Choosing a Boat Winch

Written by Elizabeth Puckett | 1 Comment »

Outside of winches used for off-road recovery, marine use is amongst the most popular reasons someone would buy a winch. Choosing the right one for a boat might end up being more of a trail and error process than a smart purchase if you don’t do your research ahead of time. Winches tend to be on the costly side and buying one you don’t need and can’t use will leave you with major buyer’s remorse. Here’s a guide to get you started in selecting the right boat winch.

Choosing the right boat winch is important.

Choosing the right size is the first and most basic decision. In general, the bigger the winch, the more function, but the right one for your boat is typically based on the length of your vessel. An example of when you would need a bigger winch is if you had a larger sail area the winch would need to control.

The size you need also varies based on what you will be using it for. Some mount them for light use, towing people out of the water, lifting dinghies, or just steadying sails.

When it comes to winches for boats, it usually comes down to how much you’re willing to spend and how big of a unit that budget will get you.

The material of the winch is also quite important — for boat winches, stainless steel is the best choice, hands down. Stainless is strong and will stand up to marine conditions, but these units are also more expensive. Cheaper choices may include those made of anodized aluminum or units with chrome-plate bronze.

Surprisingly, handles have a lot to do with the satisfaction of the user. The industry normal is a 10” handle, but many boaters opt for a 8” handle instead. Smaller handles allow for faster cranking in lighter conditions that are more common to boating.

You will also need to decide what you need speed wise from a winch. Single speed winches are direct drive with a 1:1 gear ration. These single-speed units are best when you buy a ratcheting model that allows you to crank from either side of the drum so you can push & pull the handle instead of cranking in one direction.

A two-speed winch has a low and high gear that allows you quickly crank ropes or move them more slowly when more torque is needed for heavier/difficult pulls.

You might also have questions about manual versus electric winches for regular use on a boat. For larger boats, electric winches with a 40:1 or higher power ratio are useful but do have their downfalls. These models draw on the power of the boat’s battery and cause a good deal of drain — for this reason, most people opt for electric winches for specifically large pulls and keep a manual unit on-hand anyways.


One Comment

  1. fengyuan says:

    Very useful details on how to choose a right and suitable winch for boat. A reliable and suitable winch is very important for a boat to be used for different operations.

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