From WikiPOBia

Revision as of 16:31, 15 August 2007 by Oliver Mundy (Talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Current revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

To weigh is to raise the anchor (or rather anchors, since it was usual to moor a ship with two) from the sea-bed. A vessel that is carrying out this process is said to be under weigh, a phrase which is often corrupted to under way.


In the days before powered machinery, the task of weighing anchor was a major one involving more than half the crew. On the order 'All hands to weigh anchor!' the greater part of the seamen, together with their supervising officers, would divide into five main groups as prescribed by the ship's watch-book.

  • Capstan The largest body, consisting of strong but unskilled men (a large proportion being Marines), would man the principal capstan aft of the mainmast, first shipping the bars (that is, fitting them into their sockets) and running the swifting-line between their extremities, then taking their places to heave the capstan round; with 4-10 men at each of the bars (which might number between 10 and 14) and one or two at each sector of the swifting-line, the total number might be over 160 on a ship of the line.
  • Stowing party Up to 60 men would go to the cable tier to handle the cable of the first anchor as it came in, coiling it down in neat fakes.
  • Veering party Another substantial group would attend to the cable of the second anchor, their task being to veer or pay it out, since there was a natural tendency for the tension to increase on this cable as the other was hauled in.
  • Messenger As the main cables were far too thick and rigid to be coiled round the drum of the capstan, a lighter though still strong rope was used as a messenger or carrier. Thirty or more men might be assigned to this. They would give it several turns round the lower barrel of the capstan, lead it through a series of pulleys suspended from the deck-beams on the larboard (port) side and round two rollers extending the whole height of the deck at the forward end, take it aft again on the starboard side (where the anchor cable would be secured to it by means of coils of rope called nippers), and hook its two ends together to make a continuous loop.
  • Forecastle The final group would take a stand on the forecastle to manipulate the anchor once it broke surface.
Personal tools