Project date: 2005

For another challenging project, I tackle a windlass installation. For those of you that are not familiar with a windlass, its a powered method of delpoying and retrieving an anchor. Flip a switch up, the anchor raises; flip a switch down, the anchor lowers. While a windlass may seem to be a luxury, ask anyone that owns one their opinion. It seems as though a windlass is one of those things that you do not realize you needed until you have one.

There are several practical reasons to consider a windlass:



Most manufacturers require some secondary method of securing the anchor when both deployed and retrieved to relieve stress on the windlass. This still requires going on deck during anchoring operations. However, it minimizes the time on deck, since you only need to be there long enough secure the anchor or rode.

There are several manufacturers that make windlasses, and several styles. Since this project is for a small boat, I am going to consider only the few that are suitable for this size boat. The two styles that are popular for a small boat are the horizontal and vertical styles. The horizontal/vertical distinction refers to the orientation of the gypsy (the pulley) that retrieves the anchor.


- mounts above deck
- less below-deck space required
- ugly
- easier to install
- easier to maintain
- mounts partially below deck
- requires more below-deck space
- asthetically pleasing
- harder to install
- may jamb easier

Since the OEM on my boat is a vertical unit, I felt confident that there was ample below-deck space for one. I also prefer the looks of them. On the other hand, I simply cannot see putting a horizontal unit on a sleek express cruiser. Maybe it would look fine on a trawler, but not a boat like mine.

Price was an issue, so I limited my choice to units under the $1,000 mark. I was able to determine that two windlasses were OEMed for my boat in various years, so those were units that I wanted to look at.

All of the units I considered were offered as kits, which included a circuit breaker and up/down switch. However, depending on what configuration you intend to have, not all units include all of the components you may need, including deck switches and contactors.

Manufacturers web sites:


One of the distinctions of my boat is a lot of pre-wiring is done regardless of what options are ordered. It seems that they use a standardized wiring harness, then simply connect the items the customer orders. Since a windlass was an option for my boat, I found that 8AWG wire was already run from the main DC breaker panel to anchor locker. In addition, a dash switch for the windlass was already installed on the boat, even to include a 5A fuse in the forward fuse block. For obvous reasons, I wanted to use a windlass that could use the existing wiring.

Most of the windlasses I was considering required a larger wire to be run to the bow than the existing 8AWG wire. The fact that I wanted to use the existing wiring resulted in quickly narrowing the choice down to a Lewmar Sprint 600. This windlass uses less current due to the reduction gearing used in the design of the unit. And, I liked the design of the Lewmar Sprint, with plenty of service locations, and a fast up and down speed, so I ended up going with this one.

Since I desired to use the existing in-dash switch, and given that the Lewmar 600 does not come with a contactor, I had to purchase one to go into the anchor locker. A contactor is really nothing more than a relay that allows a high-current switch to be controlled by a low current source - such as the dash switch. Since the up-down dash switch already had its output leads run to the anchor locker, this was not a hard choice to make.

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