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Every time I look at the drawing of the lower gun deck of the 50 gun ship I'm working on I'm a little puzzled at the placement of the companionway coming down from the upper deck as it's right beside the lower capstan.

I can't imagine an efficient use of the bars on that capstan with such a big obstruction placed there.  I know that some pillars could either be removed, or hinged up to facilitate use of the capstan bars, but I can't imagine a whole companionway being removed or hinged up.

Here's the drawing of the lower deck >



The upper capstan appears to be reasonably accessible  >



Would it be the case that most of the man power would be employed on the upper capstan and the lower capstan would be more of a 'slave capstan'?


However, the drawing creates another problem in my mind -- as it was the lower capstan that had the messenger cable turned around it, and when raising a two ton anchor there would have been extreme load and tension on that messenger ---- I can only imagine that the messenger would have wrecked the stanchions for the hand ropes if not the companionway as well the first time the anchor was weighed ???

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Hatchways were (are) often aligned vertically to allow raising or lowering large or heavy objects from or to lower decks,  therefore ladders were removable. This would obviously also allow for freeing space for the capstan bars.  Vertically aligned hatches and removable ladders continue in modern warships, allowing removal/installation of equipment in engineering spaces.

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Thanks guys for the responses.


As I said in my first post above, I knew that pillars could be moved but didn't think that companionway stairs would have been moved -- but on that score I consider myself re-educated!


Maybe there was a reason (although not one that I can think of) for that stairway to have been positioned exactly there, when, from the drawings it looks like it could have been positioned just ahead making use of that capstan much easier with a lot less 'stuff' to be moved.


If the stairway had been first installed in the position that I've indicated on this drawing it may have been more 'convenient'?  >>>


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Jim,  In looking at deck drawings of other similar ships on the NMM Collections site, the ladders are indeed one hatch over.  Even so, if Goodwin is correct for this time period and the length of a single bar was 1/3 the maximum beam, (The Construction and Fitting of English Man of War, page 150) the bars for Leopard 1790 would be 13' 6' long and interfere with ladders anyway.  He notes that the bars on Victory are 16 feet long which is actually only 0.31 the beam.  Using this in place of the 0.33, the bars are still going to be  12'- 6" long.      In this case the bars interfere with the cabins as well, which of course can be taken down.  Sorry for the poor resolution in the pics below, took the contemporary drawings from the NMM website.  If you go to the site it is a bit more clear.   https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/81517.html



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Thanks Allan, Mark and Henry for the further comments.


Allan, as Henry said "Weighing and raising the anchor is a several hours long process and involved a great number of the crew." I know these bars were very long, although I didn't know their proportions in relation to the ship's beam.  I know that on HMS Victory the capstans could accommodate up to 256 men at one time.


Back in 2003 I sailed on HM Bark Endeavour for 5 days and only on one occasion did we lie at anchor.  Compared to a ship of the line, or even a 50 gun ship, Endeavour is quite small but raising that anchor was one mighty task.  It was done on the ship's windlass and not the capstan but raising that 'smallish' anchor probably took us the thick end of an hour ~ and if my memory serves me correctly (which at this age doesn't always work!) we were helped a little by the ship's electrics.  





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In our german forum we had a nice discussion about the "single bar was 1/3 the maximum beam" . On my Vic it fits perfectly for the lower capstans, but not for those on higher decks as for the curving in of the hull (tumbledome?) as also for the capstans on quarterdecks of frigates with the deck already getting more narrow on top. The conclusion was that the 1/3 beam must have beeb defined by the place and deck the capstan is situated.


Here are some thoughts I had some years ago on my Vic

Red is the 1/3 beam, the others were variations. The small circles are the stanchions that have to be taken out for the bigger circles of the same color.




One can see, that the 1/3 beams works there if the guns are moved. But as the aft capstan was basically worked from the middle deck, these long bars would already touch the hull 😞








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