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The Best Anchor Windlasses

In a mariner’s world, anchors are trusty sidekicks that tend to attract all the attention. They keep boats safe and steady, and that’s all good but what about the one that does all the muscle work at the bow?

best anchor windlass

The best anchor windlass, to me, deserves the entire stage. After all, it’s the kind that spares you from the back-straining task of heaving up hefty anchors and brings other goodies to the captain’s table as well.

Do you want to know what these other perks are and which types of windlass have them? Then, take the time to be acquainted with the spotlight-worthy selections I have reviewed here. They are complemented by a comprehensive guide that should give you a well-rounded overview of this nifty tool.

Best Anchor Windlass Reviews

1. Lewmar 6670011108-312 Vertical Windlass

Considering Lewmar as a household brand in windlass anchor systems is an understatement. It’s one of the most innovative companies at present, and this windlass will introduce you to what sets the brand apart.

When buying windlasses, I always prioritize those that are easy to use. Of course, that’s already taking into account the pulling power and rode that I’m using. Easy to install is another aspect that I welcome, especially in a vertical windlass. This one fits perfectly in my 29′ scarab, with the said factors in mind.

The ease-of-use mostly stems from the remote push-button control. That, plus the fact that it jived well with my free-fall anchoring habits. I’ve used 5/16’ rope, chain, and a combination of the two with this windlass anchor system, and I can’t recall any hitches whatsoever.

Once I installed it, I also immediately noticed how much precious bow real estate it helped me save. It provides a cleaner look in the bow, with the gears and motor protected from salt and moisture, which only the most well-designed vertical windlasses can achieve.

With that said, I’d be lying if I said the stainless steel finish didn’t catch my eye as well. It won’t look out of place in any luxury boat. But, ultimately, it’s the durability that wins my heart. It’s still going strong for me after 3 years of sailing with just a few signs of corrosion.

My only complaint is that the manual-only free fall tends to jam frequently, at least when compared to other windlasses I’ve tried.
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Stylish stainless steel design
  • Handles rope and chain rodes extremely well
  • Space-saving setup
  • Built to last
Cons
  • Tends to jam on free fall
Overall, the Lewmar V700 easily earns the honor of go-to anchor windlass. It represents the most reputable company in this department, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise.

2. Lewmar 6656811967-303 ProSport 550

The Lewmar ProSport 550 saves you electricity, money, and plenty of energy.

I was introduced to this Lewmar product when my wife and I rented a yacht on a sailing trip to the French Riviera. The three-week affair was one of the most memorable moments of my life for a variety of reasons. My interest was piqued by the components of our magnificent vessel, with this windlass being among the few facets that caught my attention.

I have since purchased one for my center console, and imagine my surprise when I found out how cheap it is. Recalling the yacht trip, what really attracted me to it was its smooth operation. It didn’t take long for both of us to warm up to the uncomplicated controls, and I definitely like that I get to enjoy this perk with my vessel.

Installation was a piece of cake, taking less than 30 minutes with its horizontal setup. Still, that’s noteworthy, considering the average time it usually takes me to install most horizontal windlasses.

Another aspect I like is the amount of power that this workhorse saves. I’ve been fishing and boating and have tried anchor windlasses long enough to attest to this contraption’s power-saving capabilities. That’s one more thing that adds to its general construction’s appeal.

The pulling power is just enough and maintains anchor performance. However, I’ve only ever used it on a delta and rope combination. That said, this windlass lacks a free-fall option, which would have made it perfect. Although it’s not impossible to do a free fall with this windlass, there is not much support.
Pros
  • Easy to install and control
  • Actively saves electricity
  • Decent pulling power
  • Works best with rope
  • Great value for money
Cons
  • Doesn’t support free fall
If you desire a windlass with reduced power consumption but still manages to do the job in difficult anchoring situations, then this is the one to get.

3. Maxwell RC8812V Windlass

A Maxwell windlass that seamlessly demonstrates what a responsive version of this sailing implement would be like. Its features anticipate most sailors’ needs.

I often use a ½-inch three-strand rope plus chain combination for the rode in my old 30’ center console. I mainly take it out for fishing, and had the thought one day of fitting it with a windlass. This is the first one that met my rode requirement straight up.

This windlass anchor winch instantly became a favorite of mine because it proved its strength when I got caught in a gale at one of my favorite fishing spots in the first few weeks after my purchase. Although I have to admit that this was back when I was still a novice. Roughly, the gusts blew up to around 30 knots, and I felt I had to weigh the anchor quickly.

However, my delta anchor got stuck quite firmly in 2’ of hard sand, which along with rode weight, ground tackle weight totaled to 210 pounds. I wouldn’t have made it out without this beast of a windlass.

Admittedly, I only used a bit of engine power, while I kept a close eye on the circuit breaker and an ear on the windlass’s motor. Rookie mistake, I know. Nonetheless, I believe the arguably exceptional situation called for it. It was either I got lucky it worked or this is just that tough.

Other aspects I like are the no-hassle installation, smooth and quick operation, as well as overall durability. I’d go so far as to say that it’s extra durable, considering the amount of abuse it has undergone. As proof of how fast it is, I once set down 500 feet of rope with it, and it retrieved my anchor in less than 5 minutes. Did I mention it supports free fall, too?

I can’t really think of any major flaws, besides perhaps the up/down switch, which tends to be faulty sometimes. I had mine repaired though I wouldn’t mind replacing it with a remote control altogether.
Pros
  • Awesome pulling power
  • No-hassle installation
  • Smooth and quick operation
  • Extra durable
  • Supports free fall anchoring
Cons
  • Faulty up/down switch
This electric windlass combines power and speed to help you get out of tricky sea situations.

4. Lewmar 66910441 Captive Reel Windlass

This Lewmar windlass proves that a cheap price tag can still go with excellent performance.

I hooked this up to my 23′ power cat. Installation wasn’t at all complicated. It didn’t take longer than 20 minutes though my brother helped me set everything up. I also clicked instantly with the controls since it mimics the same simple up/down switch in electric windlasses.

To be honest, I was a little hesitant because I have heard other buyers complain about the durability. I’m glad I ignored them because mine is still smoking the competition, even those with twice or thrice its price tag, with close to a year of regular use. The Lewmar seal and the 3-year warranty also did well to quell my doubts.

The self-locking feature sealed the deal for me since that means I do not need to use cleats. Even though rode stowage in anchor lockers has rarely been an issue for me, I appreciate that this one removes the need for it altogether.

It’s able to retrieve my 23-lb delta anchor quite fast in most bottoms. This windlass always seems to easily pop it out of the depths as if it bit poorly every time. No chain slips whatsoever and just straightforward, consistent performance.

However, I’m not too sure about some of the plastic components. This windlass requires you to be extra careful with the conditions you subject it to as well as the pressure you put on the motor. I make sure I don’t let it pull over 500 pounds.
Pros
  • Outstanding performance
  • Easy to install and use
  • Cheap but has a 3-year warranty
  • Quick and smooth anchor retrieval
  • Self-locking and forgoes the need to keep the rode in the anchor locker
Cons
  • Dubious durability
A little strapped for cash but can’t do without a solid windlass for your small or medium-sized boat? Then, this small boat windlass won’t let you down.

5. Five Oceans Pacific 1000 Vertical Anchor Windlass

This behemoth of a windlass packs a punch in pulling power, and it does so with style and a whole lot of neat bonuses.

Five Oceans windlass reviews are almost always quick to praise the impressive strength of the brand’s creations. However, I’m more satisfied with what’s included in the whole package. They really make the hefty price tag worth it.

Nevertheless, one of the things I love about it is its exceptional strength. I fitted it to my 41′ center console largely because of the whopping 1650-lb pulling power. I wanted a vertical windlass that I know would allow me to be more at ease with my anchoring. It’s safe to say that I got more than what I bargained for.

I’ve fished with this workhorse in Lake Erie before, and it always managed close to 200 pounds of algae and muck like they weighed nothing. It’s as consistent as it’s powerful, as I’ve never had a non-satisfactory experience with this tool.

The brand also didn’t skimp on the stainless steel material. You can immediately tell it is seaworthy as it won’t bend under pressure and, more importantly, will last for several years. I bet even the most finicky old salts will give it a good nod of appreciation.

I love that they took the time to throw in a footswitch as an alternative option for control. This is rare as far as most windlass anchor brands are concerned. I soon realized how thoroughly convenient it is, especially if you want to quickly set off or simply don’t want to go to the deck or use your hands to control it.

Nonetheless, I struggled a bit with the installation. I had to check my measurements a couple of times and what adjustments to make on my mounting area, besides figuring out where I’m supposed to drill holes. Other than that, I believe it’s worth every dime I spent on it.
Pros
  • Very beefy pull
  • Consistent performance
  • Contains foot switch
  • Designed to last
  • Appealing style
Cons
  • Quite hard to install
Those with hulking vessels will not find a more suitable anchor handler. Go for this if you’re focusing on long-term value.

6. Lewmar 6656411108-102 Pro-Fish Windlass

Fishing fanatics who want a trusty sidekick for all their anchoring needs could not ask for a better windlass. It’s practically made for them!

Being an avid angler myself, I can’t help but be drawn to this specialized windlass, especially since it’s made by such an iconic brand. It’s my practice to anchor whenever I get to my target fishing spot. Right off the bat, I was able to tell just why this makes any fisherman’s life easier.

After all, Lewmar threw in an automatic free-fall option, which is one of my favorite features. I’ll always have a soft spot for windlasses that can pull off quick and accurate free-fall anchoring. That’s exactly what I got from this product.

I tend to move around from spot to spot when fishing in Lake Erie, and every time, I need to adjust the anchor. This is one of the few windlasses that helps me achieve that quickly. I’d recommend this to boaters who struggle with free-falls for this reason.

When Lewmar said fast line speed, it definitely meant it. I was amazed by how quickly it raised my 450’ rode and 28-lb Danforth anchor in one of my Lake Erie fishing excursions. It took less than 4 minutes, at most.

Lewmar is also generous with its warranty terms on this one. A 5-year manufacturer’s warranty plus 1-year on the motor proves it’s worth the price tag.

Still, I wish Lewmar had been more transparent with what specific rode it fits with. It’s not stated in the product description, and I had to get the information from the Q&A section instead. That said, it works well with my ⅝” three-strand line.
Pros
  • Made specifically for fishing vessels
  • Precise automatic free-fall feature that helps save fuel
  • Very fast anchor retrieval
  • 5-year manufacturer’s warranty and a 1-year warranty on motor
Cons
  • Doesn’t denote the exact rode requirements in its product details
Overall, I’m just glad this is the version of the Pro-Fish that’s available in the US, as I’ve found it better than its 1000 counterpart after a brief comparison. Based on my experience, it might even deserve the best horizontal windlass title. This Lewmar anchor windlass tells you what it’s all about, and it does so with confidence because it knows how to satisfy users’ requirements.

7. Pactrade Marine PDSA0317 Anchor Windlass

This electric anchor windlass is all about being lightweight, and I mean that in a very good way. Outstandingly low-cost and compact, Pactrade Marine’s anchor winch offers out-of-the-box solutions to small-boat captains.

I sometimes take my 14′ catboat for lake fishing, so I decided it’s time to fit it with a windlass. Of course, I wanted something that won’t be a pain to install. That’s one of the main reasons why I chose this Pactrade Marine creation.

The relatively short bow roller adds to the compactness, and alignment was a breeze. Once installed, everything worked smoothly, no adjustments were needed. While the controls aren’t wireless, I feel as though you don’t really need them to be since this windlass is marketed towards people who do single-hand tiny-vessel sailing and fishing.

I’ve heard great things about the brand, too, particularly how they offer all-in-one anchoring solutions. I think everything included with this anchor, considering the price, makes it nothing short of a bargain. The freshwater rope fits perfectly with my purposes, and its 100′ length supports most water depths.

My grapnel anchor weighs exactly 20-lb. Since that’s the product’s limit, I was ready to purchase a lighter replacement. I’m glad I gave it a try anyway because it handles it smoothly in all the times I’ve used it. The light rope rode doesn’t add too much to ground tackle weight, but it’s sturdy.

That being said, I make it a point to keep the motor’s burden to a minimum. I feel it’s intended to last long, considering the extra corrosion protection. Mine still shows no signs of wear after 6 months.

Having worked with this windlass for a while, I found that it’s hard to replace its original rope. Also, 100′ falls quite short for people who like to hit deeper spots.
Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Complete package
  • Reliable operation
  • Reinforced corrosion protection
Cons
  • Hard to replace the original rope
  • Rope limited to 100′
Calling this is one of the best anchor windlasses doesn’t do it justice, as it exceeds everyone’s expectations.

8. Lewmar 6656011967-310 PRO-Series 700

Compact and powerful, two qualities you’d always want to have in any windlass you’re using, and which sums up what makes the PRO-Series 700 highly favored among owners of medium-sized vessels.

This windlass consistently makes it to a lot of best windlass reviews, and it’s really not hard to see why. The general design immediately gives you the impression of how compact it is.

Due to the notable space-saving capabilities of this windlass, it’s relatively friendly with the kinds of bows you can integrate it to. I installed it in my 30’ center console with the help of a friend, and the entire process took around 2 hours.

The gypsy’s friction nut can be torqued tightly to the point that I would consider it a miracle if I encounter any slipping with my rodes with this windlass. I do have a qualm about it, which I’ll explain below. Other than that, it hits the pulling power sweet spot — too sweet, in fact, as I’ve never had a small windlass as powerful as this.

With all these factors working in synergy, the 700 PRO-Series guarantees a solid anchor retrieval performance. As for cons, with the price considered, I feel the free-fall feature should have been included and not bought as an add-on.

Additionally, one issue I noticed is concerned with torquing the gypsy cone. While I did say that it can be torqued nice and tight, I feel that Lewmar’s instructions to do it all the way actually does more harm than good.

Why? Well, according to my experience, it puts extra strain on the gears because the anchor tends to slam in place on the bow roller every time I retrieve it.

In my opinion, the anchor should not slam but slide cleanly in place to reduce the said impact on the gears. I had to settle with greasing the cones and not torquing them too tight.
Pros
  • Highly compact
  • Relatively uncomplicated installation
  • Beefy pull
  • Very slip-resistant gypsy
Cons
  • Free-fall feature needs to be purchased separately
  • Too tight gypsy cone results in the anchor slamming when retrieved
All in all, Lewmar outdid itself with how it managed to stow plenty of perks in this compact workhorse.

9. Maxwell AMRM-HRC101012V Horizontal Windlass

Herculean strength characterizes this robust windlass. But it’s ultimately its versatility, coupled with that power, that makes it a complete, well-designed system.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually own this windlass. However, I’ve become well-acquainted with how it works and what its standout qualities are. This is because I happen to be a regular passenger of my fishing buddy’s Boston whaler boat, on which this brawny horizontal windlass is but one of the few eye-catching hardware.

To prove this windlass’s strong pull, you only need to think of retrieving 500’ of rode with a hefty anchor completely begrimed by mud and seaweed. I’ve seen this beast pull that off like magic every time. It makes it look easy, much like how easy it is to install since I also happen to have had a hand in affixing it to my buddy’s boat.

My friend’s been enjoying this workhorse’s assistance for 4 years since he got it back when it was just fresh in the market. He expects to get plenty of mileage from it now that he means to do most of his fishing single-hand. With its general make-up, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does manage to achieve it.

I like that Maxwell didn’t pull punches when upping its durability, considering it’s horizontal. The watertight case that houses most of the important windlass anchor parts can be opened easily for convenient maintenance. I have yet to spot leaking and rusting in my friend’s model.

There’s no major flaw I can discern in this product, and I’m hoping to own one soon. That said, I’d appreciate it if it lowered its price.
Pros
  • Unrivaled power
  • Decent anchor retrieval speed
  • Watertight case eliminates common leaking and corrosion issues
  • Very durable and not hard to install
Cons
  • Could use a price cut
This anchor gives you everything you need for hardcore sailing and cruising in larger vessels. To me, it’s a paradigm of the ideal horizontal windlass, besides the other one featured below.

10. Maxwell AMRM-HRCFF812V Horizontal Windlass

The Marine HRC FF-8 is all about excellence in construction. With its one-of-a-kind features, it puts to shame other brands within its price point.

This windlass is probably the best on this list as far as design is concerned. I haven’t gotten any rode transmission issues with this windlass, and I’ve been using it for 4 years in my other scarab. There’s no substitute for the word “smart” when describing its design.

Who could possibly hate the automatic free-fall feature? It’s a must-have for any seadog who doesn’t want to lift heavy anchors just to free fall. I prefer to be able to sit back when doing this, and I’m glad I get no less than that with this winch.

Comparing power output to others in the same price range, this overtakes the competition by miles. I regularly use this with a 150′ chain and 250′ rope with a 28-lb Danforth, and it has not given me any of the usual snarls and jams I get from some of my other setups.

Retrieval is relatively quick. Installation was also done in just an hour, but that should be expected from a horizontal winch. I’ve had this for years but have only had to deal with minor rust buildup that can be taken care of in no time.

Another reason to love this product is that Maxwell is run by knowledgeable and accommodating staff. I got first-hand support for installing this windlass in my brother’s Marine Trader 34. Although I do have to make it clear that that was more than 3 years ago. One more thing: most of the parts can be quickly replaced compared to other brands.

It’s hard to find a single flaw in this winch. That said, I once asked how much its wireless remote control kit was, and let’s just say the wife immediately protested when I said I was going for it.
Pros
  • A smart design that prevents most common windlass issues
  • More powerful than other products in its price point
  • Time- and energy-saving automatic free-fall feature
  • Excellent brand customer support
Cons
  • Expensive wireless remote kit
Without a doubt, this is another horizontal hydraulic anchor windlass that should be a role model for others of its kind. It proves most critics of this type of anchor winch wrong.

11. Five Oceans Atlantic 600 Horizontal Anchor Windlass

Despite not being as popular as the other brands mentioned here, Five Oceans proves it can go toe-to-toe with other more established companies by bringing this power-packed windlass to the fore. With it, affordability meets power and versatility.

In my opinion, it’s not so much the windlass as the entire collection of accompanying bonuses that serve to raise its value-for-money. Most anchor windlasses are discussed and presented in the context of systems. It’s safe to say that with everything that comes with the Five Oceans 600, no better product deserves the term “system”.

After all, everything that comes with this windlass is something I’ll always have the impulse to search out to complete my setups. I’ve already declared my affinity for footswitches, so that’s a given. But the fact that it also comes with its own circuit breaker and switch solenoid seals the deal. This spares me from going through all the trouble of looking for compatible components.

It might pale in comparison to its 1,000W cousin, but the 600W motor of this windlass still pushes to a maximum of 1,200 lbs. I haven’t done exact measurements of its power but it handles my Kodiak 38-lb delta anchor without much strain. That said, I’ve mostly only let it down on loose mud when I’m cruising.

I’d have given it a higher score if it didn’t limit itself to 3-strand ropes, and I think that’s a big step back with its main selling point in mind.
Pros
  • Complete system once installed
  • Above-average pulling power
  • Great value for money
Cons
  • Limited to 3-strand rope

Since it delivers an entire system once installed, this windlass is the real deal for beginners and sailors who don’t have the time to build their own systems from scratch.

12. Powerwinch P77741 Freefall Anchor Windlass

Lightning-fast anchor sets are always within an arms’ reach with this Powerwinch windlass. That may sound like an exaggeration but in all my years of anchoring, I’ve never enjoyed a faster setter than this gem of a windlass.

This used to be the original windlass on my 41’ center console, and I felt it deserved a spot here because I was a bit of a free-fall junkie in my earlier sailing years. The quicker time to set will always appeal to me, and the speed is just too noticeable to ignore.

I’ve lost count of the numerous times this neat contraption saved me when anchoring in tricky waters. I really have to thank the simple mechanism and control of this windlass, which is not surprising since it’s mainly a free-fall windlass. Sure, I missed the mark occasionally but the number of times I had successful sets readily make up for them.

I like that it accommodates standard rode splices. This 41’ Class requires a ⅝” three-strand rope and, contrary to a common misconception, it supports 5/16” hi-test too. I went over the manual for that exact information since I struggled to feed it with most of my available chains.

My model was also fairly low maintenance. I used it for 5 years before I decided to replace it, and I only had to do weekly to monthly cleanups of the inner components. I never had to replace a single part nor had to deal with major rust problems.

The downside should be evident if you like to fish. Free-fall anchors might let you anchor 4x quicker than power-down models, but the resulting splash tends to scare the bass away.

That’s one of the main reasons why I opted to replace this windlass, but for its other advantages, I’d say it’s worth getting.
Pros
  • Ideal for quick and convenient anchoring
  • Simple controls
  • Compatible with standard chain/rope splices
  • Proven to last long
Cons
  • Not recommended for fishing
Anchoring doesn’t get anymore elementary and quicker when it’s done with this windlass.

What is an Anchor Windlass

best-windlass-reviews

Anchors tend to get stuck and once they do, it requires plenty of pulling power to break them out. Even the sheer weight of most anchors can become an issue for a lot of sailors, especially older ones who no longer possess the strength and back power to weigh them. An anchor windlass, also called a marine anchor winch, can serve as a substitute for that.

Most showcase enough strength or pulling power, which is measured in pounds to weigh even the heftiest of rodes and anchors in record time. This is why a lot of sailors are more than happy to delegate the grunt work to these contraptions. Many also help them save time and offer plenty of much-needed assistance during inclement weather.

Do take note, though, that a lot of people misunderstand their pulling power. Despite their manufacturers making it clear how windlasses are designed, many still believe the false claim that they can help pull boats against strong winds or break anchors out of bottoms where it’s clearly impossible to do so. As much as possible, the strain should not exceed the hanging weight of the rode and anchor.

How Does It Work Then

While its type often dictates how an anchor windlass works, vertical and horizontal windlasses do share basic functionalities.

For one, both use a gypsy or chain wheel to raise or lower the anchor and the rode to a given depth. With an appropriate rode in place, the wheel, once it starts turning, should engage the chain’s links or the rope being used as a rode.

Manual, Electric, and Hydraulic Windlasses

Of course, this movement can either be powered manually, hydraulically or electrically. Those run by electric motors are often regarded, albeit, as an automatic boat anchor. Since we’re talking about the one that is most convenient for sailors, I focused mostly on hydraulic and electric windlasses in my windlass anchor reviews.

But that’s not to say that manual windlasses have no positive points. They let you exercise more control on how you’re going to lower or raise your anchor. You simply get a better feel of it, at least, in my experience as well as in others.

Also, we can’t deny that you save plenty of fuel if you choose manual. But among the most experienced seadogs nowadays, electric or hydraulic windlasses are the overwhelming favorites since they’re more convenient, reliable, and perform better in a crisis.

I would say electric windlasses are the most practical since they’re easier to operate while hydraulic systems are often difficult to set up but less hard to maintain in the long run. Hydraulic windlasses often limit themselves to big yachts as well since they’re the only vessels capable of housing a hydraulic system.

Using a windlass to tip anchors continues to be a matter of debate. Some sailors argue that certain manufacturers already anticipate sailors doing that so they beef up their products’ maximum pull capacity. On the flip side, you have “purists” who stick to using the windlass for lowering and raising the anchor only.

Types of Anchor Windlass

Whether you own a mid-range Goode windlass or a more dynamic Maxwell winch, not knowing what separates a vertical windlass from its horizontal counterpart would render both windlasses useless. Here’s how each one works.

Horizontal Windlass

This windlass is named as such because its main shaft containing the motor and gypsy runs horizontally. It’s usually easier to install because it’s done above-deck. However, you still have to make sure that it’s precisely aligned with the bow roller since you have a limited range of rode feed unlike in a vertical winch.

It has two other major drawbacks, namely the fact that all the components are more exposed to the elements. Manufacturers do their best to address this by reinforcing their casings with corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel, besides making them watertight.

Horizontal windlasses commonly wrap around the gypsy at only 90°, which is another disadvantage since this leads to a higher risk of rode slippings. Still, companies like Maxwell have introduced workarounds with their designs. Furthermore, many can compete with vertical windlasses in getting the job done.

Vertical Windlass

This is simply the exact opposite of a horizontal windlass in that the shaft is positioned vertically. There’s a good number of reasons why sailors prefer vertical windlasses despite them being harder and taking a longer time to install.

They’re usually compact once fully operational and help to save space on your deck and bow. The motor is kept below-deck, in the anchor locker, adding an extra layer of protection and minimizing maintenance costs.

Being vertical also means the rode has 180° wrap around the chain wheel, which is obviously more secure. Most come with spring-loaded fingers that keep the rope or chain securely wound to the gypsy.

These winches have a wider range of feed so you won’t have to worry too much about aligning it with a bow roller. Finally, most rope/chain rode combinations work best with vertical windlasses.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using an Anchor Windlass

With a fully operational anchor windlass, you will be able to enjoy these notable advantages:

  • Quicker, more efficient, and close to effortless anchor retrieval.
  • Reduces the chances of the anchor dragging.
  • Help older sailors or people with conditions that limit their physical activity.
  • Saves time anchoring and re-anchoring.
  • Help you get out of a rut.
  • Helps you save on fuel since most allow you to skip adjusting your anchors.

Most boat windlass reviews may be all too eager to showcase the undeniable advantages of an anchor windlass. Nevertheless, they are not without their downsides such as:

  • Some horizontal windlasses take up a lot of deck space. This could be a problem for smaller boats since windlass power is often, at least as far as most brands are concerned, relative to its size.
  • Mastering their proper use takes time. A lot of boaters tend to “abuse” their windlasses by improperly kedging with them or using the motor to pop out a stubborn, stuck anchor. These often lead to quick wear and tear that would render the entire setup useless after just a few times of use.
  • Proper use could not be asserted more since handling or, at least, getting close to a running electric windlass can lead to risks of losing a finger or even a limb. What’s worse is that the danger isn’t limited to that since electric windlasses, particularly their power cables, can turn into a fire hazard as well. This can be offset by a hydraulic windlass as its motor virtually has zero chance to overheat.

Buyer’s Guide

Landing the right windlass for your boat can turn your anchoring into a breezy, even heavenly, experience. The opposite is a nightmare. Or worse, you end up having no choice but to resell the product you chose because it simply didn’t fit in your boat.

It would be better to consider a windlass first before buying an anchor. However, if you already have one, you should make a note of its weight as well as these other factors:

  • Boat Size – Most windlass manufacturers indicate the maximum size their products are compatible with.
  • Boat Type – Certain boats have bows that can impact how and where you’re going to install the windlass. If you’re a stickler for style or don’t want the windlass to look out of place, this is important to consider.
  • Anchor Rode – Same as the anchor, it’s best to consider the type of rode that’s suitable for your prospective windlass before making your decision. Not all gypsies support both rope and chain combinations. The rode’s length figures into calculating the right pulling power relative to ground tackle weight.
  • Chain Size – The size of the chain affects the ground tackle weight as well.
  • Anchoring Conditions – What conditions do you typically encounter? Making a note of the bottoms and debris you expect your anchor to pull up can go a long way in helping you get the most suitable windlass.
  • Displacement – Boats with higher displacement typically require more pulling power to get them moving toward the anchor’s direction. That is, of course, assuming you’ll be using a powerful windlass that can and has been specifically designed to handle the additional strain. However, most experienced sailors dissuade using the windlass this way since this responsibility falls mainly on the boat’s motor.

Regarding Ground Tackle Weight and Pulling Power

To help you make a better decision about what windlass to get in terms of pulling power, you simply have to look at two factors: anchor weight and the total ground tackle.

To calculate the ground tackle weight, you only need to add the total weights of the anchor and rode. Afterward, to determine the exact pulling power you need, just multiply the total value by three to get the specific amount represented in pounds.

Care and Maintenance

Most of the maintenance can be done weekly or even monthly. In fact, some windlasses are so well-built that they only require minimal servicing, while others can even make do without it for years! Nevertheless, it pays off to conduct regular maintenance because you get to ensure your windlass is performing at its best. Here are a couple of tips.

  • Wipe and polish the metal exterior or surface. You can use a mix of water and mild soap for portions that are painted. Saltwater only leads to corrosion, and if your model is not well-protected from it, you might want to do this more regularly. You’d be significantly extending your windlass’s life this way.
  • Do weekly or monthly inspections of the matter depending on how often you use your windlass. Horizontal windlass motors are accessible above-deck so always make it a point to check for signs of rust on it, and yes, you should do this even if it’s encased. Any signs of corrosion should be dealt with immediately to keep it from spreading.
  • Keep an eye out for any signs of damage on the rode, and I mean the entire length of it. The rope you’re using might have frayed, which could affect the windlass’s operation. I’ve gotten snags from cases like this, and more often than not, it grinds everything to a halt.
  • It also won’t hurt to lubricate the chain wheel. You’ll have to consult the official manual of your model before you do this. Be sure to use the appropriate lubricant as indicated. Otherwise, you can ask the company about what steps to take.
  • Lastly, inspect the power cables and wires connected to the motor. I’ve heard reports of vessels catching fire because of faulty wirings. Don’t leave them exposed to moisture, especially if you see parts where the wiring insulation is beginning to wear off.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Who makes the best anchor windlass?

All the brands mentioned here have their merits, and I won’t hesitate to recommend any of the products listed. But if I need to choose a safe bet, I’d go with Maxwell or Lewmar.

Lewmar has been around for years and has established itself as a leader in windlasses. One of their best anchor windlass for sale, the V700, pushes the limits of how compact windlasses can get. It is an all-around brand that manages to deliver consistency in windlass performance without breaking your bank account.

Maxwell, on the other hand, has more clout in their designs, and the materials they use to ensure ace performance as well as durability. I’d even go as far as to say that they incorporate better features than most brands.

Even though I’ve never owned a Lofrans windlass, I’ve heard from first-hand feedback that their products last for a long time. That’s one brand you need to keep an eye out for if that’s your number one priority.

How to install?

Windlass anchor install experts usually rely on this saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” Every windlass and boat is different, but the accurate measurement is one common denominator they share with regards to this topic. Once you drill holes, they become permanent and could only cost you damage expenses if done improperly.

Unless you have an extremely old boat, you most likely won’t have to worry about reinforcing your deck. Other than that, you also have to make sure that the chain wheel is accurately aligned with the bow roller. Additionally, figure out the right angle for the chain once it’s fed to the windlass.

The usual accessories you will be needing are anchor rollers, circuit breakers, remote controls, toggle switches, footswitches, chain stoppers, and chain markers.

Also take note that if you’re installing a large windlass, it’s common practice to place a battery near it, usually in the V-berth.

Of course, you can always rely on professional help when installing your windlass if you aren’t confident about getting it done yourself.

How to operate an anchor windlass?

Operation largely depends on the type of windlass. Doing it manually usually involves turning the chain wheel with the help of a winch handle. You can do any number of rotations until you feel that you’ve set the anchor properly or have raised it back up.

For most motor-powered windlasses, you often only need to press the up/down switch to either raise or lower the anchor. Free-fall commonly requires you to just press and hold the appropriate button for a few seconds. These are assuming you’ve already pinpointed your anchoring spot.

Once it’s set, lock the chain in place with the chain locker. Don’t forget to attach a snubber, which is also called a bridle, to the rode to keep the anchor secure and the load off the windlass.

Where can I buy?

Plenty of products are available on Amazon, and you can get reliable user feedback from most of the ones listed. You can also visit the official websites and online stores of the brands I mentioned here.

Conclusion

As long as you install the right windlass, you’ll be thanking it generously for all the back-breaking anchoring troubles it would keep away for good.

The best anchor windlass is what consistently gives you the best possible cruising or fishing experience simply because you can confidently delegate most of the anchoring weight, both figuratively and literally, on it.

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