Powerful Lewmar H3 is a Rode Warrior
Muir Cougar is mightier than Lewmar when handling chain, but Lewmars performance and dual-purpose gypsy is more impressive
We wrap up our series of windlass reviews with a look at a trio of powerful horizontal windlasses. These heavyweight pullers are designed to handle relatively high loads aboard boats not well suited for a vertical windlass or where having a horizontal capstan would prove valuable for other winching duties. Two recent articles, (“Windlasses Under $1,000,” July 2005) and September (“Big Vertical Windlasses,” September 2005), compared other windlasses that may be better suited for your purposes.
What We Tested
The windlasses ranged in price from $1,300 to $2,500 and are recommended for boats from 20 to 55 feet in length. All are designed to be powered by 12 volts DC.
Drive mechanisms in horizontal windlasses are normally housed on deck—and that’s the case with the three tested here. The drive motor, reduction gears, and electrical components are all contained inside a metal case designed to be securely mounted to the foredeck. The gypsy and clutch assembly are fixed to a horizontal shaft exiting one side of the case, while a capstan (used for handling rope rodes or lines) is usually present on the opposite side. Selection of a horizontal windlass is most appropriate when an upward angle of the vessel’s sheer or foredeck makes using a vertical windlass difficult or impossible. Another factor that would make a horizontal the right choice is insufficient belowdeck space to accommodate vertical windlass machinery.
Lewmar sent us a pair of its new horizontal windlass designs, the H2 and the H3. Muir participated with the Cougar HR1200 windlass.
Lewmar’s H2 is a horizontal windlass equipped with the same 700-watt motor and gearbox as the vertical V2; it is also available in a 24-volt version with a 900-watt drive motor. Two styles of line-handling hardware are available—gypsy only or gypsy/capstan. We tested the gypsy-only model. A stylish, waterproof, aluminum and composite case finished with a high-gloss white paint houses the electric motor and worm-drive gearbox. The pressure finger is made from polished stainless steel, while the gypsy is chrome over bronze. The optional capstan is polished stainless steel. The H2 appears to be well-constructed with quality materials.
We found this Lewmar horizontal windlass packaged with a 90-amp circuit breaker, control switch, mounting hardware, clutch lever, and an owner’s manual. The reversing solenoid is already installed inside the windlass case. This should speed up installation because you’ll have to mount and wire one less part. The owner’s manual instructions included a mounting template that made marking, drilling, and cutting our test deck easy. We wired the unit according to the easy-to-read wiring diagram.
The H2 managed a no-load speed of 61 fpm (feet per minute)—slightly less than its claim of 69 fpm. Lewmar rates its windlasses for no-load speed using a tachometer to measure gypsy rpm, and then converts that to fpm. Our slower speed measurements are to be expected considering the difference in test methodology. Working load speed measured 40 fpm against a claim of 56 fpm. Again, Lewmar tests for working speed with a 100-pound load while we used 150 pounds. This is likely the reason for the slightly slower speed attained in our testing. During maximum-pull testing with rode in the gypsy, the H2 managed a pull of 640 pounds. With chain, it peaked at 1,020 pounds. Lewmar rates the H2 to a maximum pull of 1,433 pounds, so it fell short of expectations here.
The H-series windlasses from Lewmar have manual override available as an option. It is an attachment that permanently mounts on the outside of the gypsy and is supplied with a handle. If power to the windlass fails you can loosen the clutch nut, insert the handle into the slot on the top and use a ratcheting motion to manually raise the anchor.
We found the Lewmar H2 priced at $2,064. It carries a 3-year warranty.
Bottom Line: A good windlass with decent performance. But its big brother provides more bang for the buck.
Big brother to the H2, the Lewmar H3 uses the same large drive motor and gearbox as its vertical cousin, the V3—one of our top picks in its class. Both use the same powerful 1,000-watt motor, available in either a 12- or 24-volt version. Case design and materials, options, and package contents are the same as the H2. The only exception: The H3 ships with a 110-amp circuit breaker because of its larger motor.
Installation and wiring of the H3 on our test deck was straightforward, but we did experience a delay. One mounting stud would not hand-thread into the bottom of the case, so we had to get a tap and chase the case threads to fix the problem.
The extra power provided by the H3’s brawny motor and higher gearbox ratio was evident in both an increase in speed and pulling power. In no-load testing, the H3 pulled 73 fpm against a claim of 92 fpm, while working-load speed was 47 fpm against a claim of 59 fpm. The same caveats that apply to the H2 speed testing apply here. We think the speed claims made by Lewmar for the H3 are reasonable. Though the H3 delivered speed and pulling power somewhat below its vertical cousin (V3 equipped with the same motor and gearbox), we’d attribute the difference to the additional rode slippage normally found in a horizontal windlass. With rode in the gypsy, the H3 managed to pull a very respectable 660 pounds before the rode slipped in the gypsy. In chain testing, it fell short of its rated maximum pull of 1,962 pounds, managing a pull of 1,700 pounds.
The Lewmar H3 is priced at $2,364 and carries a 3-year warranty.
Bottom Line: Our top pick, the Lewmar H3 offers good overall performance, a hefty maximum chain pull, and a long warranty in a good-looking package.
Muir Cougar HR1200
The Muir Cougar, designated the HR1200, comes standard with a 1,000-watt electric motor and both a gypsy and capstan. A 1,200-watt motor or hydraulically powered version is optional. The capstan and gypsy are both constructed from marine-grade bronze and finished with chrome. An aluminum windlass housing finished with marine-grade high-gloss white epoxy paint carries the components. You order the Muir with or without a built-in cleat atop the case. A rope chain management system (RCMS) is also optional.
The HR1200 comes with only a handle and owner’s manual—the user must supply all other needed gear like switches and circuit breakers. This is frustrating, since these components are essential for the windlass to function. We had no problem using the template to cut our test deck for the HR1200. Electrical hookups were straightforward.
During our initial testing, the gypsy on the Muir Cougar did a poor job of preventing rode from slipping. During the first round of tests, the gypsy failed to pull any of the available rodes (we tried several). Even in no-load testing, the rode slipped. Eventually, we skipped over the rode speed and pull tests and went right to the chain.
Muir conservatively rates their windlasses for both speed and power. This was clear when we loaded the chain in the gypsy and performed a maximum pull test. The Cougar hit a whopping 1,950 pounds after the chain jumped the gypsy once and then locked in. Muir only rates the Cougar for a maximum pull of 1,200 pounds.
We contacted Imtra, the U.S. distributor for Muir, and told them of our results during rode testing. Imtra advised us to try the unit with the optional RCMS installed and immediately shipped us the only one it had in stock. After installing the RCMS, we repeated the rode test on the Cougar with mixed results. The no-load test produced impressive numbers with the HR1200 hitting a retrieve speed of 105 fpm. That is exceptionally fast and may have been the result of the rode riding the outer edge of the gypsy rather then the teeth. No matter what we did or which rodes we tried, the Muir Cougar would not grip the rode tight enough to successfully accomplish a working-load test.
We found the Muir Cougar HR1200 priced at $1,811. It carries a 3-year warranty.
Bottom Line: For people with all-chain rodes, the gypsy slippage won’t be an issue, but those who rely on combinations rodes will be better off with a Lewmar until Muir fixes this shortcoming.
We like the standard package of accessories Lewmar ships with the H-series windlasses. It also carries an impressive 3-year warranty (at the upper end, most carry 2- to 3-year warranties). Performance on both the H2 and H3 was good. We’d pay the few hundred extra dollars for the more powerful pull and faster retrieve speeds found on the H3. It’s our top pick for a hefty horizontal.
The Muir is a well-built product, but the gypsy’s inability to handle nylon rode under load is unacceptable for boaters who use anything but all-chain rodes. Muir needs to resolve this apparent design problem before we can recommend it to anyone who intends to use a combination rope-and-chain rode.