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Get Grounded

Anchors and Windlasses don’t ask for much, so give yours some attention now, because the effort will pay off one day

Bill Jennings

New England Bow Thruster

The windlass is the most overlooked item on the boat, but maintaining one isn’t difficult. Rinse with fresh water whenever you use it, so dried salt and bottom grit doesn’t get under the gypsy and damage the shaft seals. It’s even better to use an anchor wash to rinse the rode and chain as it comes aboard. Once a year, remove the gypsy and clean behind it. Check the shaft seals, too. Clean and grease the shaft, reassemble and then clean and polish the windlass. Then go below and check the motor and wiring. Most windlass problems are electrical, so pay attention to these components. The contactor, which controls the direction the windlass turns, is often mounted in the anchor locker, where it gets wet and can corrode. Clean and grease it with Boeshield or something similar. 

Austin Cohen


To choose the proper windlass, first consider the arrangement on deck. Lewmar recommends at least 18 inches of clearance between the top of the piled-up anchor rode to the underside of the deck for a vertical windlass, 12 inches for a horizontal model. A windlass with a horizontal driveshaft mounts entirely on deck, and is easier to retrofit. With a vertical windlass, the motor and gear hang in the anchor locker, with just the gypsy (wildcat) on deck, so it demands a deeper anchor locker. Horizontal windlasses are more popular on boats 35 feet and under; larger boats usually go with vertical. The second factor is how much windlass pull is needed. Take the total weight of ground tackle and multiply by four. The result shouldn’t exceed the maximum pulling power of the windlass.

Kurt Bodnar

Defender Industries

Among cruisers there’s a shift away from fluke anchors toward new designs like Delta and Rocna. These anchors fit into the rollers better than fluke designs and are easier and quicker to deploy and retrieve. They also have great holding power and set quickly. Since many boats over 25 feet now have a windlass, there’s also been a shift toward more chain. Rather than the six feet folks used to use between anchor and rope, now it’s anywhere from 35 to 50 feet. When anchoring in fairly shallow water, a good deal of the rode that’s overboard is chain. That’s good for holding and makes the rode last longer. We’re also selling about three times more 8-plait braided rope than 3-strand. You can fit more 8-plait into the anchor locker, and it’s less apt to bind coming off the windlass.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.



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