An anchor windlass is a machine that restrains and manipulates the anchor chain on a boat, allowing the anchor to be raised and lowered by means of chain cable. A notched wheel engages the links of the chain or the rope.
Technically speaking, the term "Windlass" refers only to horizontal winches. Vertical designs are correctly called capstans. Vertical Windlasses, offer several advantages, allow the machinery to be placed below decks, thus lowering the center of gravity (important on boats), and also allow a flexible angle of pull (which means rope or chain can be run out to different fair leads).
A Vertical anchor windlass features a vertical rotation in relation to the deck which allows a reduced volume above deck as the electric motor and the gear box are sitting in the chain locker.
Vertical Windlasses are the most popular style, because they have an lower and less obtrusive presence on your foredeck. More of the low-profile unit is hidden below deck and out of the wettest environment. Vertical windlasses generally require a larger hole for the motor, which hangs below the deck. Suitable for boats with larger chain lockers; they often require a longer fall for the chain. The rode makes a full 180° wrap around the gypsy, providing added security, and feeds through a deck pipe to the anchor locker, making a 90° turn.
It tends to be the case that smaller boats use capstans, and larger boats have windlasses, although this is by no means a hard and fast rule.
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