How To Use A Windlass

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 22,649
    Kevin Wensley, Director of Operations of the Offshore Sailing School, demonstrates how to use a windlass.

    Kevin Wensley: Hello! My name is Kevin Wensley. I am Director of Operations at Offshore Sailing School, and today, I am at South Seas Island Resort on beautiful Captiva Island here in Florida. And today I want to talk a little bit about using a windlass, and a windlass is the winch or equipment to the front of the boat that you are going to be using for lowering and raising the anchor.

    On every boat, it's going to be slightly different. So there are things that we need to investigate before we start using it. The first one is power to the windlass, what actually powers it. So we'll have a look down below and we'll be looking for first of all a breaker that will trip if the windlass ever gets overloaded.

    And we are also looking for an activation switch which we'll usually find on the main panel. Once we found those, we can go ahead and test the windlass to see if it works without the engine running because this is going to be good to know if you need your engine or not to run the windlass.

    So we'll go forwards and we'll press the button to see if the chain pays out the tool when we press it, if it doesn't, then we need to fire up the engine. So let's fire up the engine and see if that makes a difference. If it does, we now know that we need the engine to actually make the windlass go down, good to know that if you have a need your anchor out in hurry.

    The next things we are looking at are the controls upfront by the windlass, how do we actually activate it going up and down. We'll either have a remote unit which you can work by hand or you can have buttons on the deck. On the boat that we are sailing today it's got buttons on the deck.

    If you find you have a boat that requires the engine running it to activate the windlass then do you think about that in terms of what if I need to deploy my anchor and I can't stop my engine. So we need another way of doing that and many windlasses will come with a brake. If you release the brake that will allow the chain to run freely and of course deploy your anchor in a hurry.

    The other thing to remember about where the windlass is of course is, as it comes back up from the seabed, the anchor and chain is very likely to have a little silt and mud on it. If that silt and mud gets into your windlass, it can then affect the performance of your brake, your brake may cease, leading to problems, later down the line when you need to get it out in a hurry.

    And the very last thing to remember about the windlass is that when it's in operation, it's not a very forgiving piece of machinery because if you get a toe or a finger or anything else caught up there once it's working, it's going to end very badly, so please keep yourself well clear of the windlass, and that's how to go about using the windlass when we are cruising.