Lofrans Royal Manual Anchor Windlass Repair

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One of several Lofrans Royal manual windlasses we've installed over the years. This one is on an Alberg 30.

The Lofrans Royal manual anchor windlass is one of only a few lightweight manual windlasses currently available. It comes in anodized aluminum or white paint finish, with gypsy chain gears for 1/4", 5/16" or 3/8", G4 high tensile chain. Made in Italy by Lofrans, the Royal is single speed, which makes it slow to retrieve the anchor, but saves your back when pulling up by hand is made difficult by strong winds in the anchorage. It has an aluminum case and gears with bronze shaft and pawls with plastic sleeve bearings. This combination of metals means some corrosion problems are inevitable over time.

The Royal windlass I installed on Atom worked well for over ten years and then started to develop excess friction that made for increasingly difficult operation. Recently I've heard from other owners that this is a common problem. Thinking it might be internal corrosion, I poured some oil into the bolt hole on top the case, which did not solve anything. Finally, I removed and disassembled the windlass to discover and repair the problem.

Unfortunately, the owner's manual supplied with the windlass does not give a clue about how to undertake repairs. The large bolt on the top and bottom centerline of the case might make you think these are oil fill and drain plugs. Actually, the windlass is only greased inside from the factory and does not contain oil. Those two bolts are there to hold two horizontal gears in place.

To disassemble the windlass, you can try leaving it bolted in place, but it may prove easier to unbolt it from the deck and work on a piece of plywood in the cockpit or on a workbench ashore. Next, pull off the wing nut, chain stripper and three pieces of the gypsy gear assembly and stainless key. Some WD40, tapping and light prying may be needed. The tough part is next. There are six 4mm stainless allen screws to remove and they are likely frozen in place from corrosion. Take great care not to damage the heads or you will have to drill them out and tap new threads. I used a portable propane torch to lightly heat the surrounding aluminum cover and the screws all came out easily. Pry the cover off to expose the gears pictured below.

The only problem I found on my windlass was that the aluminum cover plate had slight corrosion, which seemed to swell the plastic sleeve bearing so that the vertical gear that slides into it, was frozen tight. Using a 1 1/2" steel pipe slid over the shaft, I tapped the pipe with a hammer to separate it from the gear. Then I sanded some clearance in the aluminum hole using a Dremel tool with an 80 grit flap disc and also sanded the black plastic sleeve until I had a perfect fit. Filing and hand sanding, though taking much longer, will also work. After greasing the parts and reassembling, the windlass is operating perfectly again.

In my case, the plastic bearing on the rope drum on the opposite side was not sticking, so I did not need to do anything more. This is probably because I mostly use the chain wheel and this is where the highest loads and wear and saltwater immersion are.

The aluminum cover plate has an o-ring seal near the outer edge that is supposed to keep water out. I smeared a thin layer of clear silicone sealant over this area during reassembly to ensure it remains watertight. The only other likely entry point for seawater is between the bronze shaft and plastic sleeves. A thick layer of wheel bearing or winch grease here will hopefully keep the water out. Even so, it would be wise to do some preventative maintenance every few years by taking the windlass apart to inspect and grease.

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The windlass disassembled.

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Here you can see that the two horizontal gears are held in place by the bolts that go through the top and bottom on the case.

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Here the aluminum gear is removed from the cover plate it had been frozen into.

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Cleaning the surfaces with a Dremel flap disc solved the problem.