Servicing your Anchor Windlass

by Ian Kuhl on March 20, 2016

in Anchoring, Chandlery, Featured, Franklin Marine, Marine Safety

If you have ever pulled a big anchor and chain by hand, you will certainly appreciate your anchor windlass or winch!

Look after your anchor windlass - it sure looks after you!

An anchor windlass lives a tough life – up on the bow in the spray with steel chain and lots of DC current running through.

It needs to be able to haul up the weight of the anchor with chain, and in some situations it has the boat hanging off it!

An anchor windlass has plenty of places to fail and for many different reasons – age, water ingress, electrolysis, switch failure, long battery cable runs, switching solenoids, foot switches, remote switches and wiring, mega fuse or circuit breaker and a power switch – all with heavy cables with lugs, not to mention the rest!

Add some poor installation jobs at times and you have plenty to service and check in the full system.

So there it is on the bow, vertical or horizontal… Now what?

  • Disconnect the anchor from the chain
  • Be sure to lash it on with a safety rope first – they can get away!
  • Remove anchor shackle and swivel (if fitted)
  • Always fit a shackle before a swivel to give full articulation on the anchor
  • Put a blanket or towel on deck to hold parts and tools secure
  • Remove top of gypsy and check for grease and function
  • Does it lock firmly in the cone?
  • Is handle a good fit? – Sheet winch handles usually do the job
  • Check the chain stripper is not bent or loose and bolts tight – if need be, straighten it or make a new one
  • Check for stripper alignment and adjust to suit close fit in order to prevent chain lock

You really want to get into the motor and inspect for corrosion – and the brushes and armature for wear and corrosion on high hour units.

Maintaining your Anchor Windlass

  • On vertical winches, check lip seal
  • The gearbox should have good grease and or oil

Sometimes it’s best to remove the winch from deck to service properly on a bench – yes it’s hard to unbolt but needs doing every so often.

  • You can get new motors and gearboxes to suit many brands if need be.
  • Drive shafts and bearings can also need changing at times.

Check the location of your anchor winch on deck

  • Is it a straight pull to the gypsey?
  • Is there enough room for a big enough anchor on the bow?
  • Most times you have to offset the winch if the bow roller is on the centre line
  • Sometimes you will need extra long bolts to get through the deck

There should be a 80-100 amp mega fuse or breaker located next to the battery.

  • A master off switch should be in a convenient location for instant shut down.

Safety tip: Always fit a short length of rope to the end of your anchor chain and the other end firmly secured to your boat. Now if you need to drop your anchor in an emergency, you can simply cut the rope.

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