easy – just reverse back into to berth and give the sign to the anchorman to release the clutch (maintaining a slight tension) – the anchor falls and takes as much chain as it needs as the boat goes backwards. About 2m from the jetty I give the sign to close the clutch and the boat comes to a halt gently as the anchor digs in, leave it in reverse for a bit then adjust the chain length to suit the dock lines. Sometimes you do need to this at a couple of knots speed if there is a cross wind.

Using the electric windlass to pay out chain I find much harder – either the boat is too fast and rips the anchor out the seabed, or too slow and too much chain is dumped.

Has anyone else come across this problem? Or even better anyone have a solution? The charter companied tell me that people only ever use the buttons to let out chain.
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Old 08-02-2010
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What I do with my windlass is let out as much chain as I can, without hitting bottom, before I pick my spot for the anchor (I'm doing it from the cockpit). Then as I back to the spot, or let the wind blow me to it, I start letting out chain. Usually, by the time the anchor starts to dig in, I have enough chain out to keep from pulling it out, but not so much to tangle it. Sometimes it works perfectly, sometimes I have to try again. Still perfecting my technique.
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Old 08-02-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris31519 View Post
The last couple of charter boats could only let out chain using the electric windlass, the clutch that would pay out the chain was jammed or non-existent. I find it hard to anchor when the chain can only go out at the speed of the windlass.

...
What boats are you talking about (just not to buy one of those)?

Really, I agree with you, that makes no sense, I mean letting the chain go with the windlass engine. The only guys I see doing that way are motorboaters, put I always thought they didn't know how to do better
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Old 08-02-2010
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Last few were Oceanis 43, Bavaria 46 and Athena 38 cat. Usually the Bavarias have a nice clutch but the last one was stuck. I don't know why anyone would use electricity to do what gravity does much better. One of the niggles of chartering I guess.

I will try PBzeer's technique next time.

Last edited by chris31519; 08-02-2010 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 08-29-2010
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Makes you wonder what other hidden faults are on those boats, because the Charter companies are not doing proper maintenance.
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Old 08-29-2010
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Med mooring (anchoring stern to) can be a tense time and not being able to control the speed of chain going out can make things... interesting.

I've never used the windlass to drop chain, preferring to control the speed myself. When conditions are benign, you probably could use the windlass to drop chain safely but when the weather's not cooperating, or the anchorage is packed, then you have to resort to plan B.

NOTE: This is not for the weak of back or grip. It is a dangerous but effective way of lowering anchor at a speed you consider safe.

If you can't loosen the clutch on the windlass you can manually flake the anchor chain on deck, making sure there's no overlay or cross overs. Keep the anchor secure while you do this. When you're ready, put on a pair of heavy leather gloves and slowly lower the anchor. If you've got the depth figured out, the anchor should land on the bottom and you can then control the speed of the chain out.

As you back down, continue to pay out the chain. At a convenient spot (generally a boat length or so off the dock, drop the chain on the gypsy and begin bringing in the chain. This should help bring your bow back under control. A few feet from the quay you should be using the windlass to stop you and really set the anchor. Now attach the stern lines and tighten up carefully.

I try to use the windlass to pull the boat off the quay. If things go right then secure the windlass and use a chain hook to make sure the tension's off the windlass (it's designed to raise and lower the anchor gear, not take the pressure of a big vessel). Add crossing stern lines and you should be set.

The real problem with stern to mooring is getting your anchor back, especially if you're one of the first ones in. In the past, I've had to hire divers (at a huge expense) to free my anchors and allow me to bring them back on board.
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Old 09-01-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris31519 View Post
The last couple of charter boats could only let out chain using the electric windlass, the clutch that would pay out the chain was jammed or non-existent. I find it hard to anchor when the chain can only go out at the speed of the windlass.

....
Chris, I have chartered a 425 Dufour that apparently did not have a clutch. I have asked to the guy from the company about it and I was surprised because after all the winch had a clutch and a good one has I was to find out.

It didn't look like a clutch (as on the Bavaria windlasses). I believe much of the French boats have the same system:

You just put the winch handle on the star and tight or let go .

Here is a picture:


Last edited by PCP; 09-01-2010 at 11:05 AM.
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Old 09-01-2010
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I have a windlass the does not free fall. I've had no problems anchoring with it. It will walk out the chain as fast as I drift in most conditions. In winds over 25 knots I have to go ahead once in a while to slow the drift.
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Old 09-03-2010
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Thanks for the tips, flaking out the chain our pre-releasing the depth of chain are both good ideas. I had two boats this summer (SO 43.4 and BAV46) both equipped with clutches but neither would budge. It ticks me off since I perfected med mooring even with strong sidewinds by using freefall, but lowering with the electric windlass just doesn't work for me. I have another Bavaria in October - I'll practice with the ideas here. I might also bring some WD40! Not keen on grabbing running chain though - just a personal thing - I already lost two fingers! (unrelated accident).
Chris
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