PS Advisor: Resurrecting a Windlass


I’ve got an old manual anchor windlass with a badly corroded gypsy that needs to be replaced. There is a 1:1 bronze “cross” on the outside of the gypsy—where the lever fits to turn it when not using the geared mechanism. Unfortunately, I can’t

PS Advisor: Resurrecting a Windlass

Photos courtesy of Gary Aitkin and by Ralph Naranjo


figure out how to get the bronze cross off, which needs to happen in order to replace the gypsy. There’s a grease zirk/fender washer on the outside of the cross, but unscrewing it still doesn’t get the cross off.

The drum on the port side came off relatively easily after removing a bolt and fender washer, using a wheel puller. The drum was prevented from slipping on the shaft by a piece of wood in a quarter-inch slot where originally I presume there was a steel key.

Also, I can’t find any manufacturer’s information anywhere on it. I’ve attached a couple of photos. Do you know who the maker is? 

Gary Aitken

Malakii, Morgan 302

Bahia de Buena Vista, Guatemala 

The windlass in the pictures you sent is an old Simpson Lawrence, a British-engineered oddity that many owners

PS Advisor: Resurrecting a Windlass


cursed. They used a chain rather than a gear drive, and this led to problems. The cast-steel chain gypsy, aluminum case, and the chain issue make your windlass a less than prime candidate for rebuilding. We would recommend instead looking for a used manual Nilsson windlass. While Nilsson has been out of business in the U.S. for a while, the company’s used windlasses are a good find. Check out secondhand chandleries, nautical flea markets, and eBay. A little TLC and a good check of the windlass’ bearings, gears, seals, and housing can turn a derelict piece of hardware into a “like new” foredeck appendage.

We featured the rebuild of an old, reliable hand-crank Nilsson in the October 2009 issue. It was in the final stages of a refit and was awaiting a new paint job. When painting cast-aluminum housings like the Nilsson’s, prep is especially important because they love to oxidize, particularly under a glossy finish coat.

The key to success lies in the abrasive removal of all old paint,

PS Advisor: Resurrecting a Windlass


primer, and oxidation. Next comes a solvent wipe down, followed up with a single, very thin coat of etching primer, such as Interlux’s acid etch primer 353/354. As soon as the surface dries, overcoat with 404/414 barrier coat, scuff sand, and apply two or more coats of a one- or two-part urethane topcoat such as Toplac or Perfection. Spray application offers the best results, but carefully follow all safety precautions.

Insulating the bolt holes and windlass body from the stainless-steel mounting bolts will prevent galvanic corrosion that can harm the finish.

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Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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