Windlass Anchor Winch

A windlass is a device that is used to raise or lower heavy equipment. On the other hand, a windlass anchor winch is a machine that is used to raise or lower the anchor chain on a ship or a boat. A windlass anchor winch is mainly used to overcome the challenges that are associated with manual hauling. Such challenges include rope burns and unstable hauling operations. The windlass anchor winch overcomes most of these setbacks by increasing the hauling speed and minimizing the chances of rope burns. As opposed to manual hauling, the anchor winch can be operated with minimum strength because of the gear systems which reduce the amount of effort required to haul a load.

Types of Windlass Anchor Winch


Windlass anchor winches can be grouped into two categories depending on their type of power sources and location of the motor and gearbox systems.

Classification Based on Power Sources

  1. Electric Windlasses- These windlasses are used to haul loads using electric power that is turned on by the touch of a button. Some electric windlasses can be operated remotely. Some windlass designers advice that the pulling power should be approximately three times the weight for efficient load hauling. Electric windlasses are effective at raising or lowering heavy loads.
  2. Manual Windlasses- In these windlasses, electric power is not used to haul the weights. Instead, manual power is used to operate the devices. Although manual-operated windlasses cannot be used to haul heavy loads, they are efficient and effective at lifting and lowering light loads in the water. The manual winches have lever systems that reduce the amount of force required to operate them.

Classification Based on Location of the Winching System

  1. Vertical Windlasses- Vertical windlasses are designed with the gearbox and motor systems fixed below the deck. The windlasses are advantageous because the rod can be directed to any direction. A downside of this design is that the motor and gearbox should be maintained periodically because of the corroding nature of salty seawater. The advantage of this windlass design is that it takes up less deck space and is cheaper compared to most horizontal windlasses.
  2. Horizontal Windlasses- In this design, the gearbox and motor systems are fixed on the deck, and this makes them take up more deck space. The horizontal windlasses can cause serious obstruction especially when the boat has a small foredeck. The advantages of this design are that it allows easy maintenance of the gearbox and motor systems and two separate anchors can be used on the same windlass.

Essential Components of a Windlass Anchor Winch

  1. Links- They connect the windlass system to the anchor.
  2. Gypsy- It is the wheel that handles the chain.
  3. Chain Locker- The part where the anchor cable is stowed when raising the anchor.

Working Principle of Windlass Anchor Winch

The anchor winches are used to deploy and retrieve anchors. The entire system is composed of a chain which has an anchor which is usually attached to the hull. The anchor can be deployed down through a free fall or using power. The electric power deployment is the safest because the ship/boat controls the process. Once the load has been dropped at the bottom of the water, the chain stopper is used to secure the rope to the load. To retrieve the anchor safely, the propulsion engine of the boat should be turned on until the boat is vertically above the anchor. At this point, the load is pulled slowly into the ship using the windlass motor power motion.

Applications of Windlass Anchor Winches

  1. Anchoring Applications- The windlass winches are used for ship and boat anchoring.
  2. Parking Applications- The anchor windlasses are used for docking boats and ships at the harbor.
  3. Braking Applications- The windlass anchor winches are used to stop ships during emergencies.
  4. Drawing Water From Wells- The machine is used to hoist water from deep underground wells.
  5. Hoisting Construction Materials- Windlasses are also used in construction works to raise concrete and other construction materials to high-rise buildings.
  6. In Gold Mines- Windlasses are also used in gold mines to haul heavy buckets of sand and rocks to the surface.

Advantages of Windlass Anchor Winches

  1. The winches are available in many different designs that can be used for light-duty and heavy-duty hauling applications.
  2. They are manufactured using steel which is a reliable and robust metal. Additionally, steel is rust-resistant, and this protects the anchor winches from corrosion.
  3. Owing to the simple construction of the windlass anchor winches, they can be maintained easily.
  4. The winches are easy to install, and this helps to reduce downtime.
  5. Electric windlasses have high deployment and retrieving speeds which make them efficient and effective for deploying and retrieving heavy and light loads.
  6. The winches can help bring a ship to an abrupt stop to prevent an accident during an emergency.

In summary, understanding the various types of windlass anchor winches and their advantages is critical when selecting a windlass winch for a particular application.

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