For a cruising sailboat the anchor windlass is a very important piece of equipment that ranks with engines and sails. The anchor windlass hoists the anchor when it is time to leave, and needs to operate reliably. Our boat has a primary anchor that weighs 88 pounds. The anchor is attached to a chain that weighs about 1.4 lbs per foot. We often have 100 to 125 feet of chain out. The point of all that is that the deployed anchor and chain weigh a lot and are beyond the ability of an old guy like me to lift with my back.
The anchor windlass hoists this load at the push of a button, but as a key piece of equipment it needs to operate flawlessly. Before our departure we replaced the anchor windlass as a precaution against any trouble.
The windlass has an electric motor and gearbox that drives a part called the capstan. The capstan has depressions in the edge that grab every other link in the chain. As the chain passes over the capstan it should release and fall into the anchor locker. To help with this the windlass has a chain stripper that helps the chain off of the capstan. We have damaged this stripper 3 times so far. This happens because every once in a while one say every three months or so one of the links would pass the stripper arm bending the arm and damaging the base of the capstan. After making this repair several times, we had a Mexican welder add a small tee shaped piece of stainless cut from one of our damaged strippers to a brand new stripper. We had this done at the La Cruz Shipyard near Puerto Vallarta (ask for Peter). Cost about $10.00. What a difference. The windlass actually soundsbetter.