General Question

twothecat's avatar

Where is the ship's anchor located on a 16th or early 17th century vessel?

Asked by twothecat (367 points ) February 14th, 2012

I’m writing a story which describes a caravel, and have looked at lots and lots of illustrations online, but I can’t seem to find a website that shows the boat in greater detail. I’d really like to know what the insides look like, as well as the position of the anchor. Is it fore or aft? Which side, port or starboard?

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8 Answers

janbb's avatar

From what I know about sailboats, it would have to be fore so the boat can drift backward and “set” the anchor.

twothecat's avatar

That certainly makes sense.

thorninmud's avatar

This painting of the Mary Rose shows it on the port bow. It’s not a contemporary painting, but it has been distributed by the foundation that curates the salvaged wreck, so they must be satisfied with its authenticity.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Many ships carried anchors on both the port and starboard side usually at the bow, so they could set their anchors depending on the local conditions. That and it never hurt to have a spare.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Found some information from the Vasa which was built in 1628, it supposedly carried 6 anchors when it sailed and sank on its maiden voyage.

Two main bowers; one sheet anchor; one stream anchor; and two kedge anchors.

CWOTUS's avatar

If you can find a copy of National Geographic’s Men, Ships and the Sea (from the 60s, I think, or maybe early 70s), then you’ll have one of the best single references I’ve seen for drawings and descriptions of all kinds of early sailing vessels.

The primary anchor for most ships is normally located in the bow, so that the ship will be “head to the seas” as it lies and faces the wind or current, whichever has the stronger effect, and will normally ride over waves coming from the prevailing wind. Facing the stern to the waves can be a lot more dangerous.

That applies when the vessel is “anchored”, and the anchor is intended to hold ground and hold the vessel in place. A “sea anchor” is usually trailed astern of a vessel underway in severe weather, so that it will present its stern to following seas and slow the vessel deliberately. This is a tactical maneuver requiring constant vigilance to be sure the vessel isn’t swamped.

As conditions worsen and the vessel stops trying to run with the storm, then the sea anchor can be rigged from the bow as the vessel drifts and faces the winds and waves.

The other survival technique for vessels at sea in a storm (when conditions are too severe for “sailing”) is to simply “lie ahull”. That is, to take down all sails, close and batten all hatches, pull in all sea anchors and trailing lines and simply drift. This is very dangerous for modern sloops, and is usually only done when nothing else can be done (simple “survival conditions”), but was a surprisingly effective move with some of the old caravels. With their very high freeboard aft and the balance of the vessel, this enabled the hull itself to act as a kind of sail that helped stabilize the craft, enabling it to more or less hold a position as if it were hove to. (You’ll have to look up “heaving to” elsewhere; I’m not going to try to explain that here now.)

anartist's avatar

@thorninmud‘s illuatration of Mary Rose, a carrack and very similar to a caravel, is very informative. The anchor is hung so it can be released from above-deck then lowered by releasing the cable through the hawse pipe below deck. Both anchor and hawse pipe are visible in the Mary Rose. A matching anchor would be on the starboard side.

twothecat's avatar

Thank you to all!

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