Installing a new anchor windlass
Installing a new anchor windlass

Installing a new anchor windlass is a crucial upgrade for any sailing adventure, providing safety, convenience, and improved boat performance.

Installing a New Anchor Windlass

Embarking on a sailing adventure with your family is an exciting and fulfilling experience. As you prepare your boat for the journey, one essential upgrade to consider is installing a new anchor windlass. This article will guide you through the process of selecting and installing the right anchor windlass for your boat, ensuring a smooth and safe sailing experience.

Table of Contents

What is an Anchor Windlass?

An anchor windlass is a mechanical device used to raise and lower the anchor on a boat. It consists of a motor, a gearbox, and a drum or chain wheel that wraps around the anchor rode (chain or rope). The windlass makes it easier to handle heavy anchors and long lengths of rode, reducing the physical strain on the crew and ensuring a secure anchorage.

Why Install a New Anchor Windlass?

There are several reasons why you might consider installing a new anchor windlass on your boat:

  1. Safety: A reliable and efficient windlass can make anchoring safer and more secure, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.
  2. Convenience: A windlass makes it easier to deploy and retrieve the anchor, saving time and effort, especially in challenging conditions.
  3. Performance: Upgrading to a more powerful and efficient windlass can improve your boat’s anchoring capabilities, allowing you to anchor in deeper waters and stronger currents.
  4. Comfort: A windlass can reduce the physical strain of handling heavy anchors and long rodes, making your sailing experience more enjoyable and comfortable.

Selecting the Right Anchor Windlass

Before you start the installation process, it’s essential to choose the right anchor windlass for your boat. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Boat Size and Displacement: The size and weight of your boat will determine the required pulling power of the windlass. As a general rule, the windlass should have a minimum pulling power equal to three times the combined weight of your anchor and rode.
  2. Anchor Rode Type: Windlasses are designed to handle either chain, rope, or a combination of both. Make sure to choose a windlass that is compatible with your existing anchor rode or the one you plan to use.
  3. Power Source: Windlasses can be powered by either electricity or hydraulics. Electric windlasses are more common on smaller boats, while hydraulic windlasses are typically found on larger vessels with more powerful hydraulic systems.
  4. Mounting Location: The windlass should be mounted as close to the bow as possible to minimize the strain on the boat’s structure. Consider the available space and any obstructions when choosing a windlass model.
  5. Control Options: Windlasses can be operated using a variety of control methods, including foot switches, handheld remotes, or integrated helm controls. Choose a control option that suits your preferences and sailing style.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before you begin the installation process, gather the following tools and materials:

  • Anchor windlass kit (including motor, gearbox, chain wheel, and mounting hardware)
  • Marine-grade plywood or fiberglass for reinforcing the mounting area (if necessary)
  • Epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth for sealing and bonding (if necessary)
  • Electric drill and assorted drill bits
  • Jigsaw or reciprocating saw for cutting the mounting hole
  • Socket wrench set and adjustable wrench
  • Marine-grade electrical wire and connectors
  • Wire stripper and crimper
  • Heat shrink tubing and heat gun
  • Cable ties and cable clamps
  • Marine-grade sealant
  • Safety equipment (gloves, goggles, and ear protection)

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Follow these steps to install your new anchor windlass:

  1. Prepare the Mounting Area: Inspect the area where the windlass will be mounted and ensure it is strong enough to support the load. If necessary, reinforce the area with marine-grade plywood or fiberglass, bonded with epoxy resin.
  2. Mark the Mounting Hole: Place the windlass on the mounting area and trace the outline of the base and the chain wheel hole. Make sure the chain wheel is aligned with the anchor roller and the chain locker.
  3. Cut the Mounting Hole: Using a jigsaw or reciprocating saw, carefully cut the hole for the chain wheel. Make sure to wear safety equipment and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Mount the Windlass: Place the windlass over the mounting hole and secure it with the provided bolts and nuts. Apply marine-grade sealant to the bolt holes and the base of the windlass to prevent water intrusion.
  5. Install the Control Switches: Mount the control switches in a convenient location, such as the bow or the helm. Run the control wires from the switches to the windlass motor, following the manufacturer’s wiring diagram.
  6. Connect the Power Source: Connect the windlass motor to your boat’s electrical system using marine-grade wire and connectors. Make sure to use the appropriate wire size and circuit protection, as specified by the manufacturer.
  7. Test the Windlass: Turn on the power and test the windlass operation using the control switches. Make sure the chain wheel rotates smoothly and the motor does not overheat.
  8. Secure and Organize the Wiring: Use cable ties and cable clamps to secure and organize the wiring, ensuring it is protected from chafing and water intrusion.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

To keep your anchor windlass in good working condition, follow these maintenance tips:

  1. Regular Inspection: Inspect the windlass regularly for signs of wear, corrosion, or damage. Pay special attention to the chain wheel, motor, and gearbox.
  2. Lubrication: Lubricate the moving parts of the windlass, such as the chain wheel and gearbox, with a marine-grade grease or oil, as recommended by the manufacturer.
  3. Electrical Connections: Check the electrical connections for corrosion or loose connections and clean or tighten them as necessary.
  4. Rode Maintenance: Inspect your anchor rode for signs of wear or damage and replace it if necessary. Make sure the chain links and rope splices are compatible with the windlass chain wheel.

If you encounter any issues with your windlass, consult the manufacturer’s troubleshooting guide or seek professional assistance.


Installing a new anchor windlass is a valuable upgrade that can enhance the safety, convenience, and comfort of your sailing adventure. By following this guide and selecting the right windlass for your boat, you can enjoy the benefits of a reliable and efficient anchoring system. Remember to maintain your windlass regularly and address any issues promptly to ensure a smooth and enjoyable sailing experience.