Useful Tips for Selecting The Right Boat Anchor Winch


Boat owners who’ve made their fair share of trips on the waters most likely already know the importance and serious value of a boat anchor winch. Boat anchor winches, not to be confused with a dock winch system, can make the difference between enjoying a boating experience, or struggling through it entirely. It especially helps make boat fishing so much easier. Here are a few tips to help select a proper boat anchor winch.

Anchor Winch Types and Boat Setup

To start off there are three major types of anchor winches available. These types are windlass, capstan and drum winches. All three operate in different ways, but the Windlass and Capstan winches are the most similar of the three. The windlass anchor winch operates by pulling the anchor rode around a chainwheel which is in the vertical position, while the winch itself sits in a horizontal position. 

As it’s pulling in the road it requires what’s called an “anchor well” or “storage locker”. This is where the actual ride will be stored as it’s being pulled in by the winch, so the boat must be setup and fitted with this anchor well, if it isn’t already, in order for this style of winch to be functional.

The next style of winch is the Capstan winch, also known as the vertical windlass. This one is a bit more complicated, but essentially works in the same way. The winch itself stands vertically, while the chainwheel sits horizontally. 

The rode gets pulled through the chainwheel, wrapping around it around 180 degrees then through what’s called a gypsy which is designed to allow for multiple diameters of anchor line. Once the road is pulled through the gypsy it’s then stored away down into the boats anchor well just like the windlass.

The third kind is the more simple and versatile of the three, it’s the drum winch. This kind, unlike the other two, gathers all the chain and anchor line onto a drum, just like the name implies. It’s similar to the way a fishing line is gathered onto a spool. This makes the drum winch more versatile than the other two because it doesn’t require an anchor well/storage locker. 

This goes well with boats that are not fitted with that feature for whatever reason. This also means it can be mounted anywhere on the boat as long as it’s directly in line with what’s called the “bow roller”. Something to look out for with this style of winch however is the capacity of the drum. Naturally because the road isn’t being offloaded onto an anchor well, the drum itself is because of the storage unit.

 It can only hold as much rode as can be safely fit onto the drum itself, of course the capacity will vary depending on the actual diameter of the chain and cable itself. For safety reasons the diameter of the chain and cable being used must be considered according to the actual weight of the anchor itself and whether it suits the boat. Another benefit of the drum winch over the windlass and the capstan is that the anchor rode can be dropped and retrieved much more quickly which saves time and makes it more efficient to move around. Of the three however this one is generally the most expensive, but the advantages and the versatility that it offers over the two others is something to be considered.


Whichever style of anchor winch is chosen, they all three require the boat to be fitted with what’s called a “bow spit” or a “bow roller”. This is essentially the road guide and storage unit for the anchor itself after it has been fully retrieved. Without this, serious damage can be caused to the boat as the rode would have nothing to keep it steady and the anchor would damage the surfaces and edges of the boat as it collides with it while being retrieved. 

Overall deciding which anchor winch will be determined based on what features the boat itself has and what benefits are being weighed and considered between the functionality of the three. An anchor winch is better than no anchor winch, and they all improve the boating experience in the same way a dock winch system makes it far more easy to setup and relocate a dock.