How to Use an Anchor Windlass

Anchoring is a great way to enjoy your boat away from the throng of bank holiday traffic - especially if you know where to go. However, after a light lunch in some picturesque anchorage, having to join forces with a reluctant crew in order to heave-up a dirty anchor chain after a windlass has failed is low on most people’s wish list. 

Follow these tips when using an anchor windlass and you are likely to anchor more efficiently, safely and with less effort or expense.

  • Always secure your anchor on deck when not in use. An anchor held purely on the anchor roller and windlass, when underway, will put a lot of force on the windlass.
  • Don’t allow the boat to ‘sit’ on the windlass. Use a snubbing line and connect it to a cleat. Cleats are designed to take these loads. If you don’t, you are putting the gypsy under great tension and you are risking failure.
  • Use your motor or your sails - not the windlass!  When taking up an anchor, use the boat to drive up the chain and use the windlass to gather up the chain. Don’t use the windlass alone to claw your way up the chain.
  • Free Flow can be a good way to go. If you are not lucky enough to possess an electric windlass, you may have to crank up the chain a bit at a time with a large, detachable lever arm. This can be tiresome, but it might be better than pulling by hand. There is another advantage. The clutch on a manual windlass will allow you to drop chain quickly; a great option when you need to get a length of chain on the sea bed quickly.
  • Mark your chain clearly! Don’t rely on your crew’s estimating skills. Mark your anchor chain clearly at 5m and 10m intervals.
  • Secure your anchor locker. Failure to do so can cause anchor lockers to slam on and even detach newly tanned tootsies - and that will hurt!
  • Remember to secure the windlass remote after use and attach the socket cap.
  • Remember the anchor ball / light. Check the weather forecast if staying for a while, make sure you lay the right amount of chain or warp and don’t anchor on a lee shore!

Related articles: