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Windlass Selection Guide

If you are considering purchasing a windlass then selecting the right model is critical for long term performance and ease of use.

Horizontal or Vertical Windlass?

There are two common types of Windlass available as shown in the pictures below.

This relates to the orientation of the axis around which the gypsy rotates.

Vertical windlasses feature a vertical rotation in relation to the deck which allows a reduced volume above deck as the electric motor and the gear box are sitting in the chain locker.

In both cases, the height between the top of the stacked chain and the underdeck must be a minimum of 300mm in order to ensure the chain drops into the locker quickly and the the windlass therefore performs optimally.

Vertical windlass configuration

Horizontal windlasses are installed on the deck and feature a horizontal rotation in relation to the deck.

They are recommended for chain lockers with a reduced height or volume. The electric motor and the gearbox are protected by a cover and are easily accessible for maintenance.

Horizontal windlass configuration


The deck footprint of a horizontal windlass is larger due to the entire unit being above deck. The vertical set-up reduces clutter on deck by hiding the motor and gear box in the chain locker. Mounting space in the chain locker must therefore be considered.


The windlass is designed only for retrieving the ground tackle. It is gravity that stores the ground tackle. When all the ground tackle is on board, there must still be a minimum of 30cm (12 inches) of drop from the gypsy to the top of the pile. A horizontal windlass stands higher above the deck so the pile can theoretically be closer to the top of the chain locker.

Pulling power

Once you have decided upon the configuration then you can evaluate how much power you need. Lewmar and Lofrans offer two slightly different calculations  based on information they supply.

Lewmar suggest that the maximum pulling power of the windlass should be greater than 4 x the total ground tackle weight. So if your ground tackle weighs 50kg including your anchor chain and rode then the maximum pull of the windlass should be greater than 200kg.

Lofrans suggest that the total ground tackle weight should be 25% less than the specified working load limit of the windlass. If your ground tackle weighs 50kg then the specified working load limit of the windlass should be greater than 66.7 kg (divide the weight by 0.75).

Both brands offer guides on suitable vessel lengths for each model of windlass. This should be considered in conjunction with the ground tackle calculations and displacement variations from the accepted average for a vessel of a given length.

If you have any further questions, or would simply like us to help with your specifications then please get in touch via or give us a call on 01297 20744.

Alternatively, feel free to view our windlass section:


Windlass Guides / Information