Windlass Selection Guide

Windlass Selection Guide

By: CraigComments: 0

When retrieving your anchor, the use of a windlass can make things a whole lot easier. A windlass is a mechanical device that holds onto the chain or rope to pull the anchor out of the water, depositing the chain either on deck or more often below deck in a special compartment.

What is the difference between a winch and a windlass?

Windlasses are often confused with winches, as they can both carry out similar tasks in a similar method. The main difference between a winch and a windlass is the line will wrap itself around the cylindrical portion of the winch, whilst a windlass takes the line in one end and then deposits it out another end, typically the bottom of the windlass.

What is a winch?

A winch is a mechanical device used to reel in or let out a rope, wire or cable. Boats often makes use of multiple winches at a time to handle sheets, halyards and anchoring and mooring lines. The make-up of a winch is a spool or drum to wind up and store in the line it is responsible for. One of the most widely regarded manufacturers of winches areHarken, whose range of winches sport a style that will suit any boat and come in a vast range of sizes.

What is a windlass?

Usually located near the centre of the foredeck, a windlass grasps the anchor rode (line or chain that attaches the anchor to the boat) through use of its gypsy (the notched or toothed ring that meshes with the links of a chain) and uses it to raise the anchor out of the water or lower it back down into it. Like winches, windlasses are available in a range of sizes to accommodate any size of boat.

If you’re unsure as to what size windlass is needed for your boat, Lewmar, one of our leading suppliers, provides an excellent sizing guide to help you choose safely and smartly.

What is the difference between a Horizontal windlass and a Vertical windlass?

A horizontal windlass is a windlass where the gypsy and motor are configured horizontally, while a vertical windlass is one where the gypsy and motor are mounted vertically. Both styles provide their own sets of benefits and drawbacks. 

A horizontal windlass requires less anchor locker space than a vertical one, with a minimum fall of 300 mm needed or about 12” while a vertical windlass requires around 400 mm or about 18”.  The fall is the vertical distance measured between the top of an anchor locker and the top of the anchor rode when the entire rode is completely stored inside. This is because the windlass does not stow the rode inside the anchor locker, instead gravity stows the rode.

A typical vertical windlass will have more of its components stored below deck. While most of a horizontal windlass will be on the deck, this will make for easier installation.  

Do I need a drum on my windlass?

Lewmar, one of our leading brands in windlasses, provide the option of an additional drum on your windlass, these drums can be operated separately from the gypsy of the windlass. This allows you to use the drum independently when docking for a secondary rope only rode. A gypsy and drum combination is not required, however, as some gypsies are capable of taking rope.

What size chain do I need on my windlass?

Chain is measured in two ways, the thickness of the metal in the link and the length of the link. The gypsy on any windlass is specifically engineered to catch chain of a specific measurement. If you need to replace your current anchor chain, it is important to know all measurements to get the correct size replacement. 

The first measurement is the ‘thickness’ or size/diameter of the metal each link is made from (when measuring this, it is important to not measure the welded section). The next measurement is the internal length of each link in the chain, this is known as the pitch. Often when working with chain you will hear the terms ISO and DIN. 

European made chains are made to either DIN776 or ISO4565. The dimensions for the two standards are identical for all size chains except 10 mm, where the length of the link is 2 mm longer for the ISO standard.  

About Pirates Cave Chandlery

Allow us to introduce ourselves.

We’re Kent’s largest chandlery, with over 10,000 items in stock at our Rochester store. Our crew of marine specialists have countless years of experience, so if you have any questions regarding anchor windlasses, windlass foot switches, remote controls or even windlass rocker switches you can be sure to receive expert advice.

Our range of anchor windlasses and accessories have been carefully selected from leading brands including Lewmar and Harken, so your next investment is the right one. If you have any questions, be sure to get in touch. Call us on 01634 295 233, email us or visit our Rochester store.


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