• Installing an Anchor Windlass

    Have you ever noticed that when you need your trusty anchor the most, it seems to have a mind of its own and absolutely refuse to sink its teeth into the bottom. Somehow this usually coincides with howling winds, rain coming down in chaotic horizontal sheets and lightning streaking across the sky. Okay so I should have had the anchor set before the storm blew in but nobody's perfect. So here I am soaking wet, hugging the foredeck and pulling furiously on the rode to retrieve the anchor so I can attempt to set it for the third time. Then it hits me, I need a windlass! Well actually a windlass, some dry clothes and a cup of coffee but at this point I will settle for the windlass. Sound familiar?

    Installing a windlass may seem like a job that should be left for the pros but for those with a bit of bravery and some basic mechanical skills the task can be a pleasant experience. The complexity of the installation will primarily depend on the layout and design of the your boat. In this article I will take you through a windlass installation on a typical 30 foot cruiser. Many of the ideas presented here can easily be adapted to most boats and hopefully you will get an idea of the task that lies ahead.

    Planning, Planning, Planning

    I cannot emphasize enough the importance of thoroughly thinking through each step of the process before purchasing any equipment. This is the time to really become familiar with your boat. Study the layout of your boat carefully and as you explore take notes because there are some key questions you will need to answer.

    Here are the items to consider in a logical order:

    Anchor Locker
    Does your boat already have an anchor locker, if so how large is it and most importantly how deep is it? A deep narrow anchor locker is preferable over a shallow wide Attachment 391one. Windlasses don't stow the rode in the anchor locker, gravity does! So how does this affect windlass selection?

    With all of the anchor rode in the locker the distance from the windlass spool to the top of the pile of rode is important. This is known as the "fall distance". A larger fall distance means there is more weight to assist in stowing the rode (18 inches of rode weighs more the 8 inches). This extra weight also helps keep the area immediately under the windlass clear of rode, helps prevent the rode from tangling and provides more tension on the backside of the windlass spool.

    On a horizontal windlass the spool normally sits above the deck a fewinches and therefore the anchor locker can be shallower (Lewmar recommends a minimum of 12 inches of fall distance). Horizontal windlasses are more foregiving with the chain to rope splices found on mixed rodes. However, there are several drawbacks to using a horizontal windlass. They take up more space above decks and can become a hazard on a pitching rolling deck. It is also reported that they don't handle rope rodes as well since the rode is only in contact with the windlass through a 90 degree turn and some slippage may occur.

    The spool on a vertical windlass sits relatively flush with the deck and provides a180 degree turn of the rode thus preventing some of the slippage problems with rope rodes. Most people prefer them for the aesthetics, they look sleeker and are less of an obstruction on the deck. However they too have their drawbacks. They are less friendly to chain to rope splices on combination rodes and require a deeper anchor locker (Lewmar recommends a minimum of 18 inches of fall distance). The boating world is flush with stories of those that ignored the fall distance recommendations from the various windlass manufacturers. Those are the people that you hear complaining about having to consistently reach into their anchor lockers and un-jam the windlass.

    Windlass Size
    Most people have the misconception that a windlass is supposed to drag the boat up to the anchor and then winch the anchor off the bottom after it has managed to dig in under 4 feet of mud. Wrong idea! Most common cruising windlasses are only designed to handle retrieving the rode as you motor up to the anchor, then the rode should be tied off to a cleat or samson post while the anchor is broken out. Once the anchor is broken out then the windlass may be used to bring the remaining rode and anchor to the surface.

    Some windlass manufacturers provide recommended sizes based upon the length of your boat, but that should only be a starting point. To accurately determine the size you need, the weight of the anchor and rode should be taken into account. Most of the better windlass manufacturers provide you with information to make this task easier. Check out the Lewmar windlass selection guide by clicking here.

    You will see that they start out with the size of the boat and the windlass models that are compatible. Then they consider the anchor and rode to assist in finalizing the choice. Then they politely attempt to educate you on proper windlass use "Your windlass is a retrieval device; the windlass retrieves the anchor and rode. The windlass is not a high-load-bearing device."

    Some other considerations should be taken into account when selecting a windlass. What type of boater are you? Someone that just goes out for the day when conditions are good may opt for the lower end of the recommended windlasses. But if you frequently spend the night on the water, often encounter rough conditions and love cruising then you will want to invest in a higher end windlass.

    The next item to consider is wiring. If you are replacing an existing windlass is the wiring still in good condition and of sufficient size? If this is a new installation, is the boat pre-wired? If the answer is no to either of these two questions then the job becomes a bit more complicated because now you are most likely going to have to disassemble large portions of the boat to gain access to key areas. You will need to determine where you will route the wiring from the batteries to the windlass. This path you choose will need to be relatively protected, allow you to secure the wires properly (every 18 inches) and be as short as possible. A windlass uses lots of amperage so the wires (hereafter referred to as cables) need to be quite large to reduce the resistance. Most manufacturers recommend a maximum of 10% voltage drop and provide convenient tables to help you determine the proper cable size. It is important to remember that the length of cable is from the battery to the windlass and back to the battery following the anticipated route.
    At this point it is a good idea to draw a rough sketch of what you want. Do you want a foot switch, a helm switch or both.

    If you are satisfied with a single point of control for the windlass the installation is a bit less expensive and easier. The wiring will originate at the battery positive, pass through a circuit breaker/isolator, pass through a bi-directional toggle switch to the windlass before returning to the battery negative.
    Attachment 389

    If you want a more elaborate setup then the windlass wiring schematic should consist of two circuits, the windlass power circuit which begins at the battery positive, passes through a circuit breaker/isolator connects to the windlass contactor then returns to the negative side of the battery. This circuit is the primary power for the windlass and will have the large cables.

    The next circuit is what I refer to as the control circuit. This will begin at the contactor pass through the foot switches and rocker switch, then through a fuse and return to the contactor. The contactor serves as both a solenoid and reversing switch. It allows you to send a small current through a helm switch or foot switch that when activated will close the solenoid and power the windlass. The contactor also allows this current to flow in reverse to power the windlass the opposite direction. (note when ordering your windlass if you want a dual station type of installation the rocker switch, foot switches and contactor are not normally included in package deals and may have to be ordered separately.)

    Attachment 390

    It may seem obvious that you want the windlass located on the bow of the boat, however there are circumstances where they may be located on the stern and other areas as necessary. The principles discussed in this article may be adapted to a windlass installed in any location. This article will assume you are installing the windlass on the bow of the boat. Even so the choice for the actual location on the bow may not be so simple.Attachment 418

    The windlass will need a very strong location in order to support the loads placed on it. On some boats the deck may be uneven near the bow, such is typical on some models of house boats. This may require installing the windlass and pulpit at an angle or fabricating a mounting platform for the windlass as shown in this picture.
    Attachment 396
    There may be other considerations affecting the installation such as samson post locations, the thickness of the deck, rails or a chain pipe that may be in the way. In this example if the windlass in mounted centered the samson post will be in the way. The existing chain pipe will need to be removed and may be a good location to mount the windlass.
    Attachment 402
    The area below deck should be inspected as part of this process. You don't want to mark the area and begin cutting until you are assured no obstructions exist and the area is suitable. In the picture below the v-berth and head panel have been removed to expose the anchor locker. you can see the chainpipe extending down into the anchor locker. What is not so obvious are the support beams that run forward to the bow pulpit. These supports are part of a fiberglass box that forms the bow pulpit of the boat. It is extremely strong and has a layer of steel sandwiched in between wood and layers of glass. It is a separate piece that is bolted onto the hull and top deck of the boat, while most newer cruisers are all one piece. This restricts the windlass location to a very narrow location horizontally.
    Attachment 397
    As you can see a little exploration and planning can help avoiding nasty surprises and will make the installation easier.

    Example Windlass Installation
    The remainder of the article will cover the actual installation of a Lewmar V700 vertical windlass on a typical 30 foot cruiser with a v-berth. Remember each windlass installation will be different due to the differences in boats.

    In this example the anchor locker depth was increased and an anchor washdown was installed at the same time. The key concept is the thought process involved and the sequence of the steps. It helps to write out an installation plan which can be as simple as a few notes scribbled on a piece of paper to keep the thoughts clear in your head. Doing this will actually prompt you to think about the steps involved in advance and prevent mistakes.

    Prep Work
    After performing many of the recommended steps above I determined that I wanted a vertical windlass. I liked their sleek appearance and did not want anything too obtrusive on the deck. The only problem was my anchor locker was not deep enough according to most manufacturers recommendations. So I was faced with a dilemma, either mount a horizontal windlass or deepen my anchor locker.
    Attachment 399
    I began by disassembling the forward berth to include the cabinets that formed the supporting structure for the berth. Once the v-berth was removed I was able to determine that adding depth to the anchor locker was not going to be too much of a problem. Once it was out of the way I was also awarded with more working space and was able to gain access to the wiring.

    Even though the boat is a bit older it came pre-wired for a windlass from the factory. You can see in this picture the windlass power wires coming in from below while the windlass control wires emerge from under the headliner.
    Attachment 400
    The first job was to make that anchor locker deeper. I used a sawzall to cut out the bottom of the old anchor locker which turned out to be easier than I imagined. Cruisers' has a reputation for building a solid boat and it was evident that thought went into everything they do. The old anchor locker bottom was a piece of wood that was encased in glass and resin with only resin hardened fiberglass fabric securing it to the sides of the bow. This allowed the locker to be strong but not put undue stress on the hull.

    Once the bottom of the locker was removed I used a dremel and other assorted tools to clean up the residual fiberglass and prepare the area for the addition. I used 3/4 inch plywood and cut two pieces, the 4 inch piece that would be the facing and the triangular piece that would form the new floor of the locker. The new bottom would be slightly smaller that the original since it would sit lower along the curve of the bow. I tapered the edges to conform to the sides of the hull and made sure the piece was slightly smaller so it would not stress the hull. After a few more cuts and dry fits, I screwed the facing to the new bottom and coated the whole assembly with epoxy resin.
    Attachment 401
    After four coats of epoxy I was satisfied with the thickness of the assembly and I screwed it in place. The screws went through the new facing into the old locker's facing. Next I wetted in 4 inch wide strips of fiberglass cloth to seal the edges and bond the new locker bottom to the hull. This process was repeated until I had a strong bond and the locker was watertight.

    Next I drilled a 1-1/4 inch hole in the bottom of the new locker on the right side. I inserted a 4 foot piece of corrugated sump pump drain pipe into the hole and then sealed around the pipe with epoxy resin until the locker bottom was once again watertight. The corrugated pipe serves as a protective barrier for the windlass power cables that come from below and run up along the side to power the windlass. I will also have a water line going through the pipe to provide water for the anchor washdown.

    Since the anchor locker floor was lowered the original drain was now to high to drain water. So to install a new one I drilled a 1/4 inch pilot hole from inside the locker fully penetrating the hull at the bottom of the locker. Then I drilled through the inner layer of fiberglass with a 1/2 inch drill bit but did not penetrate the outer layer of fiberglass. This allowed me to remove the balsa core from the perimeter of the hole and then seal it with epoxy paste. Once the epoxy had fully cured I drilled a hole from the outside using the original 1/4 inch hole as a guide. I used a 3/8 inch bit and drilled completely through the hull into the anchor locker. I installed a new clam shell vent over the hole and that finished my new drain.
    Attachment 411
    Next it was time to prepare to install the windlass. In a previous picture you could see the samson post and chain pipe locations. The chain pipe was removed and the samson post would be need to be relocated slightly offset to allow the anchor rode a straight line passage to the anchor roller.
    Attachment 403
    Once these items were removed I placed the windlass cutout pattern on the deck centered between the two beams located belowdecks. However with the windlass centered, the rode would arrive at the anchor roller with a slight angle and could possibly chafe. To alleviate this I shifted the pattern to the port side approximately 1 inch which provided a straight line to the anchor roller and was still between the two beams located below. I was satisfied with that location so I used masking tape to hold the pattern in place and used a sharp blade to cut out the windlass outline. I used a permanent marker to mark the windlass mounting outline and mounting holes on the deck and removed the pattern.
    Attachment 404
    Prior to cutting out the hole i used normal masking tape and placed it over the black permanent marker lines that outline the area to be cut. You can still see the black marker lines through the tape and this helps you make a clean cut and avoid chipping the gelcoat with a jigsaw. Drilling through the embedded steel proved to be a chore for the jigsaw and used up quite a few blades. With that thickness moving slow was important to avoid twisting the blade. After the windlass hole was cut and the mounting holes were drilled it was time to dry fit the windlass. I inserted the mounting studs into the base of the windlass and fitted it to the deck without the gaskets.

    With the windlass in place, it was time to determine a suitable location for re-mounting the samson post. I marked the location on the deck where the rode exits the windlass. Then I took a piece of string, tied it to the bow roller and extended it back to the mark I had placed on the deck. I placed the samson post off to the port side of this line so it would not interfere with the up and down travel of the anchor rode. This location would also allow the rode to be tied off and not chafe on the anchor roller.
    Attachment 412
    Satisfied with the location, the hole pattern was marked and new holes were drilled with a bit slightly smaller than the mounting screws. Next, I fastened the samson post in place with the mounting screws to ensure it would seat properly. Then I removed the screws, coated their threads along with the base of the samson post with 3M 5200 and installed the samson post.

    Sealing The Deck
    The next step of the project is a critical one. The windlass mounting hole has to be properly sealed to prevent water ingress and possible permanent damage to the core of the boat. With the hole cut you can see the balsa wood coring sandwiched between the layers of fiberglass.
    Attachment 942
    For this job I used a dremel tool with a carbide cutting bit and removed approximately 1/2 inch of the balsa core from the perimeter of the hole. I made sure to also remove the coring around the area of the bolt holes. You have to make sure all of the coring is removed and the fiberglass is clean of any debris. You can wipe the area with Acetone or a similar chemical to ensure a good bond with the fiberglass resin.
    Attachment 408
    The original setup on the bow of this boat only had a small chain pipe and the samson post. A thin piece of stainless steel was embedded into the fiberglass to provide strength for the deck but the steel did not extend back far enough to encompass the full location for the windlass mounting hole. So to compensate for this I reinforced the bottom of the deck with a 3/4 inch piece of fiberglass and epoxy coated plywood and a piece of stainless steel that I had fabricated to match the windlass cutout pattern. These new pieces were bonded to the underside of the deck with epoxy resin and fiberglass. To hold them in place while the epoxy cured, I wrapped painters tape around some 4 inch long bolts and placed them in the windlass mounting holes and through the plywood and steel below . The tape prevents the epoxy from bonding to the bolts and allows them to be removed easier when the epoxy has cured.
    Attachment 415
    Now it is time for the messy part of the job, sealing the balsa core. For a detailed explanation of how to properly seal a balsa cored hull read this article. Once the perimeter of the hole was fully sealed I used painters tape and lined the hole to help prevent the epoxy resin from weeping out while it cured.

    While waiting for the epoxy to cure, I installed the deck mounted foot switches. This was a relatively easy task involving drilling a single hole for the wiring and a few small holes for the screws. These were all sealed with 3M 4200 to prevent water intrusion.

    Now moving back to the windlass hole. The epoxy had cured so I used the dremel to smooth out any jagged edges around the perimeter of the hole and make sure the deck was properly sealed. I installed the gasket onto the windlass and slid it into the hole to check for proper fit and allow me to do some preliminary wiring.

    Wiring and Components
    My boat was pre-wired for a windlass installation. The power cable comes from the batteries, passes through a master ON/OFF battery switch that shuts off power to both the house supply and windlass. From there the cables go to the windlass circuit breaker then run foreward along the starboard side of the boat to the anchor locker at the bow. The circuit breaker in the picture is located under the starboard gunwale where I have other electrical items installed. This provides easy access, is protected from the elements and within 3 feet of the batteries.
    Attachment 413
    The factory installed wiring for the control of the windlass started behind the instrument panel and ran under the headliner to the bow of the boat where it emerged into the anchor locker. The contactor has to be installed in a dry location and is the focal point for all of the wiring. I chose to install it under the front bunk fastened to the lower forward bulkhead. The control wires from the foot switches and rocker switch all come from above and pass through the corrugated pipe in the anchor locker to the contactor below. The windlass power cables from the contactor are routed through the corrugated pipe to the windlass mounted above.
    Attachment 414
    The project boat was a twin engine with forward/neutal/reverse levers located left of the wheel with the throttles located to the right of the wheel. I chose to locate the windlass helm rocker switch to the right of the throttles. This allows me to maneuver the boat with the forward/reverse levers in my left hand and control the windlass with my right. Mounting the switch was relatively easy. First I traced a pattern of the switch on the fiberglass console then drilled a pilot hole. Next I used the dremel with a carbide cutting bit to cut the hole for the rocker switch.
    Attachment 416
    Once the final wiring connections were made, I tested the windlass from both the helm and the foot switches located on deck. Everything checked out okay so I removed the windlass and traced a light coating of 3M 4200 on the gaskets prior to installing them. With the gaskets in place I slid the windlass into position taking care to clean up any excess silicone. Now a quick trip down below to install the backing plate and locking nuts on the windlass bolts. With the windlass secured it was time to put the boat back together.
    Attachment 417

    Here is a link to another installation provided by one of our members, Richhill http://www.boatinghowto.com/f32/i-co...44/index2.html


    Comments 9 Comments
    1. waterwitch's Avatar
      waterwitch -
      Good article!
    1. paulcap's Avatar
      paulcap -
      I just started my install tonight...have been brainstorming a lot. The article solidified the project planning,,,thanks..
    1. TimG's Avatar
      TimG -
      your welcome paulcap, feel free to share some pictures of the install with us. The article does lack a few detailed photos so maybe we could add some to it.
    1. electriglide's Avatar
      electriglide -
      Hey tim,
      I am looking at installing an anchor windlass on my boat. A problem I have run into is the windlass hole only covers half of the existing chain pipe hole. How can I properly repair the Chain pipe hole and then re cut the deck for the windlass? I thought about making a plug for the hole from 3/4 marine ply wood. gluing it in place. and the fiber glassing it in on top and bottom. then I could cut the hole for the windlass. I was planning on reinforcing the whole area with a piece of stainless on the bottom side.
      Sound resonable?
    1. TimG's Avatar
      TimG -
      yes that is the path I would likely take, effective and one of the easier methods
    1. electriglide's Avatar
      electriglide -
      Quote Originally Posted by TimG View Post
      yes that is the path I would likely take, effective and one of the easier methods
      Thanks for the info.
      Could you suggest a certain type of glue for the plug? And I take it I would not want to coat the plug with resin before I glue it in so it can adhere to the glue correct? Also I was thinking a poly resin with cms and 1708 glass then top it with the gel coat and wax sound right? I am kind of new to all this but have done a little research. Thanks for all the help. Maybe you could stop by and give me a hand on tutorial. Lol.
    1. Cap'n Ray's Avatar
      Cap'n Ray -
      Mostly a sound plan. I would suggest a couple of layers of CSM on top of the 1708 prior to the gel coat though, unless you like the pattern of the 1708- it is pretty coarse and will show through if you don't tone it down some with CSM.
    1. TimG's Avatar
      TimG -
      Lol electriglide, I just realized who you are, you bet i'll stop by, it would have to be next week though.
    1. electriglide's Avatar
      electriglide -
      Lol! I was wondering if you were going to catch on to my user name. I am still in the planning stage going to try and look at it real hard sat. Supposed to be a nice day for projects.