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Date: 27 December 2014. Windlass is Necessary (for me)


Online recently a discussion came up about windlasses. Are they a necessity or a frivolous albeit wonderful-to-have waste of money? From personal experience, having a windlass from the get-go will enhance your life at anchor. It is not critical if you are marina hopping. There are some caveats however.

The difference a windlass made in our life afloat was significant.


This is our 40'er, with her manual windlass on the bow:


The windlass was a blessing. We would move the boat versus taking the dink to the better diving spots. It allowed a degree of freedom that we did not realize were missing prior to the addition of that piece of equipment.

Ours was a manual. Back then, manual units were a lot less expensive than the powered versions. Plus no wiring was required. On a bigger boat the wire runs will be longer thus you will be required to use larger (read: "more expensive") wire.

Mini Lesson on Gauges of Wire: The higher the number, the smaller the wire diameter. Thus, 00 is big (about the size of your fore-finger) whereas 16 is very small. A round toothpick is approximately the size of 16 gauge, in case you wondered.

Nowadays, powered versions are the least costly. Some come with a handle for manual operation. Were money no object, I would certainly opt for that additional feature.

Initially I had planned to purchase a windlass in year three of ownership. I had a prioritized list of course! Still, for Seaweed, this is a necessity. I am not as young as I once was nor do I anticipate getting stronger in the coming  years.


Planned Upgrades Post Purchase:


Seaweed had potential, and that is why I bought her. She also lacked many items I considered necessary for long-term happiness afloat. Therefore I made a list of items to buy/upgrade after ownership.

This is my list to make Seaweed safer and more livable, in the sequence I determined to be most logical:

  1. 100' of G4 1/4" chain (in retrospect, I should have bought 150') along with a big modern anchor. This was the first major purchase for my home.

    [Seaweed came with 16' of plastic coated chain, 50' of goodness knows how old 1/2" 3-strand and  a rusty eleven pound Danforth knock-off.]

  2. Solar panels and/or a wind generator (A girl has to have power; currently I have a good start on a comfortable off-the-grid life)

  3. Windlass for chain and anchor because I am not getting any younger.

  4. Autopilot (still want one of these, but alas, three engines in one year means the autopilot will have to wait)

  5. Eventually I really want a tuna-door cut in the transom as climbing into the cockpit is not always easy.

  6. A watermaker (a gal can dream, right?)

And I still want more solar and batteries too, plus I've seen a Fan-tastic Vent fan that goes in the overhead of RV's. That's a wish, but I do not know enough to make a wise decision as to which would best meet my needs. If you know about these, please add a comment below. Thanks.


Frankly it is going to be a while before I have the funds to add anything to Seaweed. The pressing need is propulsion and that is progressing. The new Kubota from Yanmar Tractor Parts [http://yanmartractorparts.net] is gorgeous. Here is a sneak-peek at her:

You may be curious as to why a perfectly nice green paint job on the Kubota was changed to white. That's because I want to be able to see fluid leaks with ease. Everything shows on white. I do not know why more engines are not white.

White paint on motors makes those minor oozes simple
to spot and rectify before they become major problems.

The motor mounts for the Kubota were painted white as well.

And yes, I'm thrilled beyond measure to have this gem for my boat. As installation progresses I will have the details on how to turn a tractor engine into a motor for a boat, without running salt water through her innards too. It is genius, and best of all: not expensive!

Life is great afloat and truly I am blessed. But I digress...

On Seaweed, I planned a windlass purchase for year three of ownership. After hauling in the anchor (and chain) in 20+ feet of water twice in a row plans changed. I discovered I was not as young as I imagined. I do not know that I could have raised the anchor a third time by myself. Thus, I opted to pay the bucks and get a vertical LewmarV700 immediately.

I take my anchoring seriously.

Your boat will probably be much larger and it is totally worth it to have the ability to push a button and haul in the chain. In an emergency, the windlass makes a big difference. I have had to do so once. A boat (bigger than mine -- yes, they all are!) was dragging down on me.

It was easy enough to start the engine, pull up the chain (stopping to remove the snubber) and voila: Seaweed was safe.

More advice: I like my wired remote -- it lives on a hook inside my forward hatch for easy access. For me, I am not comfortable with the wireless ones. I might lose it. Mine is permanently attached with a cord that resembles the telephone cords of old.

Additionally I have seen too many of the deck push ones that have failed. Because I am smaller, I have been in more than one anchor locker removing the rusted hulks of what were once a functional deck push switches. This is not fun, but that is what friends do out here. We help each other.


My wired remote was an inexpensive purchase from a friend named Doc on Safira. Named after a dragon, Safira is a Morgan41 pilothouse sailboat. Another buddy, Ken on Sparrow (40' Rhodes Bounty2) showed me the wiring for the remote.

Side Note: Powering up and down is merely a matter of reversing polarity. The wiring on mine is just like that found on the outboard motors that raise and lower. If you have done those switches, you can do your windlass remote.

This is the switch you need
(Affiliate link

6-pin On-Off-On Switches (to change polarity)

This is my friend Ken. He understands wiring.


And as long as I'm spending your money (gosh, this is fun!) you might as well go with a chain counter too. Because the counters cost $$, I opted to paint my chain. The Anchor Up (Painting your chain) article has details on my paint scheme. It works, but given a choice a counter is a gizmo that would certainly be nice to have. If I was in the market for a chain counter I would shop at Defender.


Whatever you do, mark the last ten feet (paint it) so you will know when you are near the bitter end. And have the end of your chain attached to the inside the anchor locker with a small piece of line so you could buoy it off if that is ever necessary.

If you are anchoring in 50' of water, I would have that line at a minimum 75' long, and a fender handy to snap onto the end of the small line. You want a way to find the anchor and chain. The fender will make finding the chain easier. And the weight of the line (unlike chain) will not sink the fender!

DO NOT ask how I know that. It is not pretty and suffice
it to say this is my SECOND length of G4 1/4" chain.

In my opinion, of course.

Chain comes out the HAWSEPIPE on S/V Anja.

I also like a hawsepipe as seen in the (Joshua Slocum's) Spray replica Anja article. There are pictures of that set-up for your perusal. The idea is worth considering for your vessel too. I like that the chain comes from the waterline while the windlass is on deck.

If you know about Fan-tastic vent fans, please educate me. I would like to learn about them.
Does your boat have a windlass?

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2014, 2023

Categories: Boat Talk, Boats, Characters, Gear, In the Bilges, Locations, Memory Lane, Security

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