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Top 10 Windlass Safety Tips (An OC Guide) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to As an Amazon Associate this site earns from qualifying purchases.

windlass safety tips

If you have a windlass installed on your boat or yacht, there are a number of safety precautions you should have in mind when you use it.

Not only will this ensure the safety of the user and others on board, following these guidelines will help to maintain the working life of the windlass winch and provide you with many years of trouble-free anchoring.

So if you are ready, let’s jump to it.

1. Have the correct Chainstopper

The windlass you have installed should have an appropriately sized chainstopper attached. If the stopper isn’t up to the task you will run into problems.

2. Do not use the windlass to raise a fouled anchor

If you are anchored and you discover that the anchor is fouled, do not use the windlass motor to break it free. This will cause undue strain on the windlass and could lead to damage.

In this scenario, you should engage the chainstopper so that it takes the load and then utilize the boat’s engine to break the anchor loose.

3. The windlass and stopper should not be used as a mooring point

Short and sweet, but this is a no, no under all circumstances. NEVER use the windlass and/or the chain stopper as a mooring point for your vessel.

4. The windlass should not be used as a bollard

To avoid any damage to your gearbox, the windlass should not be used as a bollard. The correct procedure that you should always follow, is to engage the chainstopper (or bollard) after the anchoring maneuver is complete.

5. Do not over-play the direction

A sure-fire way of putting strain on your windlass mechanism and shortening its working life is to over-play the direction.

In other words, do not suddenly switch from retrieval to release (or vice-versa) without waiting for the windlass motion to stop. Slow and gentle is the way.

6. The boat engine should be running with the windlass in motion


As a safety precaution and to lessen the drain on the battery, always have the boat engine running when you operate the windlass.

7. Correct installation is a must

Do not take it for granted that the windlass has been installed correctly. This includes the fit of the chain against the chain wheel.

How can you expect the windlass to operate safely and correctly if fundamental issues of installation have been carried out in a lackluster manner?

8. Extra precaution for the bow roller

It is unwise to assume that the windlass will safely hold the anchor in its bow roller in all conditions.

As an extra precaution, you can use a nylon line to secure the anchor in the stowed position while in transit. Just remember to remove this before operating the windlass.

If you have the means, a pin through the bow roller and the shank is another method of securing the anchor rather than relying on the stability of the windlass.

9. Motor up to the anchor when retrieving the node

It says it all there in the title. Make sure you always motor up to the anchor when you are retrieving the node.

You do not want to put undue strain on the windlass by using that to pull the boat towards the anchor.

An obvious point to make maybe, however, you will be surprised how many people “get lazy” and use windlass power to do this.

10. Switch the isolator switch off at the end of the day

Our final tip is nice and simple, and should always be remembered. When leaving the boat, turn the isolator switch off.

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