How to Choose a Boat Anchor Winch

Selecting a Boat Anchor Winch
So you finally got that big boat you've always dreamed of but it didn't come with an electric anchor winch. Now that you're a big time yachtsman, you need to start referring to that winch by its nautical name: the windlass. In any case, you don't want to be hauling that anchor out of the water by hand.

What should you be looking for in an anchor winch?
There are three key things to keep in mind: the weight of your anchor and its rope and chain, the anchoring conditions, and the length of your boat. Rely on the manufacturers recommendation for anchor winch pulling power to match the length of your boat. To factor in weight of the anchor and anchoring conditions there is a simple formula to use. First you need to know the weight of the anchor itself and the weight of its "rode" -- its rope and chain. Experts use a multiplier of 3 to take conditions like tides and so forth into account. So you add the weight of the anchor and the weight of the rode and multiply by 3 and you come up with a number that represents the pulling strength your winch will need to have. Many manufacturers go a bit further and recommend that you multiply the required pulling strength you get from the above formula by another factor of 3 to get a maximum pulling strength, but some experts see this as "overkill" designed to get you to buy a more expensive anchor winch.

Now that you have that number you have two different styles of anchor winches from which to choose: horizontal winches or vertical winches.

Horizontal Marine Winch
With Horizontal Marine Winches everything is placed on the deck of the boat. Obviously the deck must be wide enough to accomodate the motor box as well as the winch. This leaves everything exposed to the weather and because of this most boaters prefer vertical anchor winches. While experts agree, some boaters actually prefer horizontal mounting since it is easier to access the winch motor. Another reason for selecting a horizontal boat anchor winch is the amount of "fall" room you have available. Finally, some people just prefer the looks of a horizontal boat anchor winch.

Vertical Marine Winch
This is the preferred marine winch. They're lighter and the mechanical parts are installed below deck where they are safe from the elements. But again, some boaters don't like the fact that with vertically mounted boat winches it is very difficult to access the motor and gear box. The final issue that can eliminate a vertical boat winch from consideration is "fall" room. Below deck you have an anchor locker and you must have enough room for the anchor and its rode to "fall" into that locker. Most manufacturers specify a minimum of one foot of room but make sure you determine how much "fall" room you have and check the specifications of the specific make and model of vertical boat winch you are considering buying.