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Windlass Selection

Windlass Selection

The process of windlass selection depends on the vessel, the geographical area and conditions where the vessel will be operating and the ground tackle being used. 

The displacement of the vessel is a useful starting point and this is used as a broad guide within the individual windlass product pages on this website.

Type of windlass: conventional manual, powered (electric/hydraulic), ratchet, geared, barrel.

If a powered windlass is selected because the operator could potentially find anchor retrieval physically challenging, then a powered windlass with a plausible  manual back up should be selected. For a number of reasons, for example a loss of power onboard the vessel, it may be necessary for the anchor to be retrieved manually, and it is helpful to have a viable, manual arrangement should this occur, as opposed to the poor manual back up arrangements on some windlasses. 

Maritime Guidance Note MGN280(M) Page 87 Table 20:1 offers guidance for chain and anchor selection, but this should be used for guidance only, because the weights and dimensions given are minimum requirements and not necessarily optimum requirements. For example, according to the table, the mighty three masted lugger 'Grayhound' is a mere 1.7m too long, to be fitted with a 10mm chain and a 38Kg anchor. However, she will be fine with a 12 mm chain and a 47Kg anchor. In fact, neither would be sufficient, and therefore do take care to use this information for guidance only.


The modern anchor manufacturers guidance can be a reliable source of information relating to anchor selection. 

Home - Rocna Anchors

Spade Anchor - The best anchor in the world (

A criteria often used for windlass selection, is that the windlass should be capable of lifting the anchor and all of the chain, when fully deployed in deep water. 

If you enquire about a specific windlass, we can discuss the application and offer advice as to the suitability of the windlass and suggest the optimum configuration/specification. Because many of the windlasses are manually operated, the strength of the operator and the number of crew available make it necessary to look the practical considerations, as opposed to simply quoting a maximum, continuous working load and matching it to the weight of your ground tackle.