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To begin, I am not very happy with our windlass right now. Yesterday I visited the boat to clean up the salon (aka disaster area) and take some wire measurements. The windlass, which is actually quite heavy, was sitting on the salon seat. As the weather was chilly and rain was starting to fall, I had the sliding hatch closed and thus was partially bent over. Stooping to pick up said heavy windlass without correct posture has now resulted in me having a sore back! Fairly ironic isn’t it? We get the windlass so that we don’t hurt our backs pulling up the anchor and then I hurt my back because of the stupid windlass. 🙁

Now that I have vented I’ll describe what’s going on with the windlass install preparations. As I mentioned the other day, we had our friend visit our boat and give us his abbreviated install recommendations. Yesterday, after hurting my back, I set out to take some measurements to determine how long the wire runs would be. This is a very important step in the installation process as the wire size needs to be selected based on the length of the run. The longer the runs the thicker the wires need to be. This is to minimize voltage drop and safeguard the electrical system. In order to determine how long the wire runs will be you first need to figure out how you’re going to get them from the batteries to the windlass installation location. For me this meant a little bit of exploration. Sore back and all I began crawling and twisting, peering into hatches and in one case, removing cabinets. Although I was not being super patient with the whole process (my back was sore, remember?) I think I have a rough idea that the run will be about 20 feet one way. Add on another 25% for error and we would then have 25′ one way. The total wire run is actually calculated from the batteries to the windlass and back though, bringing our final length to approx. 50 feet.

Behind medicine cabinet in the head.

So how big of wire do we need then? Well, I know of two ways we could find out. We could of course check the windlass documentation to see what the manufacturer says, but how much fun would that be? Option two is to use the handy Blue Sea Systems Wire Wizard. I compromised and did both, finding out that the Windlass docs and the wizard both concur and say that we need AWG 4 which, based on the price I just found online, costs 2.49/ft here locally.

As far as running the actual wire goes I don’t think it will be super difficult. I should have reasonable access in most places. Let’s just say that I’m sure it could be a lot worse!

Part of our windlass-installation dilemma, which I know I have mentioned in the past, is that the surface of the deck where it needs to be mounted is not flat. In fact, it is a fairly complex curve, sloping off in several directions. My solution at this point is to fabricate a base pad out of a large block of teak. This will take some work but I think, once done, it will both do the trick of providing a flat, strong surface to mount the windlass on, and it will also look good. I can just see me now, sitting up on the bow of the boat with a piece of sandpaper, working away at the block until I get the proper fit. 🙂

A rough idea of the starting dimensions for the base pad.

The following video should give an idea of what I have in mind:

I mentioned two days ago about the process of drilling through the deck and then sealing the cored holes with epoxy to prevent water damage. I came across this page which shows a windlass install and has some very detailed information on the subject. Check it out.


  1. Just wait until it pinches a finger or toe! We cruised without one on our old PDQ (just had a manual windlass for those really tough spots to crank her in). And now that we have one, I still have a hard time trusting it. It’s too easy. Too powerful. Am I old school or what? Of course I am older and not in shape at all anymore, so I use the darn thing. But I still swear by pulling the bloody anchor up by hand if you’re young and strong. It’s a dirty job, but man did we stay fit.
    I hope you get it all together… sounds like you’re on the right track.

  2. And you thought it was going to be all warm breezes, rum punch and sunsets?

  3. You have received the first of what will undoubtedly be many,”boat bites”,as we like to call them.
    Every time we go out sailing,we come back with all kinds of unexplained bruises,or aches.
    Just make sure there’s enough rum on board for “medicinal purposes”.

  4. Mike, you really blew it! You were supposed to pull a Homer Simpson – (d’oh, Stoopid wind-ASS!), drop the windlass on the floor (or your left foot) and then kick it with your right foot, followed by hopping around and falling down the steps or overboard! Please do better next time!

    As far as the teak block goes, hmmm… you might look at using something synthetic like maybe starboard(?). I tend to shy away from using teak especially if it’s going to end up on deck because it can become a maintenance nightmare.

    Fair Winds,

  5. Hey, I just looked at some of the previous comments on the windlass block thing, and um, I basically agree with, um…


    and the idea of using a marine grade plywood with epoxy (then you can sand and paint to make it look pretty)

    Fair Winds,

  6. Oh, I know about back pains! I’ve started cruises on meds and heating pads, but the sailing always helps. I relax. I always seem to return with FEWER aches than I start with. I guess I’ve learned not to get bitten.

    Reguarding the windlass, I don’t know why you need the pad – mine is mounted straigth to the deck: I’m sure it’s a matter of location and I don’t know what you have in the way. Further aft gets weight out of the bow and is a little drier, but makes the chain drag on deck further, gets you to a weaker section of deck, and … oh, it’s all choises.

    However, my concern with the spacer is that with a cored deck and the extra thickness of the block, you will need to be VERY careful to get everything tight or it will move. I assume you know you are going to get some water down the pipe, anyway, and have a drain. I would definatly lay up a 3/16″ FRP backing plate for this location, because I am conserned that the factory plate (if it came with one) will not sit flat on a curved deck either (the back edge is the critical area, of course). And DON’T use 3M 5200 if you think you may ever need to repair the windlass – it won’t come off. I would favor butyl tape (great for big through-bolted things that will need to come off, someday, like winches), I think, with a sulfide sealer between the teak and the deck.

    Good luck!

    • It is definitely a placement issue! Because ours is a horizontal windlass it has a larger footprint than yours. Based on where the current hawsepipe is, the spot where the windlass needs to sit is not level.

      Is there already a drain in the chain locker? I can’t remember but I am pretty sure there is no water in there so there must be.

      Haven’t gotten to the backing plate issue yet but I definitely know not to use an adhesive like 5200.

  7. Good points.

    Moving the hawse pipe might not be a big deal. But I suspect a horizontal windlass might need more working room.

    Yes, our chain locker has a drain – I bet yours does.

    Given that the back side is not level, I think glassing a few layers of cloth and mat (mat/cloth/mat/cloth plus big washers should do – remember the wood spacer adds leverage) would be safest. As I proved with my winch, the forces are there! But who in the WORLD would mount a winch in a cored deck with no washers of any kind? The PDQ is pretty solid – it should have pulled out the first day.

  8. Speaking of the slider and the backpain being stooped causes when it’s closed…

    I’m thinking of adding a removable bug screen pannel that would go from the top of the cabin/cokpit bulkhead to the hard top and to the side curtains. We could then leave the slider open and no need to mess with a separate screen door. It would attach with some combination of velcro (sides), curtain tracks (top), and bungee hooks (bottom) – I could make it just pull open like curtains, but we don’t use it so often , so it probably just removes. Thoughts?

    I’ve been sailing all winter with the slider closed, of course, and I’m looking forward to standing up straight!

    • I think I can visualize what you are saying and if I’m right, that sure would be nice. The screen door that we had made was a lifesaver but we still didn’t have the full headroom. By the way, even with the screen door we still had to plug the air space around the slider to keep the mosquitoes out. Your idea would likely take care of all of this although it would be a much bigger project to put together. I think you should go for it so that we can learn from your efforts. 🙂

    • So THAT’s where the buggers were sneaking in!

  9. Somehow, I suspect that you will have even more creative names for that winch once you start sailing! Just keep your fingers away from it!

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