Anchor handling on a small vessel

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    Andy J

    I have been perusing the Admiralty draught of the despatch schooner Haddock, as taken off at Portsmouth in 1805. This is a small vessel, about 70 tons and 55 feet long, armed with four 12lb carronades and with a crew of about 20, according to Rif Winfield British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793-1817(Chatham 2005).
    Something which struck me as odd is that the draught shows nothing for the handling of anchors – no catheads, no windlass, no capstan, just one hawsehole (with bolster) each side. The draught is not lacking in other fittings such as the stove, ladders, bitts etc.
    Given that this draught is “as taken off”, I would expect it to record the vessel as actually fitted, so I am left wondering:
    (a) What would be the typical weight of anchor(s) used on a vessel of this size? (The tables in Falconer’s Dictionary of the Marine run out before getting to such small vessels.)
    and more to the point:
    (b) Whether a 20-man crew could handle such anchors purely manually?


    There are several rules of thumb for calculating the weight of a traditional anchor. The “tonnage divided by three” rule gives 3.5 cwt. The “4 pounds per ton” rule gives 2.5cwt.
    Some of the other rules given in Seamanship in the Age of Sail (John H Harland, 1984) p.232, give larger numbers.
    Although it might be possible to manhandle an anchor of this size, it was much more likely that a windlass was fitted. During the War, small craft like HDMLs or the 61′ MFV had cranked windlasses.

    Frank Scott

    I do not know of any vessel of this size that currently weighs anchor without a windlass. However, with sufficient manpower it is quite possible to raise by hand – either tug of war style or in slower time with a three-fold purchase in conjunction with a separate fleeting tackle.
    Clearly this is very hard work, but when the windlass failed I have had to do it in considerably larger craft than the one in question.
    Despite that, given the enormous gain in efficiency, and the ability to work the craft short-handed (such as when prize crews were away), I find it very hard to believe that no form of windlass was fitted.
    On the separate issue of fishing and catting the anchor, this is remarkably simple in practice, and I know of a number of traditional craft of this size, and larger, that still fish and cat their anchors without catheads, and have done it myself many times.

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