HMS Victory - raising the anchor

HMS Victory: Starboard bow
HMS Victory - the starboard bow and anchor

Raising the anchor on board Victory was a major undertaking. Each anchor weighed 2 Tons (2000 Kg) and each anchor cable weighed 4½ Tons making a total lift of 6½ Tons. This load had to be lifted manually - there were no mechanical means of providing power.

HMS Victory: Upper Capstan
The upper capstan

HMS Victory: Lower Capstan
The lower capstan

Two capstans are mounted in the centre of the ship, connected together vertically. Each capstan could take 12 capstan bars - and each bar had space for six men. Thus a total of 144 men would walk around, pushing against the bars to turn the capstan and raise the anchor cable.

The anchor cable was made of best quality hemp - with a cable circumference of 24 inches. This was far too large to be wrapped around the capstan so a smaller messenger cable was wrapped around the capstan drums and clipped to the anchor cable. As the drums rotated the messenger moved taking the anchor cable with it.

HMS Victory: Anchor Cable
Anchor cable in port cable locker

The heavy anchor cable was carefully coiled down in the cable locker. The bulkheads are perforated to allow air to circulate - allowing the cable to dry. Wet cable rotted rapidly.

The cable locker is on the orlop deck - the deck used for tending wounded men in battle. The red painted deck is not to hide the blood - red ochre paint was the cheapest form of waterproof paint available at the time. Below this deck is the hold and it was important to prevent the seepage of water through to the hold below.

When the upper capstan was not in use, the holes for the bars were stopped with specially made drawers. In action these would be filled with dressings for immediate use on wounded men.


St Vincent 1797 - HMS Victory tour index

Page creation: Peter Milford - St Vincent College, February 1997