Oct 3, 2013

Experiences on manual anchor windlass (and using the bow anchor)

Often, when the season is over, it is the wild anchorages that we tend to remember most warmly afterwards. In general, the Northern Baltic Sea area offers plenty of possibilities for anyone looking to find their own desert island for anchoring. For exploring wild anchorages, a reliable anchoring equipment is essential. Also, the dinghy – even if not necessary in the Baltics – certainly helps a lot, if you do not want to restrict your expeditions to islands, which have enough depth for getting a bow tied up close enough to the shore.

I have previously blogged on our anchor selection thoughts and about our experiences on inflatable dinghy. Last year we were actually thinking of changing our over-sized bow anchor (20 kg CQR) to a smaller Delta, but eventually decided to keep our old and trusty CQR. Together with the manual anchor windlass and 40 meters of chain, it adds quite a lot weight on the bow, which is not necessarily a very good thing in terms of sailing performance. However, in my view the benefits from an easy-to-use anchoring gear outweigh the marginal losses in the boat speed – especially if talking about pure cruising boats. Furthermore, I also value the good night sleep.


Dolphin Dance is equipped with Lofrans Royal manual anchor windlass, which probably dates back to the sunny days, that she spent sailing in the Mediterranean. In the Baltics on the other hand, it is much more common to use the stern anchor, and therefore many boats – especially in Sweden – are also equipped with stern anchor windlasses. However, we tend to use  – unlike most of the other Scandinavians – our bow anchor more often. Especially, because it is easier, faster and also safer in case the wind changes. Furthermore, anchoring in the middle of the bay also gives more privacy in a popular wild anchorage, where boats are usually moored side by side along the shoreline. Actually, a wild anchorage in Stockholm Archipelago in July is not much different from a Stockholm Wasahamn harbour in July. Maybe a quest for own space in a wild anchorage is part of our Finnish mindset.

Paradiset, one of the most popular natural harbours in Stockholm Archipelago

A while ago, we were having a lunch break in a local wild anchorage, when a sail boat entered the bay. The wind was gusting over 10 m/s at the sea, and I saw them setting their stern anchor ready and installing bow ladders for landing on the rocks on the shore. However, they could not find a place which would be sheltered enough or in favourable direction to the wind, so they decided to look for a better anchorage elsewhere. Obviously, if it the wind is on the side of the boat, this puts a great load on the stern anchor, and there is always a risk that the anchor starts to drag. In the mean time, we where anchoring a few hundred meters away in almost windless part of the bay and anchor chain dropping vertically to the bottom. Indeed, one has more options to choose from when using the bow anchor – even when arriving late to that crowded anchorage in the height of the summer season. The downsize of this strategy is of course that one has to use the dinghy to get to the shore, which is always a bit of a hassle.

Experiences on manual anchor windlass

The manual anchor windlass has a few benefits over an electrical windlass. Namely a lower purchase price, simple construction and installation, reliability and independence of electrical power. However, if we would be in need of a windlass now, I would  strongly consider opting for an electrical one and trying to save the money elsewhere. The need for an electrical windlass depends on how big your anchoring gear is and how much chain you usually have to handle. Also electrical windlass helps a lot if you are sailing singlehanded.

The biggest problem with the single speed manual windlass, such as the Lofrans Royal, is that anchor retrieval is too slow. After all, you have to do same amount of work, but retrieving the anchor is lighter, because the pace is also slower. Especially if the anchorage is tight or there are boats nearby (and it is windy), you risk tangling your anchor with your neighbours' while retrieving it. Therefore, I tend to pull the anchor up mostly by hand. However, it is good to have that extra power in reserve, if the anchor sticks firmly in the mud. Furthermore, if there is a lot of chain out, it is good to 'take breaks' and use the windlass for a while and then continue by hand.

First, retrieving the 'loose' chain by hand...  

Step two, the anchor is freed by using the windlass, i.e. moving the handle back and fort.  


Personally, I hate handling and having muddy anchor and chain onboard. This is one of the reasons that I do not like using the stern anchor very much. Thus, I like the way how the anchor windlass feeds the chain into the self stowing chain locker and the anchor itself is stored on the bow roller, so the mud is not too much of an issue.

How do you like to anchor, in Scandinavian style with the stern anchor or to use the bow anchor? What kind of experiences do you have on manual/electrical windlasses?
/Antti

5 comments:

  1. I have still not tried out my anker so far. I will lower it out on land this autum or during spring to paint and put plastic strips every 10 meters so it will be easier to see how much chain I have out.

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    1. Yes, the cable ties/marks help a lot in estimating, how much chain to let out. I see that your HR has pretty similar anchor set-up. How big is your CQR? I presume that your windlass is electrical?

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  2. My anker is electrical with a remotecontrol.. 20kg..

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  3. This is a great product! I found some more information on this website: www.nauticexpo.com/boat-manufacturer/windlass-985.html

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  4. My anker is electrical with a remotecontrol.. 20kg.
    mynewrc

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It would be very great to hear your opinion or comments. Thank you in advance for commenting! -Antti & Minna