An electronic display showing chain and rope deployment means you can anchor single-handed without leaving the helm. Gilbert Park reports
I often sail single-handed and after using a rode counter on another boat, I decided to fit one to my Nimbus 365. I already had markers on the chain at 6m intervals and controls for the windlass in the bow and at the helm, but being able to control the boat and know how much rode has gone out (or in) from the helm makes anchoring in strong winds easier and also reduces the likelihood of drifting into another boat when weighing anchor in crowded coves.
As I already had windlass controls at the helm, I went for a simple standalone rode counter that displayed the amount of rode out, alarmed when the anchor was about to enter its stowage position and could cope with mixed rode (30m chain and 50m rope). I decided on a Lewmar AA150, which was the same make as the windlass and has two different set-ups: for mixed rode, the magnet is fitted to the upper side of the gypsy; for chain-only rode, the magnet fits to the lower side.
Installing the rode counter
For such an innocuous little gauge there is quite a lot of effort involved installing everything. There are multiple permutations for the installation (vertical or horizontal windlass; two types of rode) but the instructions cover all the eventualities.
As my windlass was the same brand as the rode counter the holes for fitting the magnets and sensors were pre-drilled.
Once it’s all connected and working, you have to tell the unit what Lewmar winch you have and it will automatically calibrate itself.
If you have another make of winch or an older Lewmar one then the instructions show you how to do a manual calibration.
In the package was a gauge (which is not waterproof), two magnets and their connectors, a sensor with a 2m cable and a comprehensive user guide. I also needed a 6m extension to the sensor’s 2m cable so the signal would reach back to the cockpit. I extended the other cables myself.
How it works
Rode counters have a magnet fitted into the chain wheel (gypsy) and a magnetic sensor fitted into the base plate of the winch. Every time the magnet passes the sensor one revolution of the gypsy is counted. The counter is also fed windlass motor data, meaning it can calculate stretch when rode switches to rope, plus the windlass controls (up/down buttons) are linked electrically to tell the counter if rode is coming in or out.
Step by step: Fitting to the instrument console
Working at the bow
Making the electrical connections
TOP TIPS FOR WORKING UPSIDE DOWN (for prolonged periods)
- Nothing is ever quick, so make yourself as comfortable as you can. In my case it was a matter of putting padding on the bowsprit so my chest could rest comfortably on the deck.
- Don’t use small, fiddly cable ties. Use the largest ones you can.
- If you’re going to use stick-on mounts make sure they have a water-resistant, high-modulus glue that needs about a minute’s pressure to make sure it sticks. Put cable ties into the mounts and very loosely put the ties around the cable. All you have to do then is slide the mount to the right position, press it into place, bring the wire up and tighten the tie. Cut off any excess.
- Use towels or sheets to prevent anything dropped falling into the bottom of the locker.
- If you don’t fancy ties then use the boatbuilder’s trick of holding the wires in place and putting some sealant around them.
First published in PBO Summer 2020