How to Install an Electric Anchor Winch on a Small Boat

Written by will charpentier
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How to Install an Electric Anchor Winch on a Small Boat
A small anchor winch can have a vertical or a horizontal drum. (fishing gloves image by 2roxfox from

An electric anchor winch is a handy luxury on a small boat. It allows you to recover your anchor with a minimum of physical effort and little pain. The winch must be installed near the bow, or front, of the boat to avoid taking water over the sides or the stern. Unlike the bow, the stern has a tendency to "squat" before a wave, allowing waves to break over the transom. Before you begin installation, you have to prepare the location for the winch, to ensure its watertight character -- and to ensure you have a method of detecting a leak.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Masking tape
  • Grease pencil
  • Drill
  • 1/2-inch bit
  • Marine adhesive sealant
  • Knife
  • Putty knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Torque driver

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  1. 1

    Set the anchor winch in place and lay masking tape around its base. Mark the winch's location on the deck, as well as the location of the pilot holes for the mounting screws and the power cord with a grease pencil. Remove the winch from the location.

  2. 2

    Drill the pilot holes for the mounting screws, based on the pilot hole size recommended by the winch manufacturer. Drill the holes for the electrical connection with a drill and 1/2-inch bit.

  3. 3

    Open a tube of marine adhesive sealant by cutting the tip away with a knife, and coat the bottom of the winch with it. Spread the sealant around on the bottom of the winch with a putty knife. Spread the excess you remove into the area surrounded by the masking tape. Fill the masked area with a 1/8-inch thick layer of the sealant.

  4. 4

    Set the winch in place on the sealant bedding. Insert the mounting screws and tighten them, using a screwdriver, only until the sealant bedding begins to squeeze from beneath the winch all the way around the perimeter of the winch base. Allow the sealant to set for 24 hours.

  5. 5

    Remove the mounting screws and put a bead of sealant all the way around the underside of the heads of the screws. Reinstall the screws and tighten them to the torque recommended by the winch manufacturer or 55 foot-pounds, if no recommendation is made, using a torque driver. Tighten the screws in alternating order, just as you would the lug nuts on a car wheel when changing a tire. Pull away the masking tape and scrape any stray sealant from the deck with the putty knife.

  6. 6

    Allow the sealant to cure for a full seven days after you tighten the mounting screws. While the sealant cures, run the winch's red power cord to the boat's common power bus. Loosen one of the screws on the bus, wrap the wire around the screw clockwise and re-tighten the screw. Attach the winch's black ground wire to the boat's common ground in a similar manner.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not slop sealer into the mounting holes you make in the deck. If a leak develops below decks, you're more likely to notice and take corrective action, than if you try to guess whether or not there's a leak under your winch.

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