A Windlass That Makes The Grade

JHH5II-12181
Morgan's Cloud's Ideal windlass

In this chapter I’m going to write about the capabilities you need to have in a windlass when the anchoring gets tough.

And these features are not just for those voyaging to the high latitudes. Just about anywhere 50-knot winds can come at you out of a summer thunderstorm or an unexpected wind shift can leave you anchored on a lee shore, and being able to set or weigh anchor effectively may save your boat.

  1. Introduction
  2. 4 Vital Anchor Selection Criteria and a Review of SPADE
  3. SARCA Excel Anchor—A Real World Test
  4. SPADE, SARCA Excel, or Some Other Anchor?
  5. Rocna Resetting Failures and evaluation of Vulcan and Mantus
  6. Some Thoughts On The Ultra Anchor, Roll Bars and Swivels
  7. Specifying Primary Anchor Size
  8. Kedge (Secondary Anchor)—Recommended Type and Size
  9. Third Anchors, Storm Anchors and Spare Anchors
  10. Anchor Tests—The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Silly
  11. Making Anchor Tests More Meaningful
  12. We Love The Way Our Anchor Drags 
  13. Things to Know About Anchor Chain
  14. Selecting a Chain Grade
  15. Anchor Chain Catenary, When it Matters and When it Doesn’t
  16. Anchoring—Snubbers
  17. Anchor Rode Questions and Answers
  18. Q&A: Hybrid Rope And Chain Anchor Rodes
  19. Anchor Swivels, Just Say No
  20. A Windlass That Makes The Grade
  21. The Perfect Anchor Roller
  22. Install A Wash-down Pump—And Save Money!
  23. Anchoring—Kellets
  24. Anchoring—Chain: Stoppers, Termination and Marking
  25. 20 Tips To Get Anchored and Stay Anchored
  26. Choosing an Anchorage
  27. Choosing a Spot
  28. 15 Steps To Getting Securely Anchored
  29. One Anchor or Two?
  30. Two Anchors Done Right
  31. It’s Often Better to Anchor Than Pick Up a Mooring
  32. Yawing at Anchor, The Theory and The Solution
  33. Yawing at The Anchor, an Alternative Cure
  34. How To Use An Anchor Trip Line
  35. ShoreFasts—Part 1, When to Use Them
  36. ShoreFasts—Part 2, Example Setups Plus Tips and Tricks
  37. ShoreFasts—Part 3, The Gear
  38. Gale And Storm Preparation, At Anchor Or On A Mooring
  39. Storm Preparation, All Chain On Deck
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Colin Speedie

Hi John

I could not agree more with your post. One of the most difficult and nerve-wracking things to successfully achieve in strong winds is setting or retrieving the anchor, especially when there are other boats nearby, or space is tight. You need the best, most powerful windlass money can buy to improve the odds.

Even when winds aren’t too strong, the inability to let the chain go fast via a clutch or brake can make it really difficult to drop the anchor where you (and your future neighbours) want.

It also goes without saying that in strong winds all of this is rendered immaterial if you haven’t extensive experience of how your boat will handle in strong conditions whilst anchoring, and have worked up your teamwork and communications between bow and helm – as you and Phyllis have. Another case of practice makes perfect, in my view.

Best wishes

Colin

RDE

One of the very few windlasses that seems to meet a high standard is the Lighthouse. (http://www.lighthouse-mfg-usa.com) Anyone with direct experience with them?

Joe Casey

(just came across this article using link from the current mooring article)
The Lighthouse is an excellent windlass. Most Valiants over the past 20 years were so equipped. While it does have a remote, easy release option, without it you can drop fast (and with an 88lb Rocna that is what we do) and pay out chain fast and break with ease. Also the motor is rated for continuous use (unlike the starter motors some builders use) so you can retrieve with reasonable speed. Our 47′ Valiant displaces about 35K pounds and we have pulled her forward with this windlass in 20kt winds.

The one issue with this windlass is that the pad next to the gypsy needs to be removed and cleaned periodically or it will slip.

Joe
s/v Iolair
47V112

Rick

Hi John and Phyllis:
I continue to enjoy your blog, thank you. We have 300′ of 3/8″ chain as our primary rode and the windlass is a Maxwell Nilsson 3000 vertical capstan with brake and clutch. It is worked from the bow. I have often admired other boat owners with their cockpit switches to effortlessly raise and lower the anchor when needed. However your points about quick release are good ones, especially in windy conditions where quick action is needed.
Comment / Question … When we raise anchor our chain is fed below decks at the bow and if there is more than 100′ of chain out, typically the chain falls over on itself which blocks deployment at critical times. We have over come this by having one of us in the chain locker, down below, stacking the chain each time we raise the anchor when it is being raised, which means there is no one at the helm, because I am usually at the bow. I am curious how you raise your chain and stack it without it falling over on itself in the locker and therefore stopping deployment?
Could this problem be related to the fact that we have a vertical capstan and you have a horizontal one? It looks like the “pull” on your windlass would allow you to take the chain off the chainwheel and pull manually when stuck or do you have a special set up for the chain in the locker?

Colin Speedie

Hi Rick

I can’t speak for John and Phyllis, but from my own experience, this problem can occur with either vertical or horizontal windlasses. It is often a problem where the anchor well is shallow, or where there is already plenty of chain or warp, and in these cases the chain can often pile up under the windlass and block the hole. A deeper well, and/or some sort of distribution plate to divert the chain into the well better can help.

As your well is accessed below deck this may not be the issue – perhaps it’s just the fact that chain piles up! On our boat I generally handle the anchor, and stand on a stringer in the well and distribute the chain with a well aimed boot – not very technical I know, but it works. I use a wireless controller (effective, but flimsy) or a wire connected controller, so that I can see the chain coming in.

We do have a set of windlass controls at the wheel, but they are for emergency use only, i.e. when only one of us is aboard and a sudden windshift puts the boat in danger. At such a time, the only concern is to get control of the boat, retrieve the chain and clear out, and we can worry about any chain snags later. But we never use it to lower the anchor – for all of the reasons John outlined.

Kind regards

Colin

Stan Carlyle

I have 400 feet of 3/8 BBB in the chain locker on a HR42E. It quickly piles up and jams when coming in. I use a boat hook to continuously distribute it throughout the locker when incoming. I thought that this would be quite awkward but it works very well. On the way out it runs very smoothly.

Dave Benjamin

I am a bit confused about your comment regarding needing a bow thruster to keep the bow into the wind while anchoring shorthanded (contained in paragraph regarding need for a clutch).

If I want to anchor by myself I drop the anchor with the bow to one side or the other of the wind. The wind blows the bow down while the chain is being released. Once the anchor sets the bow is pulled back around into the wind. At that point I can back on the anchor with the engine at moderate RPM to insure it’s well set.

Admittedly I’ve not attempted anchoring in a full gale but I’ve used the method in a pretty stiff breeze. It’s worked every time. When I worked as a sailing instructor, we taught that method in the basic cruising class.

I fully agree with the need for a clutch. Our windlass has controls at the helm and foot switches. I’ve always paid out the rode manually, using the clutch to control the fall rate.

Colin Speedie

Hi Dave

I think John is talking about many of the modern generation yachts, which are light weight, with high freeboard and little below the waterline. The moment you stop the boat is going sideways if there is any breeze, and if there are boats around you, then anything you can use to try and keep the boat pointing where you want her to end up will help – including a bow thruster. With older, heavier designs there’s far less of this behaviour, and using prop walk and judicial boat handling life is far easier. As you say, once the anchor bites it will help to pull the bow into line, but to me it’s the bit in between the anchor hitting the bottom and you paying out enough chain for the anchor to bite that’s the danger zone, in a tight anchorage. Of course it hardly matters if you’ve all the room in the world.

In Europe where most boats live on marinas it’s becoming more and more difficult to get away without a bow thruster, especially as average boat sizes have increased, making many marinas ‘smaller’. But it seems that some boats are so flighty that the owners use them whatever the circumstances – in recent years I’ve watched with mounting incredulity boats using their bow thruster to help them pick up a mooring – and that surely can’t be a sign of sane cruising boat design.

Best wishes

Colin

Dave Benjamin

Hi Colin and John,

Excellent point. I know in Europe, particularly the Med, anchorages are quite crowded compared to some of the places we’ll anchor which are sparsely populated. My technique would not be advisable in some of those anchorages. I’ve not been to the high latitudes, at least not above 50N.

At this scenic anchorage in the Sea of Cortez we spent a few days with scarcely another boat within 500-1000 meters from us. For a short time we shared the anchorage with a National Geographic boat. We could have let 150m of rode out and not bothered anyone. Such a contrast with the Med, ehhh?
http://newimages.yachtworld.com/resize/1/36/23/3233623_0_080220111714_2.jpg?f=/1/36/23/3233623_0_080220111714_2.jpg&w=600&h=450&t=1297214096000

Colin Speedie

Hi Dave

Great pic, and just the sort of place we love, too.

One of the reasons the Med has never been on our list is that it is so crowded. Some friends of ours went in as far as the Balearics this summer – and are coming straight back out again, largely due to the overcrowding. Which is a great pity, because I know from previous experience that there are some lovely places, like Turkey.

We tend to avoid crowded anchorages if at all possible, or use our shoal draft capability to get into the corners that ‘other boats can’t reach’, if there’s no alternative.

Best wishes

Colin

Steven Schapera

There are plenty of uncrowded, unspoiled anchorages in the Med. It depends upon time of year and your appetite for adventure. Sardinia at any time other than July and August is a good example.

Dave Benjamin

Colin,

Noted you have an Ovni. A lifting keel boat like yours is the only boat we’d consider as a replacement for our well traveled Amel Maramu. It amazes me how boats like yours are ignored by most American boat buyers. I think on this side of the pond people are reluctant to stray from the status quo. Aluminum boats in general are not well understood or appreciated in the US market other than in small pockets.

Colin Speedie

Hi Dave

I’m glad you like them – they have their quirks, but they’re great cruising boats, and I think US buyers are steadily becoming more aware of that, especially for high latitude sailing.

But I could equally say the same about your boat – I never yet met an Amel owner that wasn’t a total convert, and maybe that’s because Amel have never bowed to fashion, developed their product over time through evolution, not revolution, and always delivered a great cruising boat. Respect.

Kind regards

Colin

Dave Benjamin

Colin,

Thank you for the kind comments. We are converts like the rest of the Amel owners. The basic design of the boats has remained unchanged since the late 1970’s. The newer ones are more refined and quite a bit more luxurious. It’s a design that works and Amel smartly focused on a limited production high quality cruising boat rather than trying to be all things to all people.

Perhaps we can have an “offline” conversation about what you regard as quirks of the Ovni. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak at any length with an owner. If our Maramu happens to sell, we’d be looking for a lifting keel aluminum boat in 18-24 months. I like the center cockpit ketch concept but some of the newer sloop designs incorporating a pilothouse certainly have merit as well. One concern I always have with larger sloops is mainsail management. That has to be well thought out. On our ketch if it gets snotty, we can simply drop the main, carrying on “jib and jigger” as it were.

One thing I love about the Amel is how well behaved she is in a seaway. The motion is somehow dampened so you don’t expend the energy moving around that you do on other boats. I delivered a Swan 44 once and found myself missing my old ketch quite a bit. The Swan was certainly sportier and preferable for a buoy race, but not something I could envision putting up with for cruising. The Amel just has a very reassuring ride and you don’t get pitched around as much.

Dick Stevenson

Colin, I am unable to let go your comment that the Med is so crowded without challenge. We just spent 4 years in the Med and the vast majority of the time we were not crowded whatsoever. We anchor out the vast majority of nights. The other Med-myth is that there is no sailing. In 4 yrs we did not sail our usual 3/4 to 1/4 sail/motor ratio of outside the Med life. It was more like 2/3 to 1/3 of the average 2-3000 mile seasons. The Med offers fabulous cruising with easy access to some of the most history laden fascinating regions on earth. Details if requested. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Colin Speedie

Hi Dick

Thanks for putting the other side of the case. And hands up, I haven’t sailed there, so my prejudices might be just that. Rather like my comments on Portugal in an earlier post, maybe the ‘real’ Med is still out there, if you’re prepared to look for it.

My only defence is that I’m so used to places like western Scotland that really are quiet, so that has become my yardstick. By comparison everywhere else is like a freeway – as I know you’ll find out next summer.

Best wishes

Colin

Dick Stevenson

RDE. I have lived aboard full time for almost 10 years with the Lighthouse windlass you asked about and it does easily meet the criteria John set without problem. When we occasionally sail off the anchor (so far just for fun or safety practice) it can haul my Valiant 42 to windward in a gale (largely protected by seas). It is just a wonderful windlass with a great staff backing up the product. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Brian Engle

I’m shopping for a horizontal windlass for our 43′ Perry steel cutter (rated at 24k lbs displacement). The Lighthouse looks good but we need an all above deck option to accommodate our bowsprit. The other issue is that I don’t believe it is sold with a brake, even as an option, which disqualifies it by this article’s standards. In fact, the only model of windlass I can find within a reasonable weight limit of around a hundred lbs that features a brake is the Lofrans Falkon, which can be provided with a 5/16″ gypsy, albeit via special order from Italy.

Although the need for a cone clutch is an obvious “must have”, this discussion has me wondering whether or not the brake isn’t better described as a “nice to have”, since it doesn’t appear necessary for veering chain in an emergency. The Maxwell HWC 2200, for example, supports a free fall option via the cone clutch. Even the Lofrans Falkon manual indicates that its band brake is meant for applying tension as a backup to the chain stopper AFTER the anchor has been set.

Brian Engle

Thank you, John. A friend had a Maxwell VWC and swore by it. Our bowsprit would not preclude its use, but the sheer of our deck + cap rail (as opposed to his IOR-inspired flat run forward) could complicate installation. I’m going to noodle on it; am also requesting a quote from Ideal for their H2 and H3 models.

Rick Salsman

Hi Colin:
Thank you Dick Stevenson for your comments about the Med. Bonnie and I left Nova Scotia in 2007 and have been cruising the Med since then. Colin, your comments about the Med are a very common mis-conception held by many. Our experience is like Dick’s, the anchoring in the Eastern Med is certainly no problem and actually a wonderful experience. As for the Western Med, Southern Spain can be problematic but elsewhere is no problem. In my humble opinion it is very difficult to to beat the combination of wine, food, history and culture elsewhere in the the world.
I would be happy to help with suggested itineraries if you are willing to give it a try. There are lots of cruisers notes on our blog.
best
R&B
Aisling I

Nancy Fauls

I have enjoyed the info on the Windless, as my Husband and I have a Morgan 30′ Out Island Shole Draft Sailboat that we are upgrading and next Spring will be setting off for a 2-4 Years sail, and the comments were very interesting re: the Med as that will be on the last half of our trip. Thanks for the great info!

Abel van Staveren

Hi John, Colin,

Thanks for the great info on anchoring. I once saw a simple solution to the piling up chain. Place an old traffic cone upright in the chain locker. As the chain comes down, the cone shape pushes it to the side so that it doesn’t pile up. The same guy marked his chain with tie wraps rather than paint as he said he could see that better at night.

Also thanks for a great site, all the info has helped us buy our dream boat which is a cross between Morgan’s Cloud and Pelerin. It’s a Dutch Koopmans 48, aluminium, pilothouse, lifting keel. Refit in Holland over winter off to Norway next spring! Thanks for all the tips and inspiration.

Chauncey M Freeman

John,
I’ve purchased a Mediterranean 88′ Pilothouse Centreboard Cutter, 99 Tons Gross. She is a TED HOOD Design. Right away I think that her Anchor Windlass a Lofrans Titan 2000 is too small, as are her two 140Lb CQRs. I want to move up to Two 250Lb or 300Lb Mason SS PLOUGH Anchors. Where do I find an Anchor Windlass like the one you have? Also, please recommend the right BBB Chain Size. Is 3/4″ BBB HIGH TEST Chain right? I plan to purchase NEW 100Meters (327Ft) BBB HIGHEST TEST for each anchor.
Thanks

Michael

John,

A note on Ideal Windlass. We have an older version of their Vertical 12 Volt V5C called the BHW. We are just now sending it in to be remanufactured. It has been our boat since 1981 with little or no problems. Only reason we removed the unit was to paint and re engineer the anchor locker to accommodate more chain. The removal was super easy besides the shear weight of the unit and I’m very pleased with the customer support at the factory. Emails are answered within one to two days and they can completely refurbish the unit I’m house (including new chrome plate on the bronze) for about 60 percent of what a new unit runs.

Michael.

Richard

Ref the chain piling up, then spilling over when sailing which jams it up, I have a simple solution. I epoxied a piano type hinge on the bulkhead in the chainlocker to which I attached a piece of plywood to one side. There is a small rope on the edge of the plywood which runs to our spare hawse pipe which is fastened near the windlass. When I bring in the chain, I pull on rope every few meters which knocks down the pile. Haven’t had an issue since.

Marc Dacey

That’s quite ingenious. Thank you.

Andy

Hi Gang,
I’d love your opinion on this: Going to replace our windlass prior to the Arctic passages in 2018, and am very excited by the idea of going manual with a “new” old stock Seatiger 555. They are rated for boats up to 56′, and can take 3/8″ G43 chain…been reading AAC on your anchoring section for a while now. What do you think of going manual? We’ve got a 36,000 lb Swan 48 and are 30-something & fit, for what that’s worth!

Andy

Marc Dacey

Well, you’ll stay fit with that. It’s 1.5 pounds per foot, no? The only problem I see is the need to carry spares for such an old beast and wanting a nice long handle to get in as much chain per stroke as you can. The best plan, I think, particularly if you need to move quickly, is to have a manual/electric that you mainly use in manual mode, but if you need to get it aboard in a hurry, the electric is there. But in other respects, it’s simpler, like hank-on sails, and out in the more distant places, that is not to be discounted.

Marc Dacey

You’ve got to fabricate a longer handle and have a teenager aboard!

Eric Klem

Hi Andy,

My own opinion is that in most cases, a manual windlass fits the requirements for an ideal windlass rather poorly. I have worked with them a fair bit and while I love the simplicity, I find that they really complicate life. Having a large crew can make up for some of the shortcomings but not all. I tend to be someone who keeps a lot of gear off their boat but an electric windlass is one thing I splurge on and have really had no reliability issues with. Here are the reasons why I would stay electric:
-The speed of most manuals is excruciatingly slow. This can be really problematic if you are forced to move in strong winds where it is hard to hold the boat in place and you don’t want to hook another boat’s anchor rode or a pot buoy with your dangling anchor that is slowly coming up.
-You have to dedicate a person just to the windlass and they often can’t even see the chain. This means you need another person to wash down and watch the chain.
-It is hard work to do it manually which can tire out a crew and hurt attempts at thermo-regulation. A windlass for your size boat will usually be in the 1500W+ category and it will use around 500W for most of the retrieval, since a person can’t put out that type of power, you have to retrieve over a longer period.

All this being said, you obviously do need a decent manual backup. I hope this helps.

Eric

Andy

Thanks for the comments guys, this is what I expected you’d all say! John, any reason to go with someone other than Ideal? Seems pretty good to me? And what size is yours? Assume I could go a size smaller for Isbjorn? Thoughts?

Rob Gill

Hi Andy,
Whatever windlass you choose, check that the gypsy will fit your chain (European and American chain have slightly different link sizes I believe). Some manufacturers provide the ability to run either chain, which is handy if you are cruising in different regions and may need to replace your chain locally.
Rob

Andy Schell

Thanks for this honest feedback John. As it turns out, after doing all this research and stressing, it seems I already have a windlass that nearly meets your standards. We have a Maxwell VWC 3500, with a 1200W motor and rated for 5,000 lbs. max pull. The only thing it’s missing is the brake, but on their website they offer that on the 3500 as an option, so I’m hoping I can retrofit it. Here I thought we have a much smaller unit! Anyway, it’s been a real learning experience, and I need to modify the install a bit (the motor is exposed to the wet chain and is a rusty mess, so will need rebuilt/replaced and somehow sealed belowdecks), but turns out I might already have my solution! Thanks again. Anybody else out there with a Maxwell 3500 who can comment?

Marc Dacey

Not on this particular model, although Maxwell has a pretty good rep. The sizing seems OK at 1200W; we have a Lofrans Tigres at 1500W and an equivalent displacement of about 32,000 pounds fully loaded.

I have two questions: do you favour vertical capstan over horizontal, or is that just what came with the boat? And have you considered a short hawse pipe (even PVC) to get the wet chain past, as in below, the motor housing? You could fab up a sort of fibreglass spray guard for the motor (or its replacement) as well belowdecks but I would think you’d want plenty of air circulation on the far side of it for the heat the motor may produce.

Richard Elder

Hi John & Rob

I second your comment re Lewmar windlasses. Our V2 Ocean series failed immediately on a delivery voyage up from Panama to Gran Cayman. Since there were several reef spots we wanted to visit on the way, we ended up watching our weather very carefully and retrieving the anchor by transferring rolling hitches on the anchor chain and using one of the boat’s power winches. (rolling hitch = John’s cow hitch?) Not exactly a get out of Dodge quickly solution.

When we got to Gran Cayman I finally managed to extract the Lewmar (2 years old) by unbolting it, lassoing it with a masthead halyard led to a power winch using the spinnaker pole as a spreader, then beating on it with a hammer with the halyard bog tight. In the future I’ll buy gear actually designed for use in the marine environment.

Andy
I’ve pulled a lot of chain up from 90′ deep anchorages with a SL555. Your back may be half as old as mine, but I still think I’d choose speed over purism!

Marc Dacey

The hard way, eh? OK, something tougher than PVC…really the point is to shield a below-decks motor from the inevitable ingress a rattling chain will bring.

I’ll keep that in mind when I build my own hawse pipe into the big rubber tub.

Cory Hall

Hello, i know this thread is a bit older now but was wondering about opinions on capstans? I am planning on a Maxwell HRC10-10 and it comes with or without an additional capstan. The wildcat will handle both chain and rope rode so is a capstan worth it, how would I make use of it?

Thanks

Cory Hall

Thanks for the reply John. Those are great points!

Scott Johnson

Hi folks:
I have a Cape George 36 with an older Maxwell manual windlass. Thinking of replacing it with another manual windlass. Like the simplicity and not keen on running all the electrics. Any suggestions?
Thx
Scott

Scott Johnson

John,
Thank you for your feedback. Think I’ll stick with what I have for the coming season. It’s a new boat to me, and in fairness I need some experience with it. Will go with your recommendation on anchors, though: a #120 galv spade and a #100 alum spade as backup. The old CQR stays home.

Richard Elder

Hi Scott
Congratulations! I still have more fond memories of the Cape George 36 I built and lived on board than other ex’s of the female type.

If you really want a manual windlass I’d suggest finding a SL 555 two speed at a swap meet. I’ve hauled up 250 foot of chain from 90′ anchorages with one. I’d still have to say I’m with John on the power windlass side.

I’m a big anchor type myself, but spending the $$ boat units for a 120# Spade seems like overkill. I’ve be looking for 75-80# and 5/16 High Test. The CG 36 is after all a sailboat, and she’ll be a lot more happy if you don’t try to sink her bow into every wave! My second anchor would be a Fortress that will be easy to set from the dingy, and the third a Mantus that is cheaper, breaks down easily and holds better in soup.

Rob Ramsey

I’m just wondering … if the electric windlass quits, what tips and tricks do you guys & gals have for raising anchor? I’ll be having a 33 or 40 kg Rocna on an all chain rode. Will I be able to yank it up with muscle power? I think not!

Richard Elder

Hi Rob

Anchored (at the insistence of the boat owner) on a sandy spot in the middle of Quito Sueneo (Stop Dreaming) Reef. Apart from the wrecks of freighters sticking up at 45 degree angles, the nearest dry land is 100 miles away. The V1 Lewmar has burned out its motor as they are fond of doing. Now what?

The boat is 60′ long, so it has electric halyards. By using a rolling hitch on the anchor chain we were able to haul about 15′ of chain on each lift. Sounds easy, but try that trick in a seaway!

Charles Starke MD

Dear John
I wince at the thought of pulling in the anchor by pulling on a line with the main winch.
Best wishes!
Charles
s/v Dawnpiper

Andrew Craig-Bennett

I am looking for a windlass for my Nicholson 55 and have come down to a short list – one big question – hydraulic or electric?

Rob Gill

Hi Methergate & John,
Coming from a mercantile marine background I don’t like the idea of having the windlass reliant on the engine working. I can think of a few times we needed the windlass when our engine failed (once heading for a fuel barge in Rotterdam). Sure, you can always release the windlass clutch if the engine failed, as we did. But could you then set sail again?
I would make the two independent in function. And I still hear your quote ringing in my ears John, don’t pimp your engine!
Rob

Gary D Eaton

Enjoyed this article and could not agree more with your comments. We have the same exact IDEAL Windlass as you have, on our 59′, HODGDON Boothbay Explorer. We have 217′ of 3/8 chain with another 150′ of 1″ line and a 40kg Rocna anchor. The power of the windlass, combined with the utility of the clutch and brake, are always reassuring. It has also powered me to the top of the mast many times, with no sweat – no fuss. Out of curiosity – how often do you change the oil in the sump?

Dave Meindl

We just purchased a Beneteau 473 and are replacing the windlass. We already purchased a Maxwell HRC10-10 and are having the yard install it while we are on the hard for the winter. In reading this post I’m wondering if we made a mistake not buying a windlass with a brake (if we could even find one which would fit properly in the available space). Can someone clarify the difference between the clutch and brake? It sounds to me like the brake can be used to slow/stop the chain without placing stress on the windlass gears; is that correct? Also, given that is sounds like there are many windlasses out there that do not have a brake, would it be fair to say that many people use the freefall option and the clutch to slow/stop the chain and DON’T cause damage to the windlass? I have to admit that reading all of these comments makes me a little concerned about not having a brake on the Maxwell we purchased. Our intended cruising grounds for now are LI sound, the East coast, Bahamas, and Caribbean

Rob Gill

Hi Dave,
We have the same windlass on our B473. This is a compromise area like with most production boats – we have a lovely clear foredeck thanks to an integral anchor well with moulded lid protecting the windlass, but there is no way I could think of to get a windlass with an external “band” brake under this lid – no clearance. Personally, I wouldn’t want one having experienced a few ugly failures on commercial ship units as a navigator.
The Maxwell unit has a brake / clutch in the form of a bronze plate that is screwed in tight to engage the gypsy with the shaft. As I understand it, there is no clutch between the gearbox and the electric motor being directly geared, but this has never been a problem according to Maxwell – the units are manufactured here in NZ for NZ conditions, that include some very deep water anchorages with extreme winds – like Milford sound.
Release the bronze plate anti-clockwise, using the handle provided in the “star port” and the gypsy is then free to revolve around the shaft, with zero load on the gear box or on the electric motor.
From freewheel, tightening up the bronze plate with the handle and you can control the speed of decent and bring the chain up smoothly, under complete control. In depths over 7 metres, or in strong winds I use this brake release method, although our first mate doesn’t like the noise it makes and prefers the electric motor controlled decent ( so I do the deep / tough anchors).
There is no downside to free-fall for the windlass (the opposite in fact as it reduces electric motor minutes, and therefore extends the motor life). You will never wear out the plate using the brake. I also like that to best apply the brake plate (think of it as internal disk brake) you are to the side of the windlass so if your chain or rope rode should part, you are not in the direct line of any recoil.
The shaft and gearbox are rated to 1.5 tonnes load, which you are unlikely to subject it to in a B473, even in strong wind, unless there were serious waves – but then why try an anchor in such a sea?
Once you have the snubber on, there is zero load, but I like to leave a little bit of give on the brake to protect the gearbox, but the issue then in extreme anchoring conditions would be getting the snubber on without getting your fingers near the chain roller, as the brake may give a little.
For the cruising grounds you name (mainly shallow water?), you should get great service from this windlass with some annual TLC.
Br. Rob

Dave Meindl

Thanks Rob,
I spoke with some folks at Maxwell and they said it is no problem at all using the clutch as a brake because the clutch cones are not connected to the gears or motor when dropping the anchor in this fashion. They did stress the importance of regularly greasing the clutch cones so they move freely. Do you find on the 473 that when you allow the anchor to free fall, the chain bangs on (and chips) the deck? I haven’t installed it yet so I haven’t seen the clearance between the chain and the deck. I’m wondering if a chain stopper or a stainless plate made for and attached to the deck might be warranted.
Dave

Rob Gill

Hi Dave – you will see the cones are not really cones but more like a plate inside a dish formed by the side of the gypsy. Using the right grease is really important so the plate will bind under retrieval load but release easily. Simple job – you don’t need to remove the windlass. Make sure though you leave enough length in the cables to bring the windlass on deck without disconnecting them. Every 4-5 years you need to replace the gearbox oil and for this you need full access on deck.
Have a look at the B473 Facebook site, and look for a photo post (8 September 2019) from me of our bow area, showing the windlass and stainless striker plate that we used – works well. Maxwell make a chain stopper I think, that should work well but it would need good reinforcing under the deck.
You will need one or the other.
BR. Rob

Dave Meindl

Thanks Rob,
I liked your stainless foredeck plate. We’ll either go that route or a chain stopper. It does sound like the Maxwell will work out well for us. I also have to say that I’ve been very impressed with the phone support I’ve gotten from Vetus Maxwell in Maryland. Whenever I’ve called with questions, I get someone on the phone who not only knows the windlass inside and out but is also willing to answer questions freely.
Dave

Cory Hall

As an aside I just fitted a HRC10-10, in addition to the regular switch I added a remote. I had some trouble and end d up getting amazing support directly from Maxwell. My Halifax dealer put me in contact and they were amazing!!

Rob Gill

Hi Cory – a cautionary word if that is a wireless remote. Maxwell do supply one, but when I enquired at the NZ boat show the rep told me of a brand-new launch that fitted a “third party” remote to their Maxwell main anchor windlass. On a short coastal passage they must have been close to another boat using a remote for something, which lowered their anchor and chain enough for the anchor to swing under the boat and remove both drives, props and write-off two gearboxes. Kind of put me off, even though we nearly always rig a stopper on passage.
We will stick with our wired remote which works fine, though it is a little short. We always take the curly control wire under the lower lifeline then back over and inboard, so keeping the cord clear of the gypsy after we managed to sever one on a charter boat many moons ago.
Br. Rob

Cory Hall

Thanks for the reminder gents, it is a good point. We make a habit of opening the breaker when the winch is not in use!

Dave Meindl

OK, so here’s a slightly ignorant question from someone new to the ground tackle arena. Can someone shed a little light on chain stoppers for me? After upgrading our boat size to a B473, we are upgrading all of the ground tackle this year; new Maxwell windlass, upgrade to 3/8 chain, and a new Spade anchor. I’m wondering if the addition of a chain stopper would be beneficial but I’m not entirely sure what the proper use for them is. Is it used to secure chain while setting the anchor? Is it just a backup in case the snubber lets loose while at anchor? Can it be used to free a stuck anchor without placing strain on the windlass? Would it help in the area of securing the anchor on the bow while sailing? Thanks for any and all input

Dave Meindl

Thanks John,
As obvious as it is, I hadn’t thought of putting ‘chain stopper’ in the search box. Definitely a tool I will use going forward!

Michael Clarke

Does anybody know of a vertical windlass for a 40-foot sailboat that has a port feed? The J/120 has a bowsprit to starboard, requiring the primary bowroller to sit to port of the headstay. In order to use a standard windlass, it has to be mounted way off centerline, almost touching the port toerail, in order to get a fair lead from the port bowroller. Nobody that I’ve been able to find makes a vertical windlass, other than for superyachts, with a port feed to accommodate a port bowroller.

David Eberhard

We have a Lighthouse 1501 on our Bruce Roberts 44 steel cutter. 40 kg Rocnor, 25 tons displacement, for 18 years now. It can easily pull us up to the anchor in 20 kn of wind. The Windless comes with a manual override that fits a winch handle. This is rated for up to 10,000 pounds of pull. As such it is excruciatingly slow to use to pull your Anchor up, in case of failure. This has happened several times to us including once when needing to vacate a beautiful cove that had turned into an untenable anchorage at sunrise with nothing but rocks on a lee shore. Many years ago I made a couple of winch handle adapters that fit any half inch electric drill. In a few minutes I had assembled the necessary drill, with the adapter, extension cord and the inverter turned on. At 800 RPM drill speed the chain came in approximately 2/3 the speed that the electric motor will pull it in. As the wife is clearing the snubber and bringing the chain in and I am Hoisting the main to a double reef position and getting staysail ready to go just in case we had an engine failure while motoring out of the cove.

All of our Windless failures have been caused by decks switch and or solenoid failures. The windless itself is always performed like a champ. The solenoid issue has been solved by moving it out of the chain locker. I have put together a waterproof wired roving remote that is wired in parallel to the deck switch. Not only does this make things much easier to wash the anchor chain as it’s coming in as a back up to the deck switch in case of failure. We have had rusting issues on the motor, this has been solved by be blasting and painting it as though it is a steel boat. Motor is in covered with a incredibly durable vinyl waterproof material that is nothing more than a tube who is clamped onto the shaft right below the deck and left open at the bottom for wiring but more importantly so that it gets ventalated and can dry off, avoiding any condensation issues. Windless does not have a band break, It comes with the power down option that we have never bothered getting, we just freefall it.

Tiemo Von Zweck

I’ll show my ignorance and ask what happens if one uses the clutch to stop the chain?

Nick Willis

Well, I’ve just read through 10 years of comments! I’m having a super hard time finding a Windlass that has a break. My boat is 37 feet, and displaces 10 tons, 300′ of G43 and a 55lb spade. I’ve landed on the Maxwell RC12 as it seems well built (albeit, no break – but the cone clutch system seems reasonable given the caveats described above).

I’ve tried Ideal, but their one service rep has only provided a Series 3 recommendation (no break) and radio silence when asked for a spec (disappointing). Has anyone bought from Ideal (now Schaefer as John mentioned) recently?

Someone also pointed me to Lofrans ( https://www.lofrans.com/product/70-vertical-windlasses/5020-sx3-5-vertical-windlass ) but I’m not sure if this is the kind of break John is talking about (band break vs. wheel break?).

Maxwell seems to have the better reputation. Anyone have any time using the Maxwell RC12 recently?

Andy Schell

We just installed Maxwell’s largest unit on FALKEN, our Farr 65. Pretty sweet piece of kit, very low profile and very well made. I’ll report back when we get to use it in anger.

Nick Willis

Super, thank you John and Andy!