All you need to do to set off on new and exciting adventures is to haul in the anchor! In some cases, however, this operation is not as easy as you might think, on the contrary: very often our backs categorically refuse to pull the heavy anchor thrown overboard. For this reason on the market there are many different models of windlass for pleasure boats, thanks to which this operation becomes quick and easy. But what is the windlass (also written, sometimes, anchor windlass)? What exact type of boat winch should you buy based on your uses? And what rules do you need to follow to install the windlass in the most correct way? On this page we will answer these and many other questions related to this crucial on-board device.
What is the windlass?
In this page of our e-commerce dedicated to the sale of boat accessories we present a wide selection of the best boat winches and anchor windlasses. But what are they, and what are these particular accessories for? Very briefly, we can say that the windlass is an instrument with gears that allows you to perform the sinking and the recovery of an anchor in a completely automatic way and without efforts. As we will see later, there are different types of windlasses: there are electric windlasses and hydraulic windlasses, vertical windlasses and horizontal windlasses, not to mention models equipped with a bell, specifically defined as mooring winches. But in which cases does the windlass become an indispensable device? Let's see it together!
In which cases should you buy an anchor windlass?
Certainly sailing is not an activity suitable for those who hate any physical effort: leading and managing a boat, in fact, requires a certain amount of manual activity. This doesn't mean, however, that, where possible, it's not the case to be helped by electrical devices that can save us a bit of effort. But what is the point beyond which an anchor winch becomes practically indispensable?
Well, generally speaking, we tend to think that in boats up to six metres long the operations of lowering and recovering the anchor can be done by hand. In these cases, in fact, we are dealing with anchors, chains and lines of limited weight, which can be handled by hand without too many problems. Different, instead, the speech for the boats that exceed that measure. Here, in fact, the game starts to get serious, with the weight of the whole anchoring system increasing in a concrete way. This is why, for boats longer than six meters, the purchase of an electric or hydraulic windlass becomes a real must. It is therefore understood when it becomes necessary to equip your boat with a special windlass. But which model should you choose? Before giving a certain answer to this question, it is certainly appropriate to find out what are the main features of this device.
Boat winch: how it is composed
There are essentially two collection systems that can be identified in an anchor winch. In some cases both are present, in other cases, instead, there is only one. The classic anchor windlass is designed to move only the anchors attached to chains, and therefore provides for the presence of a specially toothed wheel, which is called 'barbotin'. The chain, in this case, fits perfectly into the teeth of the wheel called 'core', ensuring an effective grip. It should be noted that, to ensure the operation of the barbotin and therefore of the anchor winch, it is necessary to use only calibrated chains. In other cases there is also a special bell, called in jargon the mooring bell, which offers the opportunity to recover the lines. As sea wolves know, this additional device - positioned above the barbotin - is typically used during docking operations, during mooring or during hoisting operations on board the tender (in the absence of specific davits for the service boat). A novelty of the last few years is the possibility to purchase an anchor windlass equipped with a special barbotin capable - thanks to the peculiar manufacturing of the teeth - of moving both chains and ropes. This single wheel, therefore, is able to effectively perform both the work of the barbotin and that of the bell.
Electric or hydraulic windlass: which to choose?
There are two main questions that arise in the head of those who must buy an anchor winch: is it better an electric win ch or a hydraulic one? And is it better a vertical windlass or a horizontal windlass? Let's start from the first question. On the market, in fact, there are both electric and hydraulic models. The former are undoubtedly the most popular choice: relatively inexpensive, easy to install and convenient to use, these electric motors are the obvious choice for all smaller boats. It should be noted that there are two types of electric boat windlass, namely 12 or 24 V models, to be chosen according to the power required (and therefore in relation to the weight of the anchor and chain to be driven). The hydraulic windlass, on the other hand, guarantees a power that is completely unheard of for normal electric motors. This type of motor is therefore preferred by owners of large boats, which have to deal with extremely heavy anchors, which could soon put in crisis a simple electric anchor winch.
Vertical or horizontal windlass?
Once understood which of the two motorizations is more suitable for your boat, we arrive to the second fundamental question regarding the purchase of a boat windlass: is it better a horizontal windlass or a vertical model? To understand which is the best option, it is necessary to know what are the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of these two models. The vertical wind lass is characterized by a working angle of 180°, a feature that allows a lower effort for the same yield. This particular conformation also guarantees an excellent resistance to the stresses, which are distributed equally. The vertical model, in spite of this, is more subject to breakage, as it has to use an additional toothed joint to bridge the non-perpendicularity of the rotation axis. The horizontal winch, on the other hand, has a working angle of 90°, with the consequence of being in contact with a smaller number of links. However, it should be pointed out that its design allows easier mooring operations due to the vertical position of the line. These, however, are only technical details: very often, what influences the customer's decision is the different level of encumbrance of the two devices. It is not a mystery that the vertical winch is typically installed on deck, thus positioning the drive unit below deck, whereas the horizontal windlass is installed on deck, thus involving a not indifferent encumbrance. Someone sometimes chooses to install the horizontal anchor winch inside the locker, a choice which, however, forces the latter to be kept open at all times, with notable disturbances during the tug. These, in short, are the advantages and disadvantages of the two models: depending on your needs, you can then make the most appropriate decision. We would like to give you a further tip: even if there is no written rule, as a general rule we tend to install vertical windlasses on boats under 30 meters, to pass instead to horizontal models in the case of larger pleasure craft.
What is the right power for an electric boat windlass?
In order to understand how powerful an anchor winch must be, and therefore to what figure must correspond its maximum pull, we must think about the type of boat on which it will be mounted, as well as the total weight of anchor and chain. The size and weight of the boat are of fundamental importance in thinking about the right windlass for mooring operations. Let's take into consideration a 16-metre boat: in this case there will have to be an anchor of about 25 kilograms, further weighed down by a chain with a diameter of 1 centimetre. Calculating about two kilograms per metre, the chain alone - for an anchorage of about 35 metres - will weigh 70 kilograms, bringing the total weight to almost 100 kilos. The winch, however, will not only have to withstand this weight: the seabed where the anchor is set will also offer resistance and therefore make the operation more energy-intensive. In order to be sure of being able to send the anchor in any situation, it is customary to purchase windlasses with a maximum pulling capacity corresponding - at least - to four times the total weight of the anchor and chain. In this specific case, therefore, it will not be possible to be satisfied with any electric windlass with a capacity of less than 400 kg, so as to be sure of not encountering any difficulty in hauling the anchor - this capacity, moreover, will also guarantee an excellent support in the towing operations.
Choosing the hand control
As most people will have noticed, in this section dedicated to boat winches we also host the various types of push button panels and push buttons. Also in this case, the choice must be made taking into account your particular needs. All the systems presented in our e-commerce for the nautical world, it must be said, offer an excellent practicality: some customers, however, prefer the push button panels, while others are more inclined to use the foot buttons. The classic push-button panels with spiral cable guarantee a good freedom of movement during use. Their main disadvantage is that the sockets on the deck are not very resistant and are designated victims of the oxidation process. In order to eliminate this problem, and to be able to operate the winch from any position, you can opt for a radio control - wireless - which is particularly useful for those travelling without a crew. Finally, many people still prefer foot switches to wired or wireless remote controls, one for raising and the other for lowering the anchor.
Installation: where and how should the anchor windlass be installed?
Once you have chosen the anchor windlass of the right power, with the desired alignment and the most suitable type of motor, you can finally proceed with its installation. But what is the optimal position for the installation of the windlass? Well, ideally the barbotin should be perfectly aligned with the ascending and descending pulley of the anchor, and therefore with the bowstay. On the other hand, looking at the perfect distance, experts tend to say that a space of 80 centimetres from the bow is preferred, and therefore close to the bulkhead of the anchor locker. Once the exact place for the installation of the winch has been identified, we proceed to the fixing on the deck, which typically takes place with the insertion of a special reinforcement under it. We are talking about the installation of a device that will heavily stress the deck, which must therefore have sufficient thickness. In the case of thin decks, i.e. less than 2.5 cm, it is necessary to add further thickness by means of brass inserts or other types of metal plates. It should not be forgotten even the space necessary for the chain fall: if the barbotin is located too close to the pile, in fact, the possibility of a stop caused by the same chain recovered can only increase in proportion. In order to eliminate this eventuality it is therefore necessary to install the windlass at least 40 - 50 centimetres from the chain pile. The entire installation process should be carried out without ever forgetting the stresses to which the chain hoist and its supports are inexorably subjected: even the best winches, in fact, can lead to problems in the short term if installed incorrectly or if used in a careless and imprudent manner. In this section of our e-commerce, in addition to the windlasses of the most different types and brands, we present the push buttons, the meter display panels, the mooring totems, the mooring winches for inflatable boats, the spare engines and so on. Everything you may need for the maintenance and improvement of your anchor winch, then, is on this page: if you do not find something, or if you have doubts about the exact product to buy, do not hesitate to contact us!