The Transition from Hemp to Chain Cable: Innovations and Innovators.

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    Gareth Cole

      This is posted on behalf of SNR member Malcolm Lewis:

      Re. Dr J. Harland’s note in MM Feb.2013.

      In his very interesting note Dr. Harland provides a detailed account of the methods and gear introduced when the change from hemp to cable was made. He notes that chain cable was twice the equivalent weight to hemp, and chain was substituted for hemp messengers used when weighing anchor. Chain had a damaging effect on wooden capstans and metal was substituted on parts to prevent wear. All this must have increased the weight at the fore end of the ship which would have affected the ship’s trim and draught. Would the decks and hawse holes have been protected with metal cladding too? This additional weight may also have required increased support for the ship’s timbers. Is there any record of this being done? Certainly the foc’sle men would have had a tough task bending on the chain to the anchors using the fish davit. I have a recollection that in 1690 Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovell advocated and experimented with chain cable prior to his sad demise.

      I believe HMS Warrior still used the messenger chain cable method when commissioned in 1860 and the anchors were weighed by hand capstan as the Admiralty thought it good to give the men physical exercise in a ship now part driven by steam.

      Frank Scott

        This is submitted on behalf of John Harland:

        “I must admit I hadn’t thought about the shifting of weight forward. Mind you this was going on as the number of hemp cables was decreasing, and as steam was being introduced in more and more vessels.  As Malcolm says, a shift in weight would have moved  the CG and CLR forward, meaning increase in forward, or decrease in after canvas to keep helm in balance. I have no details about metal cladding of hawse-pipes etc, but am sure he is right about this.

        Cloudsely Shovell considered chain MOORINGS, according to Betty Nelson Currer’s monograph on anchors, p. 97.

        Nicholas Blake

          Metal cladding: in 1811 Captain Brown reported the Ulysses’ hawseholes prepared for iron cables and consequently damaging the hemp ones. He doesn’t say what the preparation was, since he was writing to the Admiralty, but it seems likely. (PRO: ADM 1/1551)

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