The Capstan

Trainees walking the capstan around, raising anchor.


View of the capstan from main fighting top. The sail in view is the mizzen staysail.

The capstan is a large manual winch used for any extremely heavy lifting aboard the ship, which usually means raising the anchor. The anchors that we normally use, navy stockless types housed in each hawsepipe, weigh about 1200 pounds each. To this we normally attach one or more shots (each 90 feet) of chain weighing around 500 pounds. A cable is wrapped around the base of the capstan and the wooden capstan bars are inserted in all of the holes around the top. Then, with very few exceptions, every hand on board the ship heaves the capstan around. The cable is wound up and the anchor is raised. The capstan is also used when raising or lowering upper masts and yards. It is never used for raising sail.

Standing at the capstan, have a look to either side of the ship. You'll see where the lines run from aloft down to wooden rails where they are belayed to pins all along the length of the rail. Rose has over nine miles of standing and running rigging. As a trainee you'll learn to identify the majority of this maze of ropes. Before the end of the week, you'll not only know the name and purpose of every line on this pinrail, but you'll probably know nearly all the lines on all the pinrails and be hauling on many of them.

Before we move on, take a moment to have a look at the rig of Rose. If you look up directly, you'll see the mainmast. Rose is a "full-rigged ship" meaning she has three masts, all of them carrying square sails. The foremast and mainmast each have three sections to their masts: the lower, top, and topgallant masts. The mizzen mast is the mast furthest aft and carries only a lower mast and topmast. The white part is the lower mast. On Rose, the lower masts are steel and the topmasts and topgallant masts are wooden, typically pine or spruce.

For a better illustration of the rig, have a look at the ship's specifications.

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Last Updated: Sat, Jul 10, 1999

All photos and text copyright © 1996-1998 HMS Rose Foundation. Used with permission only.