Installing a Windlass


Since upgrading to a 35 lb CQR anchor with 30 ft of chain and 200 ft of nylon rode, I found out just how much of the soft Chesapeake seabed a CQR is capable of bringing to the surface when weighing anchor. That being said, I decided that my big winter project this year would be the installation of a suitable windlass. As I started my research, I was immediately amazed at all the decisions I would have to make.

I began with:

1. Manual vs. Electric

2. Vertical vs. Horizontal

3. Series Wound Motor vs. Permanent Magnet Motor

4. Chain Gypsy vs. Rope Capstan vs. Combination Rope/Chain Gypsy

I read all I could on pros and cons of all of the above characteristics and talked to as many skippers as I could who had a fair amount of experience with their own windlass arrangements.

I first decided that I wanted a vertical windlass to keep the lowest deck profile possible. This made my choice of manual vs. electric fairly easy since a manual vertical windlass requires kneeling and cranking the windlass with a handle (similar to grinding a winch). This is a very slow process working from an awkward position and considering the price differential of approximately 20%, electric became the only choice in my book. There would however have to be a provision for a manual overide in case of total electrical failure.

I decided on a windlass with a series wound motor because of the higher power ratings for a given physical size, higher retrieval speeds and reputation for longer motor life. A combination rope/chain gypsy was chosen because it would handle a combination rode as well as an all chain rode. This will cover any cruising grounds I am likely to be in.

With the first four decisions made, I now was faced two more choices:

5. What size chain and rope will I use? (this will determine the gypsy required)

6. What size windlass (how much power is needed?)

I decided that 70 feet of 5/16" stainless steel BBB chain and 150 feet of 9/16" three strand nylon would make up my rode. I now had to determine how much power I needed, I added the weight of the heaviest anchor (35 lbs}, the weight of the chain from the bottom to the deck in the deepest water I expect to anchor (22.4)lbs and the typical amount of mud that comes up with the anchor in the Chesapeake Bay (12 to 15 lbs). This yeilds a total load of 69.4 to 72.4 lbs. Using what seems to be the general conservative rule of thumb that I find in most authoritative texts, I multiplied this by 3 to attain the working load required. This results in a windlass with a working load of approx 217.2 lbs. I found that the Lofrans Progress I Low Profile Vertical Windlass with a 1000 watt motor seemed to satisfy all my requirements.

It seems that I am now faced with four more decisions. I must now decide:

7. Where to mount the windlass and how to modify the anchor locker hatch (split athwartship or fore and aft?)

8. How to reinforce the mounting location for the windlass

9. Whether to run the heavy 12 volt power cables from the house bank under the quarter berth or to locate a dedicated battery under the v-berth and just run smaller charging cables to the dedicated battery

10. Whether to use high current foot switches on deck or low current switches with a solonoid

To make an intelligent decision on modifying the existing anchor locker hatch I first had to take the following basic measurements:

The width at aft end of cover

The width at forward end of cover

The fore and aft dimension of cover

The offset between aft bulkhead of chain locker and aft edge of opening

In addition, I had to check the depth of the anchor locker to make sure there was plenty of room for the rode to pile up without causing problems with the windlass operation. (Manufacturer recommends minimum of 16 inches from underside of deck to top of rode. I have approximately 21 inches so that should be a non-issue.

I decided to go with splitting the anchor locker athwart-ships so as to leave the most working space in the forward part of the locker in case I needed access to the pulpit and/or foredeck cleats mounting hardware should any of them need to be rebedded.

Reinforcing the area where the windlass will be mounted will be accomplished with a 3/4" marine grade plywood backing plate.

After much deliberation, I decided on running the heavy cables from the house bank to the forepeak. This is a bit more costly, but will leave me with a system that should be pretty much able to handle any anchoring situations I might encounter with the extra battery capacity. If I had decided to place a dedicated battery under the V-berth, I still would have had to run large cables forward for charging since I have a high output alternator capable of putting out 80 Amps when the battery is discharged.

I decided to use the heavy duty foot switches on the foredeck, a control box solonoid under the V-berth and also put a remote control in the cockpit so that I can lower and raise the anchor from the helm when single handing. This will be a rocker switch mounted in a handheld control box that can be plugged in to the system in the starboard cockpit locker.


Click HERE for page 2 of Windlass Installation

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