The 7 Best Electric Boat Anchor Winches for 2021
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Ian Fortey Updated on August 4, 2021.by
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Not every boater thinks of getting an electric anchor winch at first. If you are serious about boating, it really is a must have item. Whether you like to fish on your bass boat or just relax at sea, a winch can be a lifesaver. Manual hauling of your anchor is something any boater gets sick of really fast.
Choosing the best electric anchor winch involves a few factors. You need to make sure it will work for your size boat and anchor. It’s also important to choose a saltwater winch if you’re at sea rather than inland. The last thing you want is a freshwater winch in the ocean. Let’s take a look at some of the best electric anchor winches on the market. These should be more than adequate for any kind of boat you may have.
Picking the Best Electric Boat Anchor Winches
There are two main types of electric boat anchor winches. It should come as no surprise you can get an electric boat anchor winch for saltwater or freshwater. You never want to use a freshwater boat anchor winch in saltwater. If it has not been designed for saltwater, it’s a recipe for disaster.
A saltwater electric winch will be designed to resist corrosion. This is very important. A freshwater electric winch is designed for use in lakes and rivers. These are often cheaper than saltwater winches.
In addition to the water it’s used in, your winch can have different orientations. That means the anchor winch can be set up to operate horizontally or vertically.
Horizontal Electric Boat Winch: These are typically used on smaller boats. If you don’t have the space for a vertical winch, this may work for you. It can handle more than one anchor as well. The downside of a horizontal winch is that it is more prone to slipping. They can cost more to fix if something goes wrong, also.
Vertical Electric Boat Winch: These are more common on most boats. Set up of this kind of winch is often fairly straightforward. They jump less than a horizontally mounted winch will as well. Since maintenance of these is easier, most boaters prefer them.
You need a high quality winch if you want it to last. Some cheaper brands will use plastic components. You can find reviews all over Amazon complaining of these types of winches. They might only last for three or four uses. After that an important gear or pin breaks because it was poorly manufactured. The entire winch is useless at that point.
Ideally you want a completely sealed case. This will protect the circuits and electronic components from moisture and corrosion. The gears should be steel to maintain strength and reliability. Wiring should be tin which can stand up to corrosion long term as well.
The motor for your electric anchor winch is no good if it draws too much power. It’s also not going to be helpful if it’s not powerful enough to do the job.
12 volt motors are standard for most electric winches. These offer suitable power and don’t drain power needlessly. Make sure your anchor matches up with in terms of size with the capacity of the motor. If you try to haul in a larger anchor than the motor can handle, it will burn out quickly.
A marine solar panel is a good idea if you’re concerned about power. Installing one of these can further minimize any power used by your motor. Typically these don’t draw a ton of energy. If you factor in everything running on your boat’s battery, it never hurts to have a buffer. We recommend solar panels for any boat.
The motor needs to be sealed well, especially if you boat in saltwater. The motor will be one of the first things to fail in saltwater if it’s not well made. The corrosion sets in faster than you might think. It can be a real hassle to deal with.
Buying a winch with pre-spooled rope is easy and convenient. If you need to replace rope make sure you look up the kind you need and how to do it. It’s possible to buy a winch that does not come with rope and spool it yourself. We don’t recommend this because why bother? The companies that manufacture winches have already done the work for you. You can count on it being the right length and strength for the job. No need to make more work for yourself if you don’t have to, in our opinion.
When you do need to buy your own rope the standard rule of thumb is 3:1. You need a rope that is three times as long as the water you are in. This ensures you can safely anchor your boat. In general, most electric boat winches come with 100 feet of rope.
Look for an anti-reverse clutch system. This is important to prevent tangles and jams. If you don’t have a system in place, the rope can spool and get tied up.
You probably want to go with a braided anchor rope. Braided rope made from nylon is strong and resists abrasion. Polyester rope is also a popular choice. Whatever kind of rope you get, make sure it’s rated for use in an anchor winch. It needs to be able to handle being wet regularly without getting damaged.
You need to consider what your rope has to endure even when sitting still. If the current starts pushing your boat, the rope is the only thing keeping you steady. It will bear the weight of the entire vessel. Now imagine it’s underwater scraping against a rock or some coral at the same time. Strong rope has to not just pull up a 30 lb anchor. It also has to keep several hundred pounds of boat from floating away by not breaking.
Most rope is rated for about 800lbs. Some clock in at 700 lbs. Be wary of what you buy and what you need it to do.
Obviously one of the big drawbacks to an electric boat winch is cost. Lugging a rope in by hand costs you nothing in terms of dollars. Some electric anchor winches can cost over $500 depending on their size.
Many good quality anchor winches can be picked up for under $200. The cost can still seem steep, over time the value will become apparent. These are great tools to have. They are definitely worth the investment for serious boaters.
Some anchor winches can be picked up for $100 or even less. You should always exercise caution if you see anything this cheap. The expression “you get what you pay for” does apply here. If it’s too cheap, be very cautious. Do your homework and check reviews from multiple sources. If you can’t find reviews at all, that’s a red flag. More often than not you’ll see most reviews are not very high for such an anchor.
If you are looking to save money but still get quality, you have options. Used anchor winches are usually available on sites like craigslist. You may also have luck at your local marina. Make sure you test it out before buying, however.
We recommend all the models we have posted above as being reliably and fairly cost effective. Obviously the ProSport Windlass is a standout in terms of cost. That said, it is recommended for heavier vessels.
Along with cost comes warranties. It’s always good to look into the warranty that is offered with any winch. Because this is a big purchase and affects the overall function of your boat, it’s important. Most companies offer a standard one or two year warranty on their products. Make sure you understand the warranty fully before you commit. Certain things can affect the warranty or even void it outright.
Modern electric anchor winches are usually not too hard to install. That said, if you buy one from a company overseas it may not come with instructions. That can make it difficult to figure out. When researching the winch you want to buy, check out YouTube ahead of time. See if there are any videos that walk you through the installation process. You may be surprised to see that there are many models featured with step by step walk throughs. This can offer you peace of mind when it comes to getting it installed correctly. Most people have never installed an electric anchor winch before. Don’t feel bad if you’re unsure of the process and need a hand.
Operating Your Electric Boat Anchor Winch
When it comes to operations, there are two standard methods. Remember, a manual winch used to be the only way. That involved a lot of hand cranking and a lot of effort. Electric anchor winches save a lot of time and effort.
Remote Control Anchor Winches: As the name suggests, you can use a remote control to operate these. Just like the TV, you can get it going from anywhere on the boat. This is convenient if you’re busy at the other end of the boat and don’t need to walk all the way to the winch.
Switch Controlled Anchor Winches: These are ones you have to control directly. The switch is hard-wired to the winch. Usually it’s located right next to the winch. Sometimes you can have these hardwired to the control console as well.
Regardless of how a winch is operated, speed is typically static. That means you can’t usually make your anchor winch speed up or slow down. This is a safety precaution more than anything. You don’t want a winch that can pull up an anchor too fast. Usually a winch will drop anchor much faster than it pulls one in, however.
Things to Watch Out for with a Boat Anchor Winch
Make sure you pay attention to the weight capacity. In general, an electric anchor winch will have a capacity between 20lbs and 40lbs. For most boats this is more than sufficient. It’s in your best interests to be cautious here. Just because the winch capacity is 35lbs doesn’t mean a 35lb anchor is ideal. There can be circumstances in which extra stress is put on the winch. In those cases, a 35lb anchor could become problematic. We recommend overshooting your anchor slightly. Use a 40lb winch for a 35lb anchor. A 35lb winch for a 30lb anchor and so on. This is just a safety precaution. You don’t have to do it by any means. It’s also possible your winch will work just fine at capacity. But for added caution, consider tweaking your numbers slightly.
You may think you need a larger winch. This is only true if you have a larger boat. These electrical anchor winches are specifically made for small to medium boats. The kind that could reasonably be used without an anchor winch. Larger boats should already have anchor winches as part of the overall boat design. A 65 foot yacht would not need any of the winches we’ve listed here. It should already be well equipped with a high quality anchor winch of its own.
For these smaller boats, larger capacity winches are rarely necessary. Your anchor is likely not that large so it doesn’t make sense to worry about a larger winch.
A homemade boat anchor winch is something you may see on the water now and then. These are typically manual and not electric. Sometimes they’re rigged from automobile winches. There’s nothing to say this won’t work but do be cautious. If you’re not a handy type person, we don’t recommend risking it. The risk of a jam or break can definitely increase with this.
Watch out for a noisy winch. Ideally this should not make a ton of noise as it rolls in and out. Some are definitely noisier than others, though. If your winch starts making new noises it’s a good sign something is wrong. The winch itself needs to be well lubricated in order to avoid this. If you hear grinding or squealing you definitely have a problem.
A good davit can go a long way to preventing excess noise. The davit is the part that reels the rope in and keeps it straight and smooth as it winds. Without it, the rope can spool. That can cause the entire winch to start making noises as it will be off balanced.
Manual vs Electric Winch
Using an electric winch instead of a manual winch obviously saves time and effort. You’re free to do other things while the winch does the work for you. In addition, your arms and back will likely thank you. Yanking up a rope by hand can be hard for several reasons. The weight can make it a struggle. The friction may also cause serious damage to your hands. You may also end up with a pretty dirty rope. That can cause a mess on you when you pull it in. For those reasons, an electric anchor winch is really the best option out there.
Electric winches also make your boat safer. If you’re spooling rope by hand, it’s going to end up on the deck. This presents a tripping hazard until it is stowed safely. The winch handles that work for you. It’s both a time saver and a space saver in that regard.
The Bottom Line
An electric boat anchor winch is a real time saver on any boat. It gets the dirty work done for you so you can focus on other things. It’s a cool gadget too, and there’s nothing wrong with liking more boat gadgets. Make sure you’re focusing on the right kind of winch for your boat. Never use a freshwater winch in saltwater. Make sure you get it installed correctly and you have the right amount of rope to do the job.