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Cape Cod When a Whaler Weighed Anchor

The object of weighing anchor was, of course, to get a ship under way, and not to find out how much the anchor weighed. One must not think, either, that weighing anchor and getting sail spread and the ship headed in the right direction for her course was any simple and quick matter.

Whalers were not always tied up at a wharf when at home; they might be several hundred yards from shore, anchor down, sails furled or dewed up. When word was given to weigh anchor, bars called capstan bars were thrust into a capstan and the men manning the capstan stepped round and round it as it drew up the heavy chain and anchor from the mud. The chain was stowed, and the anchor either “catted” on a “cat-head” jutting from the vessel’s bow or at once taken inboard and secured.

Meanwhile men were aloft breaking out sail according to commands given and headsails —those reaching from foremast to bowsprit and jib boom—were run up. Yardarms had to be hauled round to the right side and angle, sheets and halliards hauled and trimmed and belayed. The man at the wheel maneuvered it according to the skipper’s or mate’s directions. As headsails filled, squaresails were trimmed accordingly, the wheel put over or up a bit, the ship gathered way, and at last with every possible sail for the wind filled and drawing, the ship was squared away and off to sea. The entire operation might require several hours.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 04/11/06
Categories: BoatingHistory
Keywords: history, maritime, whaling


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