Anchor Windlass


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Installation of Lewmar Anchorman Manual Windlass

Boat: Pacific Dragon II
Make/Model: 2002 Performance Cruising Gemini 105mc
Engine: Westerbeke 30B 27hp Diesel

Although I don't anchor often, I had learned from 15 years boating experience that hauling up 150ft of wet line, chain and anchor is not something to be doing by hand, unless you are going for that strongest man in the world title.  So I knew that one of my first items that I wanted installed was a windlass. 

I had been looking for a windlass over the year leading up to my purchase of Pacific Dragon II and had a few objectives in mind.

  Most importantly, it had to:

1. Look like it was suppose to be there,
2. Be dependable and simple to maintain,
3. Be in line with the cleat so that the load could easily and safely be transferred between windlass and cleat with a rolling hitch.
4. Be capable of getting the anchor up without the aid of the diesel engine if the need arises.

With these requirements in mind, I selected a Anchorman manual windlass which was cheaper and much simpler to install than any of the electric power models, which require heavy power cables lead to them.  This vertical windlass's simple circular motion and the advantage of a long winch handle are more than sufficient to raise the lightweight Spade aluminum anchor on a rope/chain rode with only 15ft of chain.

I try to keeps the ground tackle as light as possible which is best for catamarans.  Considering I carry a smaller Spade kedge and larger Fortress as a spare anchor (a total of 3 anchors which I consider a minimum) and over 1000 feet of rode, this adds up fast and light efficient anchors that take advantage of design over weight are best.

This model also has the advantage of being able to handle a second anchor line on the top drum which can be used independently from the lower chain/rope gypsy.  Since the primary anchor rode was only 150 feet long, I knew that I would sometimes need to add line to the rode to anchor in deeper water which can be critical in a lee shore situation when you unexpectedly lose power/wind.  This upper section of the windlass could easily be used to manage the extra line after it is tied onto the main anchor rode.

Why not an Electric Model?:
My experience with electric windlasses in the past had left me less than enthusiastic about them.  They are dangerous to fingers or anything else that get too close. Their are noisy making communicating to the helmsman even more difficult.  They tend to jam unless everything is perfect (i.e. the lead is straight and the rode has lots of space to fall below out of the way.) They require large power cables to handle the high amp in-rush at startup. Also they work best with all chain rode, which I could not afford the weight and its negative effect on the cats performance. Given I know anything electric mounted on the foredeck with little protection from the elements will be prone to failure, particularly if not used regularly and well maintained.  So for once I opted not to go with the latest and greatest, keeping life a bit simpler and selected the manual model which has far less that can go wrong.

The question was where to mount it?  My wife had made it clear that all items installed on this brand new boat needed to look good and add to the value.  After considering the various options I decided that the only proper place to mount it so it would have the correct fairlead was actually on the anchor locker hatch.  This required the hatch to be cut and a mounting board installed under the hatch.

To avoid drilling holes in the deck, I use a heavy, 1" thick custom made teak board (cut from a large 4"X8"X8' piece with my band saw) that was long enough to reach from under the existing anchor cleat to the back of the anchor locker.  I replaced the cleat's original mounting bolts with bolts long enough to pass through the board and secure the front end in place and take the heavy loads imposed on the windlass.  The back end of the board was through bolted through the deck in the drain depression for the anchor hatch lip which made the bolts invisible with the hatch closed.  A saber saw was used to cut out a corner of the hatch for the windlass to sit on.  A 1/4" teak shim was used to make the height of the cut out section match the hatch perfectly (see picture left.)  At first I was concerned the foam core hatch section would not handle the load and tend to compress, but it has been surprisingly resistance to the compression loads on it over the years.

Note: The Lewmar Hooded Chain Pipe (shown in picture above) does not come with the Anchorman and will need to be special ordered via your local marine hardware dealer to complete the installation.  You should be aware that this chain pipe is not recommended for rope since it tends to jam in it (see "how it works" comments below for details.)   They have a flat chain pipe (no hood) they recommend for chain/rope rode which does not look nearly as nice. 

How it works:
In practice, the windlass take a bit of coordinate to use properly since the nylon rode (unlike chain) does not tend to itself (jams) as the line is winched into the hooded deck pipe.  To manage this I simply sit sideways with my feet in the anchor locker and use my feet to pull the line down into the back of the anchor locker keeping tension on the line from below.   Once you get use to it, it works fairly well and properly stows the line so that it runs back out cleanly.   The fact that it is a manual windlass allows you to control the line speed giving yourself time to clear the line below in the locker and wait for the boat to move forward before taking up more line.   Although slow, this make it fairly simple to use the windlass alone to get the anchor up in an emergency (without the aid of the engine to motor up to it.)   Also, the addition of a good double handed winch handle also greatly improved the windlass's operation. 

This windlass came in handy when trying to raise anchor on one windy day in Clipper Cove (see Caught Out Story for details) which made it impossible to motor up to the anchor since the bow would be quickly blown off to the side despite my best efforts to control the boat. 

Overall, after having it on the foredeck for over seven years I am happy with it.  It has required little in the form of maintenance other than a bit of lubrication and has worked well on the rare occasion that it is called into duty.  Also, it blends so well with the boat people assume that it is standard equipment.  Interestingly the boat broker whom I purchased the boat from strongly objected to its installation since he wanted to use the boat for the 2002 Jack London Boat Show and feared that it would be a bit of a albatross.  Once he saw it in place he was impressed with it and gladly used my boat for the boat show that year and the next.  Best of all, my wife has never criticized it or even mentioned it (the ultimate style test) and thus amazingly, we are both happy with it which is rare indeed.  


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This site was last updated 09/01/03