With the growing number of boats in Australian waters, boaters need to equip their boats to moor and anchor their vessels in the safest way possible. Fitting an electronic or hydraulic winch to the bow can relieve the stress of having to manually retrieve your anchor from the depths. The process is quick and simple, with just a press of a button. You won’t be risking injury and staying well clear of the anchor line prevents common accidents like tripping or falling overboard.
The majority of marine craft are smaller vessels that have electronic winches either installed new or retrofitted. Though there are hydraulically operated and winches running on AC electricity, most buyers opt for electronic anchor winches sourcing DC power from a marine battery. The setup also includes switches either installed along the deck in the form, or controlled with a remote, and wiring and circuit protection. Choosing a winch largely depends on the specifics of your boat, like the overall length and weight, the type of anchor and anchoring rope or chain setup, and the space available for safe operation. These factors let you choose between several types of anchor winches.
Common Types of Boat Anchor Winches
There are three types of winches. They differ in the size, the space they take up on the deck, and the way they retrieve the anchor rope and/or chain. Some are suited to smaller boats, and with a smaller price tag. Larger boats require more pulling force for a larger anchor and will have more space below deck to store the retrieved rope and chain combination, or what is known as the anchor rode.
These are a great choice for smaller vessels. A drum winch collects the entire length of the rope and chain around a horizontally positioned drum. The whole unit sits on top of the deck, and there’s no need for additional space below. There’s more freedom in placement, and the winch can be positioned anywhere along the bow with a direct line over the bow roller.
The downsides are that there’s limited space in the drum, so you might need thinner rope and chain combinations. But for most smaller boats the available pulling capacity of the motor and the rode breaking point are more than adequate for safe and quick anchor retrieval.
Also called capstan winches, these are more suitable for medium to larger vessels as the capstan is positioned vertically along the bow, and the motor and gearing is below deck. These anchor winches pull the rode around a chainwheel in a half-circle, with the retrieved rode sent to anchor storage well below the deck.
The benefit of vertical windlasses is that they can retrieve the rode at different angles which minimizes the chances of it slipping or jumping. This in turn allows for more leeway in the size and diameter of the chain and rope combination, so variants with higher breaking points can be used without issue.
These are completely above the deck, including the motor and gearing. They pull the rode along a vertically positioned chainwheel at an angle of 90 degrees, with sprockets placed at either side. The benefits are that they require less space below deck for the rode to fall, so are suited for small to medium-sized boats. Another advantage is that with all parts above the deck, horizontal windlasses are easier to maintain.
How to Gauge the Winch for Your Boat
The most important factor here is possibly the pulling capacity of the motor. For electric anchor winches this is rated in Watts, the higher the number the stronger the motor. Larger winches can retrieve rodes and anchors that are longer and heavier. Winch manufacturers may also list the pulling capacity of the total weight of the anchor and rode combo. This is either stated in metric or custom units, that is kilos or pounds and usually specified in the model name.
Another thing to go by is the overall length and displacement of the vessel. Smaller boats take lighter anchors so can pass with a smaller drum winch or horizontal windlass. Being mounted above the deck, horizontal anchor winches require less depth for the rode. Larger boats however need more space to contain the additional rode length in the storage bay below the deck, so often have vertical windlasses with higher pulling capacity. These also allow for different rope types and chain diameters.
Winches and winch motors can’t operate on their own. Power is fed to the motor from the marine battery, and there are either 12V and 24V compatible with the battery. There are also AC variants that work off generators, and winches working on hydraulics. All are wired with marine cabling and circuit breakers to ensure safety. Footswitches can be installed on the deck, or in the cabin and the winches can be also operated with remote controls from any location on the boat. To protect from anchor damage during retrieval, bow rollers are installed in front of the winch. Winches, rodes, anchors and anchoring accessories are sold in good boating stores Australia wide.