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
Max. Pull: 700lbs
Work Load: 175lbs
Speed: 72' /min
Max. Pull: 770lbs
Hold: 1,540 lbs
Speed: 79' /min
Max. Pull: 1200lbs
Work Load: 400lbs
Speed: 115' /min
Max. Pull: 1000lbs
Max Boat: 38ft
Max. Pull: 900lbs
Max Boat: 41ft
Speed: 75' /min
The following windlass models have been selected based on price/performance benefits, functionality, features and build quality.
Our testing method involves a combination of hands-on use, a study of online customer reviews and feedback, plus an in-depth analysis of how each product fares against others on the market.
The following selection brings together what we believe to be some of the windlasses available in 2020.
1. TOP PICK: Lewmar V700 Vertical Windlass
The Lewmar V700 G is a high specification windlass made from 100% 316 stainless steel.
Not only is the high-quality construction evident in the appearance of the windlass, but the strength and durability offered by this unit are also impressive for its size.
This is an IP rated housing with a motor power of 320W and a maximum pull power of 700lbs.
The attractive, flush-mount design conceals the motor completely, the overall aesthetic complimenting the lines of any sleek vessel.
On the subject of the vessel, the Lewmar V700 is designed to fit boats up to 10.5m (35 ft.).
The unit fits calibrated chains with the following dimensions:
- 6mm DIN766,
- 1/4 inch G4 or BBB,
- 7mm DIN766
Other premium features we have come to expect from Lewmar include push-button operation in order to secure the motor and implement the anchor lock.
Lewmar also include a generous 5-year warranty on the entire unit.
Lewmar are industry leaders when it comes to high quality windlass design. Here they do not disappoint.
Providing a 320W all concealed power motor, this flush mount windlass not only looks great but has the durability and strength to do its job well for years.
Our number one choice windlass for 2020 for good reason.
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2. Maxwell RC6 12V Windlass – 500W f/1/4 Chain to 1/2 Rope (37378)
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.
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.
3. BEST HORIZONTAL WINDLASS: Five Oceans Atlantic 600, Horizontal Anchor Windlass Series
Five Oceans are a lesser known windlass manufacturer when compared to either Maxwell or Lewmar, however this horizontal windlass is more than worthy of our top 5 review round up.
It is also one of the most powerful of our selected models.
Featuring a 600w motor with an impressive maximum line speed of 115 feet per minute. This extremely well-built windlass is capable of 1200lbs of maximum pull.
That’s double offered by the Maxwell RC6 reviewed above.
However, we are looking at different target markets here. Suitable for boats of 16 to 32 feet in length, the 5 Oceans Atlantic is specifically designed for larger vessels.
Made from 100% 316 stainless steel, the unit is compatible with 1/2″ (12 mm) rope and 1/4″ (7 mm) HT G4 chains.
The windlass also has the ability to work with a Double Braided, 3 Strands, and 8 Plait Rope.
Overall the Atlantic 600 horizontal a high specification, powerful windlass suitable for larger boats.
If you are looking for a horizontal windlass for your vessel, this is the one to buy.
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4. Lewmar PRO-Fish 1000G 12V G4-102 Pro-Fish Windlass
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.
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.
5. Powerwinch Freefall Anchor Windlass 41′ Class
The Powerwinch Freefall Anchor Windlass 41′ Class is a good option for those looking for a freefall anchor system.
As we all know, the benefit here comes from the speed with which the anchor can be dropped.
Using the freefall system over power-down models means you have approximately 4 times the drop speed using this windlass, (300 fpm).
Furthermore, the faster drop time allows for greater precision on your anchors drop location. This, of course, helps prevent drifting.
The windlass is designed for 41ft class vessels and has maximum pull power of 900lbs.
The retrieval speed is good at 75fpm. The motor is obviously only engaged during retrieval, therefore, uses fewer amps overall.
Gearing is clearly important on a freefall system, and here the Powerwinch is kitted out with a heat-treated, oil-impregnated gear structure
The end result is a smoother operation built with longevity in mind.
Other nice features on the Powerwinch freefall windlass include stainless-steel drive shafts as well as a replaceable Rode-Glide.
The latter helps to smoothly channel the rope and chain below the deck during the retrieval process.
Overall the Powerwinch Freefall Anchor Windlass 41′ Class is a quality option for those looking for a freefall anchor system.
Powerful, power-saving and offering great precision there’s a lot of reasons to opt for a freefall system.
A recommended option for boats up to 41 feet in length. Just hope that you do not have to call upon their customer service for any reason as response time can be poor.
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What to consider when buying a new windlass
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.
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.
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A windlass will definitely improve your boating experience. And buying the right one for your needs is a process.
However, as long as you understand the demands of pulling power and purchase the right size for your boat, you will have a unit that will last you a very long time.