Anchor Windlass [Updated Mar-2019]

  ➛ ➛ From our list of Stuff we have and use [and do...] in the right sidebar ➛ ➛   

This is part of a series describing some of our boat system refits and their operation. 

We refer to these often not only for our own use, but also when asked specific questions about systems on Denali Rose, and when participating in discussions on various forums. 

We aren't implying our choices are the best or only way to go; they just happen to be the decisions we made...

This post is devided into the following segments: [A table of contents if you like...] 
  • Overview [From the original project blog post Jun-2014]
  • Installation Notes
  • Personal experiences with anchor chain types
  • Lighthouse Windlass Model 1501 Features
  • Additional Resources
  • Windlass Installation Details [Many annotated photos of refit]

———––— Latest revision: 20-Mar-2019 [by Bill] ——––——
[Updated list of related resources...]


One of our first projects was installing a new anchor windlass and replacing the old rusted anchor chain. We chose a Lighthouse Manufacturing model 1501 with two chain gypsies and one rope drum. We also replaced the 3/8" BBB chain with 5/16" G43 chain to gain strength while loosing weight- allowing us to add more anchor chain for deep water anchoring.

We can now retrieve two anchors simultaneously if we ever need to... Sweet. 

Boat Bling.
Lighthouse 1501 stainless steel windlass and custom deck plate
Lighthouse 1501 stainless steel windlass and custom deck plate

The finished install a year later showing 60lb CQR on port, and an 80lb Supermax [main bower] starboard.

Note: Our bow configuration changed in Jan-2017 with a new best bower... 

nstallation Notes: [This is presuming perfectly matched ISO chain and gypsy.]
  • All windlasses require at least a 90° wrap of the chain around the chain gypsy to operate correctly under load. [i.e., 1/4 of a turn minimum... more is better...] 
  • Less than 90° can cause the chain to hop on the gypsy under load.
    • This can be more difficult to achieve with a horizontal windlass
    • Too much twist in the chain can also cause hopping/jumping in the chain gypsy
    • Likewise, an athwartship lead-in angle of more than ~3° from the bow roller to the gypsy can cause issues as well with horizontal windlasses
  • Vertical windlasses have less problem achieving a chain wrap exceeding 90°; sometimes that can be a challenge with a horizontal windlass. The athwartship chain lead-in angle is also more flexible on a vertical capstain; vertical lead is in less so. 

To improve the vertical chain lead-in angle for a horizontal windlass, one can either raise the windlass or lower the chain as demonstrated in the following photos on other boats that have the same windlass we installed:

Notes from personal experience with anchor chain:
  • There are many reputable chain manufacturers, and many of the other type... Choose wisely, and most importantly, make sure it fits your windlass...
  • ACCO- the brand we chose [and perhaps others?]- stamps every link with a G4. This is a quick check for authenticity... Many brands stamp every 4th link or so...
  • Since we bought this chain in 2014, with an average of 200+ overnights at anchor/year [averaging 60+ feet of depth i.e., most of the 360ft of main bower chain is submerged most times...] we have only seen rust a bit of rust appear. This has happened where the galvanizing was chipped/abraded off by rocks [or whatever] on the ocean floor- just a few disparate links as of the last update...
  • We rinse our chain with raw water as it is retrieved each time. [i.e., It is stowed with no mud clinging to the chain...]
  • We freshwater rinse our chain every time after it is piled into the chain locker.
  • Don't buy G4 or G7 chain unless they provide a copy of the Proof Certificate from the manufacturer. [One comes with the chain from reputable manufacturers... (One was on top of our barrel of chain...) It is the validation of the results of tensile testing of the length of chain you purchased.]

Lighthouse Windlass Model 1501 Features: [From the manufacturer's website]
    Port and Starboard chain retrieval and payout can be independently operated, or can be simultaneously operated in opposite directions (paying out one while retrieving another) also allows rope wildcats to be operated either independent of chain operations, or in conjunction with chain operations.
    Fast rewind socket port and starboard, or an amazing 10,200 lbs. On 2nd speed, with only 35 lbs. Exerted on a 10" winch handle, in kedging socket located on top of winch. [This is a beast of a manual kedge...] Both manual modes are used in conjunction with a standard winch handle. Rope wildcat allows rapid rope retrieval and can be tailed, even under power.
    Continuous duty linear power unit (no field windings to burn out). No external grounding required (unit cannot induce electrolysis). No overload protector required for motor. Reversing is optional without changing the motor. 12v, 24v, 32v, 110/220 VAC, and Hydraulic power are available.
    All stainless steel type 316L construction, sealed case lifetime lithium lubrication, mounted to built-in base plate. Comes with chain pipes and cast urethane deck seal. [We clamped 2" ID exhaust hose to both SS chain pipes below deck to direct and quiet the chain.]
    Required deck space for mounting plate is L10" X W11.6", bowsprit mounts L12" X W4". Mounts with (6) ½" bolts. Motor mounts under deck and requires only 2" hole. Optional [SS] backing plates are available from the factory. [We had one custom made for a very reasonable price.]
    Standard cast bronze chromed gypsy and stainless steel wildcat port and starboard. ¼" through 7/16" BBB, PC, or System 40 HT are standard, others available on request.
    • 12v: free run=8amps/rated pull=80amps
    • 24v: free run=4amps/rated pull=40amps
      Continuous line pull at 12v - 32v 1000 lbs. @ 37 fpm.
      Maximum, depends on available amperage from power supply.
      Height: 8" (203.2mm)
      Length: 9.5" (241.3mm)
      Width: 24" (609.60mm) [This is for the dual gypsy, dual rope drum model.]
      Weight 110 lbs. (50.00 Kg)
      Depth: From top of deck: 14.5" (368.3mm). Unit will accept up to 4.5" (114.3mm) deck thickness as standard. Optional extension housings to 48"

    Additional Resources:

    Windlass Installation Details:

    Following is a storyboard of photos [with detailed annotations] demonstrating and describing the retrofitting of a new Lighthouse windlass on Denali Rose's foredeck. 

    Original Nico Marine windlass (ç 1983) and 3/8" BBB chain.

    The green tape is what I used for marking the layout of the new windlass. [Note: Starboard chain is not in its gypsy in this shot; it is temporarily draped over the clutch wheel so it is out of the way for measuring.]

    Laying out new windlass.

    Note: the anchor locker divider (3/4" marine plywood-resin coated) is intensionally off-set slightly to port. [i.e., The starboard locker is larger and so will be used for main bower...]

    Triangular top [deck] plate is in the lower left of this field drawing, and is shapped to match the existing raised section on deck. The rectangular backing plate is on upper half of drawing.

    Out with the old... and reconfirm layout...

    Dry fitting new deck plate; marking bolt holes for drilling. The yellow canister is the windlass motor encased in a kevlar wrap with a molded urethane base that has a removable bottom to accommodate water tight wire penetrations.

    Swiss cheese deck from old and new windlass holes. This is why I had the custom deck plate and large backing plate fabricated. [Both are 1/4" thick 316 stainless steel and will be bonded with 3M 4200UV- VS. 5200- to accommodate future removal if necessary...]

    Note: Nauticat does not use any coring in their hand layed-up fiberglass hulls- including the deck. The deck was just shy of 1 inch thick were these holes are.

    Backing plate placed on top of deck plate [for reference] to demonstrate layout and coverage...

    The backing plate lower right corner [in photo] is notched because I didn't have time to remove the old foot switch which has a ~2 hole through the deck. This hole will become a small, clear deck plate for viewing the propane A-B switch in the future.

    In retrospect, I wish I had removed the rectangular grey cover securing a since abandoned 12 VDC outlet, and extended the SS deck plate over that hole as well...

    Also note the 2 inch ID tubes welded to the backing plate where the two chains lead through  [i.e., hawseholes...] Those tubes are long enough [1 inch to match deck thickness- per my request] to mate with the SS deck plate [protecting the non-cored deck from the anchor chain] and extend another 2 inches into the anchor well. These are for clamping 2 inch ID exhaust tubing to for leading the chain in the chain locker [and quieting any rattling...]

    Boat bling. New 1501 Windlass from Lighthouse manufacturing. [Dry fitting after drilling holes through deck...]

    A view of the permanent install (looking aft .) You can just make out the yellow drive motor, below. (The loose wiring is for the propane solenoid and was later attached to the underside of the deck.) 

    The perforated rubber floor matts in the background are remnants from lining the bottom [2 layers on the bottom...] and all sides [single layer] of the anchor locker to prevent the chain from making direct contact. This prevents unnecessary wear on the hull, quiets the chain in the locker, and allows for water to drain and the chain to dry.

    In this view you can [barely] see I had to notch the 3/4" plywood anchor locker divider to allow clearance for the motor. Also note the forward most 1/2" hex bolts on the windlass base. These mate to nuts welded to the backing plate, greatly simplifying installation.

    The finished installation. This view also shows the captive, tight fitting slotted stainless hawsehole covers/chain retainers. These fit tightly over the rectangular polyurethane boot which is an extension of the cast polyurethane base which negates the need for any sealant- making future removal of the windlass a simple matter of removing 6 bolts and dropping the motor.

    The deck and backing plates were bedded using 3M 4200 so they could be removed in the future if necessary. 

    Preparing to pull [from a full barrel; 550 feet] of 5/16 inch grade 43 chain into the starboard locker [for the first time] to see how much will free-fall. [Ultimately this was done on both sides of the divided anchor locker...]

    This is the 'middle' of the 550' length [1 barrel] of 5/16" grade 43 chain after both ends were pulled into their respective chain lockers. It was cut here and attached to the two anchors. [360' for the main bower on starboard; 190 feet for the secondary bower on port.] Both sides have rope rodes attached to the chain.  See our Ground Tackle Inventory page for specific details.

    After shot of windlass and anchors in 2014  (60# CQR on port; 80# Supermax as main bower on stbd.) [We later changed our groundtackle configuration...]

    Note the 1/2" 'Starboard' installed on foredeck and anchor locker lids to protect fiberglass deck from anchors, chain, etc.

    For those who desire even more information, here are the complete details about our groundtackle system.

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