Choosing a windlass
Choosing a windlass for a boat can be a difficult decision, and it is important to get it right the first time. The first decision is to choose between a horizontal and vertical windlass. The vertical windlass has a motor and gearbox assembly that is mounted out of sight and out of the way under the deck, freeing up valuable real estate at the bow. The way the chain is fed round the gypsy and into the chain pipe means that this orientation of windlass also grips more links of the chain simultaneously, giving a more secure lift. On the other hand, smaller boats with limited space in the anchor locker may benefit from installing a horizontal windlass. With the motor housed in the deck unit, there’s more room for stowing chain below, and being higher off the deck, a horizontal model may offer a cleaner run of chain or rode over a high toerail.
Once the orientation is decided, the power of the windlass must be considered. Power should be determined by the maximum force needed to retrieve the anchor. This pulling power is measured in pounds and refers to the force that the windlass can bring to bear in its first few seconds of operation to break out the anchor. Different manufacturers have different guidelines, but they all measure it as a multiple of the weight of the ground tackle. Smaller units should be able to pull some four times the weight of the chain and anchor combined, while larger units above 2,000W don’t need as much spare power, so a multiple of two is enough.
Another important factor when choosing a windlass is ensuring that it will work with the anchor rode. The rotating part of the windlass is known as the gypsy and will be designed for an exact chain size. Many are capable of automatically handling a rope-chain rode. There is usually a choice of gypsies available for any unit, and even a small mismatch can make the windlass unusable. Mismatched chain will wear the shoulders of the gypsy, or it could just jam the whole thing and damage the shaft or the motor. Therefore, it is recommended to test a chain sample before purchasing a windlass to ensure that the gypsy is suitable for the chain size.
In conclusion, choosing the right windlass for a boat requires careful consideration. The decision between a horizontal and vertical windlass is a crucial one and will depend on the size and layout of the boat. Once the orientation is chosen, the power of the windlass must be determined by the maximum force needed to retrieve the anchor. Finally, ensuring that the windlass will work with the anchor rode is crucial, and testing a chain sample is recommended to ensure that the gypsy is suitable for the chain size. Taking these factors into consideration will ensure that the right windlass is chosen for the boat.