Capstan or Windlass Shanties, cont.

Like so many other jobs, this was not as easy as it sounds. Before the anchor could even be lifted from the ocean floor, the whaleship had to be pulled up to it since a length of chain seven times the depth of the water was put out when the anchor was set. If you consider the fact that the anchor could weigh hundreds or even thusands of pounds, you can get a good idea of the strength it took for the sailors, marching 'round and 'round, to haul the anchor in. A shanty that helped them march together and kept their minds off such a long, repetitive job could make a huge difference so these shanties were usually longer melodies with a steady, sustained rhythm that had a marching quality to it.

The windlass was another machine that could be used to raise the anchor but was more often used for pumping the bilge. Since the wooden planks of the whaleship could never be made completely watertight, water always found its way into the bottom of the ship (bilge) and required pumping out on a regular basis. On a well‐built ship, an hour of pumping a day could do the trick, but on a leaky ship in high seas, pumping could go on around the clock. The windlass worked by pumping long handles up and down. This was hard, boring work so shanties like the ones used for turning the capstan were also well suited for the windlass.

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image of capstan

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