Weighing anchor on a Clydebuilt blockade runner ~ 1863: Steam or manpower?

Lisa Murphy

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Washington State
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Anchor from the blockade runner 'Modern Greece', Fort Fisher, from the The Official Tourism Development Authority for New Hanover County.

On the more advanced Clydebuilt blockade runners (the Fergus, for example), how was the anchor raised, by steam or by manpower?
And I assume that the anchor was attached to chain, or were they still using Hempen lines?
On this (most excellent) models of the Fergus, I can't recognize evidence of the answer, one way or another.

Model of the Fergus from Cowan's Auctions website:
Fregus bow.JPG
 

Lisa Murphy

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I found a piece of an answer in " A MANUAL OF MARITIME CURATORSHIP":

"Steamships had windlasses which were driven by steam, usually with a miniature steam engine geared to the barrel of the windlass. The windlass was also fitted with gearing to allow the cable to run out freely when anchoring and also to mesh in with the rope drums at each end of the windlass. These could be used to haul in mooring ropes. Ships today still need windlasses but the age of steam or manpower has long since passed.

Steam could be applied to capstans. The Elliott & Garrood patent steam capstan, first used in 1884, had a small engine built on top of the capstan itself. It was very popular for hauling drift nets and was installed on sailing and steam fishing boats."

And on the plan of the Fergus (below), just aft of the main mast, there is a drawing of what appears to be the windlass, marked "two speed geared." (Good luck seeing this on the tiny reproduction, but I can see it on my larger paper plan.) I assume this is the same windlass seen on the photo of the model, above. Still not clear if this is stream or manual... does anyone know this?
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Rhea Cole

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It is important to know that the anchor was attached to a hawser, ie heavy rope. Hundreds, potentially thousands of pounds of waterlogged rope came through the hawse hole as the anchor was weighed. The capstan or windlass was connected to the hawser via a second line, the traveler. The traveler was, in effect, a moving loop. Had the anchor line been directly attached to the capstan/windless, there would have been a huge coil of very heavy wet, muddy rope on the deck to deal with as the ship was getting the under weigh.

The anchor line was “nipped” onto & off of the “traveler” as the hawser came onboard. As it was unhitched from the traveler it fed into the cable tier below. The successive hitching & unhitching allowed the long anchor line to be brought aboard to be stowed very efficiently to dry. The vile muck & water from the soaked cable dropped into the bilge & was pumped overboard from there. The smell was quite another matter.

Raising & securing anchors of the type shown in the photo is a complex evolution. That much dead weight dangling alongside was a danger to man & hull.
 
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Lisa Murphy

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Ah ha! I see. Thank you, Rhea. I took this little diagram from a YouTube video "How do you bring up an anchor on a ship of the line?".
So, if my blockade runner was in hiding in a cove (hotly pursued), and she was ready to depart and sneak away, she would, I presume, go through this process. The accounts by blockade runner captains that I've read mention small crews (thirty or less), with some quite small, 8-10. Seems that this might have been quite a challenge without steam assist! And chains rattling were definitely NOT a good idea for a ship that requires stealth in a wide variety of dangerous situations. So perhaps hempen rope?

capstan.JPG
 

Rhea Cole

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Ah ha! I see. Thank you, Rhea. I took this little diagram from a YouTube video "How do you bring up an anchor on a ship of the line?".
So, if my blockade runner was in hiding in a cove (hotly pursued), and she was ready to depart and sneak away, she would, I presume, go through this process. The accounts by blockade runner captains that I've read mention small crews (thirty or less), with some quite small, 8-10. Seems that this might have been quite a challenge without steam assist! And chains rattling were definitely NOT a good idea for a ship that requires stealth in a wide variety of dangerous situations. So perhaps hempen rope?

View attachment 391020
Actually, the mechanical advantage of either a capstan or winch made raising an anchor a routine evolution. In an emergency, the anchor could be “slipped” leaving it in place marked by a buoy.
 

Lisa Murphy

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I wonder how long it took to raise an anchor, say ... a boat like the Fergus at ~210 feet long with a winch and a crew of maybe 30. Her draft was only 9 feet, so she could tuck into pretty shallow coves when needed, so that would speed things up at bit.
 

Lisa Murphy

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Washington State
This is from Belle Boyd's memoir, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison (1865), as she slipped out of Wilmington aboard the Greyhound:

"About ten o'clock orders were given to get under way. The next minute every light was extinguished, the anchor was weighed, steam was got up rapidly and silently, and we glided off just as 'the trailing garments of the night' spread their last folds over the ocean!"

One gets the impression of a pretty fast process, by no means the 5 hours and 300 men needed to weigh anchor on a ship of the line.
 

Rhea Cole

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You only do that when you are making a break for it. It was an emergency measure. Nobody carries extra anchors.
If you want to have some fun learning this stuff, read Patrick O’Brian novels. He wrote the best historic novels ever written. They are about a Napoleonic era British captain. I made an Atlantic crossing as crew on the reproduction 6th rate frigate used in the movie Master& Commander based on the O’Brian novel. The novels are right on the money.
 

Rhea Cole

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View attachment 391054

View attachment 391057

Here is a model of the blockade runner Hope, from 1863, taken off Charles Miller LTD auctioneer website. So, clearly using a chain. And I think that is a capstan and not a winch. And there does not seem to be any engine attached. Not sure, of course, how perfectly accurate this is.
If you look at the covered deck in the bow, there is a capstan beside the anchor chain. The anchor would have been weighed via messenger wound around that capstan. I assume it was steam powered given the close quarters.
 

Rhea Cole

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Just a note on raising an anchor with a capstan. Two anchors forward & one aft might have to be raised.
The anchor line was not hanging straight down. It was, depending on depth, hundreds of feet long & hanging at an oblique angle, i.e., the hypotenuse of a right triangle. A surprising length of extremely heavy water soaked hawser had to be hauled onboard.
The capstan pulled the ship over the anchor until it was right over the anchor. Everything had to be ready to let go & haul & sheet home when the anchor broke free of the bottom. Really crack crews would get under weigh & “snatch” the anchor. That took some real seamanship, dragging the anchor or fouling the line at that point could have lead to some dreadful complications.
 

Lisa Murphy

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Location
Washington State
If you want to have some fun learning this stuff, read Patrick O’Brian novels. He wrote the best historic novels ever written. They are about a Napoleonic era British captain. I made an Atlantic crossing as crew on the reproduction 6th rate frigate used in the movie Master& Commander based on the O’Brian novel. The novels are right on the money.
Yes! I love Patrick O'Brian. I read him in the entirety (all 18 vols) many years ago and had forgotten. I shall reread him.
That must have been an amazing trip. I'm jealous! Were you up in the yardarms and holystoning the deck? And I imagine that the living conditions were a bit tighter and cruder than modern folks are used to.
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"The replica of HMS Rose in 2000 painted to resemble Surprise at O'Brian's suggestion" From Wikipedia.
 

Lisa Murphy

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Washington State
If you look at the covered deck in the bow, there is a capstan beside the anchor chain. The anchor would have been weighed via messenger wound around that capstan. I assume it was steam powered given the close quarters.
"Given the close quarters" meaning there appears to be no room for the posts sticking out of the Capstan and the men who would need to walk around it?
 

Story

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Great thread, well-illustrated. @AndyHall

I'll just hazard that at this point with steam machinery, not having a method for man-powered backup could be quite a liability (even if it meant shortened levers/bars).
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I would tend to think the blockaders would be more apt to 'slip the anchor' and leave a buoy when beginning a chase after the runner.
Lubliner.
Slipping is an emergency procedure. Snatching an anchor was the technique for getting under weigh quickly. Keep in mind, it is not only the anchor, but the hawser that is being left behind. A couple hundred feet of hawser is no small thing & can’t readily be replaced.
 
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