Anchor Chain Counter and control at helm | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Anchor Chain Counter and control at helm

This is a very cool add-on for an electric windlass!! I have just finished the installation of an "Auto-Anchor" for our Lewmar H3 windlass. This is a device that counts the chain you have down and displays this at the helm. But it also lets you control the windlass from the helm, so if you want to let more chain out you can do it from the helm. We have seen this used in the Med where you are mooring up against the quay. Drop the anchor say 100 feet away from the dock, then back up while letting the chain out. Tie to the dock and snug up the chain so it keeps you from bumping back on the dock. This is especially easy if you have a chain counter and remote at the helm. Then one person can dock the boat this way!

For the installation I had to mount the control at the helm. 3 screw holes plus a hole for the wires. Easy!

Next the more difficult bit. Wiring it in. There are sensor wires that run from a magnetic sensor in the windlass to tell the box each time the windlass rotates. This allows it to count the chain. Then there are the control wires to let the device control the solenoid for the windlass. Since we already have a control up at the bow, we will splice into this to have the "AutoAnchor" work in parallel.

I put the splice in a waterproof junction box since the locker gets spray in when beating to windward.

Now hook up the power and voila!

Switch it on and find the machine gives me an error saying I have hooked up the power incorrectly! How about that?? This is one clever device. Email technical support at AutoAnchor... They send a nice wiring diagram that shows what I have done wrong...

The secret is the fact that the existing windlass switch was taking power from the windlass itself to operate the switch. The AutoAnchor wants to be connected to a circuit breaker from the panel. So now there are two parallel paths for power to get into the AutoAnchor unit. I guess this must happen often since they have even written an error message for it...

So I clip the wire from the windlass power, rerun power to the forward switch from the AutoAnchor and FINALLY it works.

Cool device. Next is to test it...

Up button makes it go up. Down makes chain go down. Control at bow still works. Chain counter counts chain...

Now I just have to get the anchor up from this sticky mud in the St Martin Lagoon and set sail. This really is the best place to take a break and work on the boat. Chandleries abound, I can get wifi from a completely protected anchorage in the lagoon, and there are French restaurants and pastry shops just a short dinghy ride away.

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