Top 5 Best Windlass in 2020 [Maxwell, Lewmar, Five Oceans & More]
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When buying a new windlass there are few things to consider. Everything from budget, features, motor strength and pulling power all factor in when buying one for your boat.
There’s also issues of rope, chain compatibility and whether you would prefer a freefall system or vertical or horizontal geared configuration.
So you get the point, there’s a number of variables to consider. That’s where this guide comes in. We have selected 5 top-rated windlass units across a range of price points and designs.
Models from Lewmar, Maxwell and Five Oceans are all represented here. For our findings at a glance, just head to the table below. For an in-depth review of each of our picks, plus a dedicated windlass buyer’s guide, keep on reading.
Best Windlass Top 5
TOP PICK: Lewmar V700 Vertical Windlass
Max. Pull: 700lbs Work Load: 175lbs Speed: 72' /min
In the ongoing maxwell vs lewmar windlass debate, we have here a review of the Maxwell RC6.
As two of the leading brands manufacturing windlasses today, it is no surprise their products are often compared against one another.
The RC6 came very close to getting our number one pick this year.
Compared to the Lewmar V700 reviewed above, this offering from Maxwell is actually better suited to the smaller, trailer boat market. However, it does have a more powerful 12V motor, running at 500W.
[For those looking for a larger more powerful Maxwell windlass the RC8 is the best option to go for.]
With a maximum pull of 660lbs, the RC6 Windlass is designed to work with 6mm/7mm (1/4″) chain spliced to 12mm (1/2″) three strand or 8-plait rope.
Similar to the v700, this comes in a flushed, low-profile configuration, (there is no optional capstan drum).
The windlass is fitted with an in-line, vertical gearbox and motor. This aids installation, the unit can be easily mounted with minimum experience.
The Maxwell RC6 kit Kits comes complete with an on/off breaker panel, a reversing solenoid, an up/down panel switch and a handle.
350 kg (770 lbs)
Chain short link
700 kg (1540 lbs)
Rope size (nylon)* (3 strand or 8 plait recommended)
12 mm or ½”
Chain speed (anchor retrieval)
24 m/min or (79 ft/min)
Power supply (dc)
12 V or 24 V
8.5 kg (42 lbs)
Pros of the Maxwell RC6 12V Windlass - 500W f/1/4 Chain to 1/2 Rope (37378)
Powerful 12v, 500W motor
In-line vertical gearbox
Attractive yet durable build quality
Lack of customer feedback in order to gauge reliability over time
The Maxwell vs Lewmar windlass question will surely continue with the release of the RC6. It’s attractive, high-quality construction coupled with the durable vertical motor and gearbox makes for a windlass that will hold out for years.
Narrowly missed out on our top pick this year, as the Maxwell comes in slightly more expensive than the v700 from Lewmar while having a less generous warranty.
Other than that, this two industry leaders continue to provide superior windlasses that can only ever be recommended.
Another offering from Lewmar makes our top 5 now in the shape of the 1000G PRO Fish. As the name implies this is a windlass designed with the fisherman in mind.
Featuring an automatic freefall that helps provide precision and speed when dropping anchor.
If there’s a particular spot that you wish to fish, (over a wreck or some other feature under the water), this automatic freefall functionality will provide the accuracy you need.
Furthermore, with a windlass such as the Lewmar PRO-Fish, you will not have to expend fuel, using the motor to hover over your fishing spot.
You will be securely anchored exactly where you want to be.
While all of this is well and good, what type of capacity are we talking about here?
This Lewmar windlass is less powerful than the Atlantic 600 reviewed above. However, with a maximum pulling power of 454kg (1,000 lb.) for the 1000 model, you are certainly getting enough grunt for the job.
(A smaller PRO-Fish 700 version is available with pulling power of 320kg (700 lb.))
The 1000 model is designed for boats up to 12m (38ft). It also exudes that high-quality construction we have come to expect from Lewmar with the windlass being made from 100% 316 stainless steel.
When the day’s fishing is over you can retrieve your anchor with a push of a button. And to top it all off, Lewmar provides a full 5-year warranty on the Windlass.
Which after reading some of the customer feedback on this windlass, is maybe a good thing. Unfortunately, some users have experienced real problems with the build quality of this unit. Everything from clutch wear to issues with the motor has been reported.
This is something Lewmar will need to rectify if they wish to maintain the reputation that they generally have on producing high-quality windlass products.
Pros of the Lewmar PRO-Fish 1000G Windlass
Made of 100% 316 stainless steel.
Automatic freefall for greater precision and line speed
The high pulling power of 1000lbs (454kg) on the 1000 model
Some build quality flaws have seen a number of users unhappy with this windlass
The Lewmar PRO-Fish series of the windlass is a good option designed for fishermen. Both the 700 and 1000 versions will suit the needs of the average sailor/fisherman in terms of appropriate pulling power, and features designed to make anchoring overfishing spots easier.
That being said, an ongoing issue with the build quality has seen a number of customers unhappy with this windlass option.
With the range of options available buying a new windlass can be confusing. If remain undecided after reading the selected windlass reviews above, you may wish to do some further research.
If this is the case, there are a few things you need to consider first.
Let’s take a look at them now.
What size windlass should I choose?
An obvious point to make, however the first thing to consider when buying a new windlass is its size and whether it will be appropriate for your boat.
The specifications are important here, with most manufacturers actually stating the maximum length of the boat the windlass should be used on.
This is based on the standard rope or chain length a particular sized boat will have for its anchor.
However, depending on the type of boating you do, it could be that you need a windlass size and power range different to the recommended one.
To buy the correct size windlass for your needs you should evaluate the following:
Anchor Size – what is the weight of your anchor? The heavier anchor you use, the more powerful windlass motor you will need.
Hull material – is your boat made from fiberglass, wood, steel or Ferro-cement? The weight of your vessel will have an impact on displacement and in challenging conditions, this will cause excess strain on the windlass. A more powerful unit is needed.
Rode – The weight and length of the chain or rope connected to your anchor will have an impact on the power required to lift it out of the water. A heavy rode will require a more powerful windlass motor.
Vessel Windage – how much of your boat is out of the water? If you have closed cabins, tiers and other added weight you will be more prone to wind forces. A more powerful windlass will be needed in these circumstances too.
Quick Calculation for Best Windlass size
Required “pulling power” = Anchor weight + Rode Weight (not under load) x 3
Therefore, a windlass with a pulling power of at least 855lbs should suit your boat. (However if your boat has high windage and hull weight, you may consider opting for a maximum pulling power of closer to 1000lbs)
Horizontal or Vertical Windlass
In the windlass reviews above we included both horizontal and vertical models. How should you decide which is best for you?
First, the difference is more than just an aesthetic issue. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both.
The horizontal windlass is normally housed above the deck. The visibility of the windlass means it is easier to spot corrosion or damage to either the unit or your anchor rope/chain.
A surface mounted windlass is also easier to install and maintain. The trade-off is that it will take up deck space around the bow.
However, where the anchor/bow roller is positioned higher than the windlass chain wheel, horizontal windlasses are normally less prone to malfunction when compared to a vertical windlass in the same configuration.
A vertical windlass will normally house the motor below deck. While this flush-fitting configuration is definitely more pleasing aesthetically, there is an increased chance of corrosion due to the vital components being positioned in areas where saltwater can settle.
Furthermore, the below deck position makes installation and maintenance more complicated. (In fact, in most instances you will need a professional to install it)
A vertical windlass is better suited to boats with larger, deeper chain lockers.
Manual, Hydraulic or Electric?
Another important factor to consider when buying a windlass is whether you wish to opt for a manual, hydraulic or electric model.
Let’s take a look at what each provides and whether it might suit your needs.
A manual windlass is the best choice for a small boat with minimum battery power. Everything here is mechanical, the power coming from you.
However, this will definitely be an improvement of hauling the anchor rope up by hand.
They are two types of manual windlass. One acts much like a winch and is operated by turning a handle around in a circular motion.
The other uses a back and forth motion much like a pump.
The majority of the windlasses reviewed above are electrically powered.
This type is by far the most popular due to their ease of use and general simple installation.
When you’re out on the water you can literally lower or retrieve your anchor with the touch of a button.
You do need to ensure that your battery is up to the job of powering your windlass of choice. In some situations, it is a good idea to fit a dedicated power supply.
A hydraulic windlass will offer constant power without the need for a battery. However, your engine will need to be running in order to power the hydraulics.
The hydraulic windlass is more appropriate for larger boats that already have hydraulic powered components.
Otherwise, you are looking at a rather involved installation procedure.