July 24, 2014

An extremely ufeful inftrument

SOMEONE WHO SIGNS himself or herself “Interested” wants to know what a sheet anchor is. “In several books I’ve read, a person who is steady and reliable is referred to as someone’s sheet anchor, but I’ve never understood what a sheet anchor does on a boat.”

Well, for a start, a sheet anchor doesn’t anchor sheets. I learned this from a copy I have of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1771. It’s only the first volume, to tell the truth, containing words starting with A and B. But among those words is one that interests all boaters: Anchor. And it’s quite interesting to read what they thought about anchors more than 200 years ago. So here goes ...

“ANCHOR, in maritime affairs, an extremely ufeful inftrument, ferving to retain a fhip in its place.

“It is a very large and heavy iron inftrument, with a double hook at one end, and a ring at the other, by which it is faftened to a cable. It is caft into the bottom of the fea, or rivers; when, taking its hold, it keeps fhips from being drawn away by the wind, tide, or currents.

“The parts of an anchor are, 1. The ring to which the cable is faftened. 2. The beam or fhank, which is the longeft past of the anchor. 3. The arm, which is that which runs into the ground. 4. The flouke or fluke, by fome called the palm, the broad and peaked part, with its barbs, like the head of an arrow, which faftens into the ground. 5. The ftock, a piece of wood faftened to the beam near the ring, ferving to guide the fluke, fo that it may fall right and fix in the ground.

“There are feveral kinds of anchors: 1. The fheet-anchor, which is the largeft, and is never ufed but in violent ftorms, to hinder the fhip from being driven a-fhore. 2. The two bowers, which are ufed for fhips to ride in a harbour. 3. The ftream anchor. 4. The grapnel.

“The fhank of an anchor is to be three times the length of one of its flukes; and a fhip of 500 tons hath her fheet-anchor of 2000 weight; and fo proportionably for others, fmaller or greater. The anchor is faid to be a-peak when the cable is perpendicular between the hawfe and the anchor.

"An anchor is faid to come home when it cannot hold the fhip, the cable is hitched about the fluke. To fhoe an anchor is to fit boards upon the flukes, that it may hold the better in foft ground. When the anchor hangs right up and down by the fhip’s fide, it is faid to be a cock-bell, upon the fhip’s coming to an anchor.

“The inhabitants of Ceylon ufe large ftones inftead of anchors; and in fome other places of the Indies the anchors are a kind a wooden machines, loaded with ftones.”

— Well, there you are. Now you not only have encyclopedic knowledge of anchors, but you can read Olde Englishe, too. I guess that makes you quite a fmartafs.

Today’s Thought
In the stormy night it is well that anchors twain be let down from the swift ship.
— Pindar, Olympian Odes

“How’s the new Jewish opera singer getting along?”
“I’m not sure. She doesn’t seem to know if she’s Carmen or Cohen because she’s always so Bizet.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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