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Project inStall a neW WindlaSS

Sizing a WindlaSS most manufacturers will tell you to buy a windlass with a maximum pull capability (the point at which the motor stalls) of at least three times the working load--the weight of your ground tackle. this rule of thumb allows for a good fudge factor. the loads on a windlass rise rapidly when you are trying to break out a deeply buried anchor, or if the hook snags a sunken tree trunk or--as once happened to a friend--a large motorcycle, and you don't want the motor overheating and stalling. adding together the weight of our 35lb Spade anchor, the 70 feet of 5/16in g4 chain (just under 1lb/foot), and 200 feet of 5/8in nylon rode (30lb), we arrived at a working load of 135 pounds. We needed a windlass with a maximum pull of 405 pounds, with a wildcat that could handle both the 5/16in chain and 5/8in nylon rode. When it comes to cruising boat gear, i believe in erring on the side of overkill. among the windlasses on my shortlist were the maxwell rc8/8, lewmar Sport V2, the lofrans Progress 1000 and the Quick aleph 1000, all of which have 700 or 1,000-watt motors and maximum pulls of between 800 and 1,320 pounds--comfortably exceeding the 3x working load rule. For a 34foot boat, there was no point in going any larger, and while smaller windlasses with 500-watt motors could theoretically cope easily enough with our 135 pounds of ground tackle, their wildcats were mostly sized for smaller rodes. line SPeedS another factor to consider is the speed at which a windlass pays out and reels in rode. generally speaking, the more powerful the windlass the faster it


PhotoS by Peter nielSen, illuStration by alaStair garrod

the cast of characters-- windlass and motor, solenoid box, remote handset, circuit breaker, remote switch

take the loadwindlass, you'll wonder off once you've installed an electric

how you ever lived without it | by Peter nielSen

or several years we sailed our 34ft sloop without feeling the need for a windlass. the weight of the ground tackle--a 22-pound delta anchor, 70 feet of 5/16in hi-test chain and 200 feet of nylon rode--was seldom an issue in the shallow anchorages we tend to frequent. but i've been involved in enough anchoring dramas to know that for more ambitious cruising, an electric windlass would be not just a convenience, but an important safety feature. acquiring a 35-pound Spade anchor was our first anchoring upgrade; the next would be installing a windlass. taking Stock the first step in taking on such a project is to make sure you have enough space for a windlass and its ancillary bits and pieces. like many older cruiser-racers, our norlin 34 has a fine bow and a comparatively narrow foredeck. this immediately halved my options--a horizontal windlass (see sidebar) would have an unacceptably large footprint. apart from being an eyesore on our boat, it would interfere with the retracting spinnaker sprit on which we set our cruising chute. For the same reason, i ignored the temptation of a windlass with a rope drum, useful

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though these can be. i quickly ascertained that our anchor locker was wide enough to accommodate the motor of a vertical windlass. it was also more than deep enough to keep our rode pile at least 8 inches beneath the motor, as is recommended. because the bow roller-- an aftermarket add-on--is set at an angle to the boat's centerline so that the rode clears the bow-pulpit legs, the windlass wildcat would have to be mounted slightly off-center so the chain could lead fairly to the bow roller.

a windlass installation is straightforward once you've studied the instructions! here's how i wired up the maxwell rc8/8 solenoid box


circuit breaker

circuit breaker


For a video tutorial on this project, go to and click on "boatworks"

more online:


inStall a neW WindlaSS

will get your anchor back on board. chain/ line speeds differ markedly between different makes of windlass, and if you've ever had to get an anchor up in a hurry you'll know that faster is better. be aware that quoted speeds are sometimes calculated with no load on the windlass; look for the working-load speed. the maxwell rc8/8's quoted workingload speed of 105ft/minute for chain retrieval and 92ft/minute for rope was one of the highest. i haven't verified the accuracy of this claim, but that, combined with the comparatively light weight of 36lb, was enough to swing the balance towards the new zealand-made windlass. keePing control Some windlasses are retrieve-only, meaning you must manually disengage a clutch to let chain freefall when you drop anchor. i suppose this simplifies the switching, but as long as the windlass you choose has a freefall option as well as a powered release, you can still enjoy the best of both worlds. Some day your safety may depend on getting the hook on the bottom as quickly as possible. most windlasses can be manually operated in extremis, although cranking in chain with a winch handle will be slow and tedious work. our ground tackle is not too heavy for me to retrieve hand-over-hand (though i'd really rather not), and given enough adrenaline i can get it up on deck in no time at all. the real question was whether to go for foot-operated switches or a handheld remote control. i didn't want any more holes in the deck, and there's something about foot switches i instinctively distrust. We went for a handheld that i would install in the V-berth and access through the hatch. a remote cockpit switch was also included, and although i was tempted to install it, i've held off for the time being. moduS oPerandi a windlass motor is either a permanentmagnet or series-wound type. most smaller units are of the former variety, because at low loading a permanent-magnet motor consumes less power. it will also generate more heat, and as it heats up it will draw more current, even as its power drops. a series-wound motor's power draw is initially higher, but remains constant as the load varies. both types have equal power to begin with, but a series-wound motor gener-





it 1 the foredeck as thewas; i planned to strip it clean, including the bow cleats, and fill in the large hole from deck pipe tied a large shackle to piece of line and hung it over bow roller to make sure 2 irode would clearmarkeda the locationslead the holes. thisthenotthen i oriented the my the bow pulpit and fairly over the roller. template to suit and for is something you want to hurry; it's hard to move a hole once you've drilled it immediately coated the edges the holes with epoxy resin keep water out. drilled 3 ithefresh holesthe mounting studsofoversize and filled them withtothickened epoxy.ilater i holes for drilled through these epoxy plugs

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Project inStall a neW WindlaSS

ates more torque, is less likely to overheat, and is generally more robust. a permanent-magnet motor has two cable connections; to reverse the motor the polarity of the terminals is reversed. a series-wound motor has three connections, two positive and one negative. the motor's direction depends on which positive cable is engaged. either type of motor is usually controlled via a switch that activates a solenoid, which either changes polarity (permanent-magnet) or directs current to one or other of the positive cables running to the motor (series-wound). there are various other permutations, some of which involve high current passing through the switching gear rather than a solenoid. Some windlasses are one-way--

goiot, ideal Windlass, imtra (lofrans and muir), lewmar, lighthouse manufacturing, Quick S.p.a., r.c. Plath, Vetus america (maxwell),


Vertical or horizontal?

When talking windlasses, the question "vertical or horizontal?" refers to the orientation of the driveshaft. a vertical windlass has its motor and gearbox under the deck connected by a vertical shaft to the wildcat above. a horizontal windlass has its shaft running athwartships and sits on top of the deck.

that is, they only haul in ground tackle. to me, a windlass controlled by a low-current switch and a two-way solenoid that handles the high current--up to several hundred amps--makes more sense. Push a button to lower your anchor, another to raise it; what could be simpler? cableS and connectionS cable size is critical when you're working with current-hungry electric motors that can suck up 100 amps or more. at issue is voltage drop, power loss in long runs of cable. the smaller the cable, the greater the voltage drop, and a motor can be damaged if it tries to draw more power than a cable can supply. undersized cables can overheat and possibly burst into flame. to calculate voltage drop (no more than 10 percent, according to maxwell) you first must measure the length of the cable run and double it--it is the there-and-back measurement that's critical. then find out the current rating of the motor--the rc8/8's is 83 amps. after that you can use an online calculator that lets you enter all your parameters and then spits out a recommended wire size. blue Sea Systems has a good one ( i cheated and used the cable-sizing table in the maxwell installation manual, which informed me that for the 46ft round trip from my battery to the windlass motor, 4 aWg cable would be sufficient. When you're paying several dollars a foot for battery cable, it behooves you to make your measurements carefully. i had a few yards of 2 aWg stashed in the garage, so used that for the longer runs. of course, i could have installed a dedicated windlass battery in the bow and thereby gone down a size in cable, but i could not see the point. either way, i'd have had to snake cables through the boat, and the hassle was the same no matter the size of the wire. attack! With the new windlass sitting in a box in the garage and the boat still ashore, it was


ProS (

) & conS ( )

the motor and gearbox are protected from the elements the low-profile wildcat takes up little room on deck the rode takes more than half a turn around the wildcat, which-- in the case of rope--makes it much less prone to slip

on a vertical windlass, the chain must lead straight and fair to the bow roller at no more than 5 degrees from the horizontal. the longer the chain drop, the better

rope drum (if fitted) can handle large horizontal angles installation is labor-intensive needs a deep chain locker


installation is easier Servicing is easier one-piece construction is sturdy chain locker can be shallower With gypsy and capstan side by side, it's easier to handle two anchors tends to be heavier clutters up foredeck

ProS (

) & conS ( )

a horizontal windlass clutters up the foredeck, but can sometimes be mounted below deck level in a chain locker

96 | october 2011

illuStrationS by alaStair garrod


inStall a neW WindlaSS

lewmar, V2 lofrans Progress 1000


the lofrans Progress 1000 (left) and lewmar V2 vertical windlasses are excellent alternatives. a rope drum such as that seen on the lewmar is a useful addition

time to act. i ordered the cable and relevant terminals from an online supplier, then purchased a terrifyingly large hole saw to make what i not-so-laughingly called the cut of no return. that aside, it all looked simple enough. basically, all the installation involved was running cables through the boat,

connecting lugs to the cables and cables to the proper terminals, and making sure the windlass wildcat was oriented correctly and was secured with a suitably large backing plate to help distribute the loads. i took my time, double-checked everything before pressing the hole saw into service, and set to.




because the deck is slightly cambered, the windlass did not sit flush (inset). made 4theshim outplate, which i made sheetaand bedded it on thickened epoxy. to ithe right a of 3/16in fiberglass is backing from piece of half-inch fiberglass sheet. after

roughing up the underside of the deck with an angle grinder and sanding disk, i slathered the backing plate with thickened epoxy and clamped it into place until the epoxy cured. this made the deck well over an inch thick under and around the windlass was just matter running cables under and behind the furniture. i 5 then itsure thereawere noofor so. thisthethatbycouldthe most time-consuming partthem made hard corners chafe the covers and secured with cable ties every 12 inches was far of the project solenoid in a close to possible. i placed 6 thecableaand should behead,dry location aswindlass,the motor asconnectedhandheld mine in locker in the about 8ft from the windlass. i then the 12V supply the two power cables to the and the wiring to the remote switch

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Project inStall a neW WindlaSS

7 8 9

foredeck has been painted and the cleats and the our 7 thesupplied withre-installed. now we'resmear oftocaulk oncollar forside removable sprit have been ready install the windlass. i used the gasket the windlass, with a either

8 a view from underneath shows the windlass in place and bolted securely to the backing plate the power cables and to the marked 9 i've boltedon the motor. the smallthe negativeiscablenegativeclearlythe remote terminals black wire the from handheld switch

98 | october 2011


inStall a neW WindlaSS




now i had to myself upside down the anchor 10hand, slide ittheinsertmotor and gearboxupintomy headtowith locker, lift 25lb over one onto the shaft, and tighten the collar hold it in place. amazingly, i managed it first time! and all done! all that 11 For awe'restep-by-step, go toremains is to see if it works... full

october 2011 | 99


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