While cruising in Canada we experienced some gale force winds and found that more chain and less rope was superior for comfort and piece of mind while at anchor. I found that the boat rode better, since the chain kept her from “sailing”, and in light air acts like an anchor with much shorter scope, since most of the chain will lie on the bottom. The down side of all chain is its weight and the fact that it collects mud. Whether you go for all chain or a combination, the rope-only windlass will NOT handle the chain portion. The stock windlass can be easily modified to take both chain and rope.

Submitted By Roy Kraft – Sea Wings #187


I called Maxwell at 1-949-631-2634 and found that they have a kit to modify the VC500 rope only windlass to a VW500 rope/chain windlass. The part number of the kit is P71379. Maxwell would sell it to me for $630.73 plus shipping! Seemed a bit high to me so I called Defender and they would sell me the same kit drop-shipped from Maxwell for $431.00.

The kit consists of a new, longer shaft, new deck plate, wildcat, brakecones and brake bar, outer brake adjuster and some bits and pieces. They told me it would take about two hours to install which had they sent a sheet of instructions, that might have been close. It took me more like six hours but if I would have had proper instructions could probably have done it in three. They did send the manual for the VW500 which has a “blow-up” of all the parts.

Now for the installation:
1. Tools required: Large screwdriver, metric socket wrench, and circlip pliers.
2. Remove the teak panel below the storage ledge in the forward V-berth area. Four screws and the panel drops out. Do not take out the upper panel as I did. You will see the windlass motor, and gear case.
3. Open the anchor locker and remove the plastic cover on the end of the capstan exposing the capstan screw and washer. Remove the screw and washer and slide off the capstan drum.
4. Save the capstan key that fits in a groove of the exposed shaft.
5. With a socket wrench remove the four bolts (outside) that hold the gear casing to the deck plate. The gear case won’t drop out since it is still connected to the shaft.
6. Crawl into the V-berth and carefully work the gear box, motor and shaft out of the compartment. and set aside.
7. Now remove the four nuts (inside the v-berth compartment) holding the deck plate to the vertical bulkhead. You may be able to more easily reach them through the inspection plate on the top of the chain locker(outside).
8. Carefully break the seal on the deck plate and remove. They do not send a new washer so be careful not to tear the existing washer.
9. Bring the motor gear box into the cabin and with the circlip pliers remove the circlip on the bottom.
10. Install the new deck plate over the old washer and tighten the nutson the four studs. Careful to not over tighten. I had to cut the studs shorter since Catalina had forced in an SAE threaded bolt in one of rhe deck plate holes instead of a metric stud.
11. Remove the old shaft and replace with the new longer shaft,installing the two circlips to hold it in place. Using waterproof grease,grease the shaft, particularly where it goes through the deck plate bearing.
12. Take the motor/gear box into the lower compartment and work the shaft through the hole and in place to receive the four gear housing bolts.It WILL fit!
13. Evenly tighten the four housing bolts-Again, don’t over tighten.
14. Install the stbd shaft key and the greased brake cone.
15. Install the wildcat.
16. Install the port brake cone and tighten the set screw.
17. Replace the capstan over the port shaft key.
18. Install the new brake plate, capstan washer and screw.
19. Install; the old plastic cover.

That should complete the installation assuming I didn’t forget something.Study the parts blowup and it should be easy. I tried to remove the deckplate BEFORE taking out the housing bolts. Won’t work! I purchased 200 feet of ACCO 1/4 inch High test G-4 chain (140 pounds) For $1.35 per foot from Washington Chain and Supply (206-623-8500). West Marine wanted $2.39 per foot for the same chain; however, they would match the Washington Chain price.

By the way if you have a different size or type chain you must let Maxwell know so they can supply the correct wildcat. I then bought the blaster pump made by Jabsco and installed it next to the medicine cabinet in the head (out of sight behind the wall). I plumbed into the head salt water input and ran hose up to the chain locker. I then put a small valve in the chain locker so I can get washdown water up forward. I was able to wire the pump into the windlass circuit breaker so there is little chance I can leave that system on and under pressure. All in all a worthwhile investment.

Roy Kraft, “Sea Wings””