windlass for boats

5 Best Anchor Windlasses For Boats 2018

A windlass for your boat is used to raise the anchor as part of a functioning anchoring system and it can be used on a range of boats. They are a DIY installation for many boat owners and they are categorized as a vertical or horizontal style.

The best windlass is the Lewmar V3 Go FF Kit, which is a stainless steel construction with a clone clutch and worm gearbox, which is suitable for boats up to 14 meters.

There are three types of anchor rodes that can be used with a windlass for boats, these include an all chain, rope-chain and rope only type. You will also need to factor in the gypsy compatibility with your rode of your boat.

Best Anchor Windlasses

WindlassTypeAnchor Rode
Lewmar V3 Go FFVerticalRope-Chain
Maxwell RC8-8VerticalRope-Chain
Lewmar V700 GVerticalChain Only
Five Oceans S612HorizontalRope-Chain
Powerwinch FreeFallHorizontalRope-Chain

Manually raising your boat anchor in and out of the ocean can be really hard work regardless of the size of your boat. Installing a windlass will completely change things and you even have the option of installing a remote operation if you wish.

The size of your boat will be a big part of your buying decision and it is recommended that the load capacity is around 4 times weight of the anchor, rode and hardware.

Upgrading your boat with a fully functioning windlass will not only save you the hassle of lifting the anchor yourself but also add value to your boat. Below is a list of the best windlasses for boats that include both vertical and horizontal types.

Lewmar V3 Go FF Windlass Kit


The Lewmar V3 Go FF is a stainless steel windlass kit that uses a rope-chain gypsy and is suitable for boats up to 14 meters in length. It is a premium anchoring system and it uses a worm gearbox and cone clutch for a smooth and easy control.

Thanks to deck unit, the drive train and gearbox is hidden, which is a good thing for those looking at hiding the system. Being made by Lewmar, you know that it is going to be reliable and not have any issues with clutches breaking and so on.

It is by far the most expensive unit in this article but the Lewmar V3 Go FF is the best windlass you can buy. Lewmar do offer cheaper alternatives for those looking to save but regardless, a windlass is a worthwhile investment.

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Maxwell RC8-8 Windlass

Maxwell is another big brand in the windlass market and the RC8 is their fully automatic rope-chain windlass with a maximum pull of 1,320 LBS. It is a sleek and low profile windlass and uses is a simple two piece installation.

As you would expect from such a premium product, it is a marine grade stainless steel windlass and it uses a heavy duty pressure arm to help grasp the rope-chain splice for additional performance. It is suited for those wanting a low profile style on their foredeck with excellent performance.

Overall, it is another top rated boat windlass that is cheaper than the Lewmar V3 Go FF. Choosing between the two may be dependent upon the budget but both are the most rated windlasses you can buy.

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Lewmar V700 G Vertical Windlass


The most popular windlass by far is the Lewmar V700 G, which is a 316 marine grade stainless steel deck unit, which is suitable for boats up to 10.5 meters in length. The popularity is due to reputable Lewmar brand, low cost and excellent build quality.

It is a vertical windlass that uses an all-chain gypsy and will work at a push of a button. It makes use of built-in features such as motor protection and anchor lock, which for a cheap windlass is fairly impressive. The classic Lewmar sleek mount design is very desirable and hides the motor down below for both looks and protection.

Overall, it is the best windlass for the money and you will find it hard to find a better anchor windlass within a similar price range and reputable brand backing it.

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Five Oceans S612 Horizontal Windlass

Five Oceans are another big brand in the boating industry and they have developed a horizontal windlass for boats. It is suitable for boats up to 30 foot and it has a maximum pull of 1,200 LBS from is rope-chain gypsy setup.

It is a 100% stainless steel construction and has a built-in heavy duty control arm and stripper for extended durability. Included in the anchoring system is the solenoid, circuit breaker, up/down switches, foot switches and the manual.

Although horizontal windlasses are not as popular as the vertical alternative, many boat owners will require it due to having less anchor locker space or not a big enough fall. This Five Oceans S612 is the best horizontal windlass for boats that you can buy and is reasonable priced compared to other horizontal alternatives.

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Powerwinch FreeFall Anchor Windlass


Powerwinch also offer their own free-fall anchor system that is suitable for boats up to 41 foot in length. It is a rope and chain system that uses a powerful motor that has a pulling power of 900 LBS and retrieval speed of 75 feet per minute.

It uses stainless steel rope and fasteners with watertight seals for protection and comes with a long 3 year warranty for peace of mind. It would have been better if the whole unit was stainless steel but you do pay less for the kit.

Overall, it is a high performing windlass with fast retrieval and anchoring speeds but there are other better built alternatives. Keeping with the Lewmar, Maxwell and Five Oceans brands will ensure high build quality and they are all made of stainless steel throughout.

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Windlass Buying Guide

A windlass is a major part of a boat anchoring system alongside an anchor, roller, rode and other related hardware. They are easily installed onto any boat that has adequate room and only requires a small amount of knowledge of electrics in order to wire in the electronics of the system. They are fairly expensive but they are a worthwhile investment that simply makes your life much easier and adds value to your boat.

Before jumping into the deep end, you should consider the factors involved with a windlass and whether it is suitable for your boat.

Vertical Windlass vs Horizontal Windlass

A windlass is available as a vertical windlass, which is the most popular style or a horizontal windlass, which is self contained on the deck of  your boat. In order to determine the style that you require, you should measure the distance between the top of the anchor locker to the top of the anchor rode. This will determine the amount of “fall” and whether you require a horizontal or vertical windlass.

Vertical Windlass

The vertical windlass is less obtrusive on the deck as its a lower profile construction and hidden below the deck. They do require a larger hole in order to mount the motor that hangs below the deck but it does look much better.

If you do not have a large enough fall, the vertical windlass is not ideal and is suitable for boats with bigger chain lockers. The anchor rode makes a 180 degree wrap around the gypsy, which has the advantage of more security.

Horizontal Windlass

If your boat has a smaller chain lockers and a limited amount of fall, the horizontal windlass is ideal. It is also much easier to install on your boat as it is a self contained unit, which only requires drilling holes in the deck for the chain pipe and wires.

The majority of manual windlasses and large yacht windlasses are horizontal and work by the anchor rode meeting the gypsy and then making a 90 degree turn as it feed to the locker.

windlass for boats

Anchor Rode Types

When purchasing a windlass, you have the choice of anchor rode that you wish to use. It is important that it is compatible with the gypsy in terms of the size and type of chain. The three main types of anchor rode for windlass are all-chain, rope-chain and rope only.

All Chain Rode

The majority of cruiser boats will opt for an all-chain anchor rope due to its highly abrasive resistance, strength and the fact it will lie at the bottom. It engages into the gypsy in pockets and is self stowing due to the added weight of the rode. The only real drawback is that they will collect mud and it is expensive to purchase.

Rope Chain Rode

The rope is spliced into the last link of the chain and the rope chain windlass uses a single gypsy and V shaped grooves in the center in order to handle the rope section of the rode. It is vital that the spliced part of the rope and last link of the chain are checked regularly for damage. It is highly recommended to do your research of anchor ropes to find the most durable solution for your windlass.

Rope Only Rode

Finally the rope only rode wraps around the drum and makes use of an electric motor as a power source. It is not the most favored choice of rode and you will have a pile of line on deck to coil and stow but it is helpful for when the anchor is stuck in the bottom.

Size Of Your Boat

The strain of the windlass should be limited to a certain weight and its recommended that its 4 times the weight of the anchor, rode and the remaining hardware. A windlass is simply not designed for large amount of pull from wind or heavy anchor stuck in the ground. They are used to simply pull the anchor and rode from the bottom to the top.

The majority of anchor windlasses will state the size limitations that it may have, which makes it less of a problem for you to work out.

The Gypsy

You must ensure that the windlass you choose is compatible with the anchor rode you have chosen. A gypsy is a windlass component that rotates and will only be compatible with certain types of rodes, which will be stated clearly by manufacturers. Failing to pay particular attention to the gypsy and rode combo can result in a totally unusable windlass or one that is becoming worn out very quickly, which will be very costly.

We recommend that when you are building your anchor system for your boat, you choose the windlass first that matches your boat and follow it after with the correct anchor and rode. If you are planning to build a windlass system yourself, read a great guide at Sailmagazine.com.

Additional Features

The windlass can cost a serious amount of money for high quality examples and you can continue to add additional features. One extra that is very popular is remote operation of the windlass, which can be operated from a remote location. This is particular useful if its unsafe on the deck and this is something that can be integrated into most marine rocker switch panels, which is something you can showoff to others.

Conclusion

A windlass for your boat is a huge upgrade, which is relatively expensive but pays for itself as its saves the manual effort. It also adds great value to your boats resale value and can be installed by the majority of boat DIY’ers.

There are not many manufacturers that deal with windlasses but those that do are all of high build quality. A Lewmar windlass is the most popular brand you will see on most boats but both Maxwell and Five Oceans are reputable alternatives. If you have the room on your deck and can afford to purchase the windlass and extras, it is a worthwhile investment that is highly recommended.

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