THE ANCHORS OF HERMIONE March 25, 2014
FROM WEIGHTY REALITY ON THE HIGH SEAS TO HANDSOME BRASS BUTTONS ON BLAZERS, NAVY UNIFORMS AND WOOLEN PEA COATS, ANCHORS HAVE SERVED AS FAITHFUL NAUTICAL ACCESSORIES FOR MILLENNIA.
AN 18TH CENTURY ENGRAVING DISPLAYING THE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS AND PARTS THAT MAKE UP AN ANCHOR, NOTE THE WOODEN STOCK AT FAR LEFT, IDENTICAL IN FORM TO THAT OF THE HERMIONE, WHOSE ANCHOR STOCKS ARE ALSO MADE OF WOOD.
HOISTED AND READY TO SAIL: THIS IMAGE DISPLAYS A PRINCIPAL ANCHOR ABOUT THE SIZE AND WEIGHT AS THE ONE ON THE HERMIONE; HERE PICTURED IS THE GÖTHEBORG, A SAILING REPLICA (LIKE THE HERMIONE) OF AN 18TH-CENTURY SWEDISH EAST INDIAMAN TRADING SHIP.
FOUNDED IN 1928, CARLIER FOUNDRY WAS ESTABLISHED AS THE FIRST INDUSTRIAL CHAIN MAKER IN FRANCE. CARLIER'S FOUNDRY PRODUCED THE IRON, HAND-FORGED CHAINS FOR THE HERMIONE REPLICA.
ALL HANDS ON DECK: IT MAY TAKE MORE THAN 60 SAILORS TO HOIST A HEAVY ANCHOR ON A TALL SHIP, ACCORDING TO HERMIONE CAPTAIN CARIOU.
Anchors with a moveable stock – a stout, iron rod 90 degrees perpendicular to the two arms of the iron anchor – have been around for about 3,000 years; in stone, lead, wood and finally in iron.
It is an eternal symbol of the sea; employed over the centuries to the present, the anchor dresses up buttons on naval uniforms and remains the universal insignia to which all sailors and nautical enthusiasts owe their salute.
In the 18th century, the anchor served as the principal means to station a vessel at port, a temporary stopover, or a halt for repairs. The anchor is the ultimate safeguard when a vessel is in trouble.
Anchors are precious: in 1779 Hermione carried six of them! On the starboard side: the principal anchor, weighing in at almost two tons; another anchor weighing more than 3,300 pounds; another at portside, weighing about 3,000 pounds; and then two smaller ones, each weighing about 1,000 pounds; and last, but not least, one dubbed “last chance”, thrown into the sea to try to prevent a ship smashing up on the rocks or some other incipient nautical nightmare.
Indeed, back then a vessel would be outfitted with numerous anchors because oftentimes they shear off on the rocks; or one or more must be abandoned as hoisting each one up manually takes too much time if a ship must get underway quickly; or even when enemies cut the strong hemp cables connecting them to the ship during a sneak attack.
Today, happily, motors do the work of lowering and hoisting anchors and two are deemed sufficient in the modern era.
Hermione’s anchors come from the famed Carlier iron foundry in St. Amand, France. Each weighs about 3,300 pounds. The stock is fashioned from wood in order to respect the anchor’s historical antecedents. Each anchor chain counts 7 “maillon,” an old marine measure equaling 27,50m each or 192m overall, to starboard and 6 “maillon” to port. The links are made of DN38 steel, which gives it superior resistance to the elements. These chains, outside their superior resistance to regular cables, help notably the effectiveness of the anchor on the bottom due to its sheer weight and the improved pulling angle it creates.
Aboard the original Hermione frigate, it took more than 60 sailors to turn the winch while lowering or raising the main anchor. Today, safety requirements oblige the replica frigate to employ electric winches, which raise and lower lines, chain links and the ship’s pair of anchors.
Meanwhile, the final manoeuver maintains the historic difficulty because the anchor must be put to the “bossoir,” the davit that lifts it from the bottom, with a “poulie de capon” (multiple pulley block,) then hoisted to its stored position by a “candelette” (tackle), “caliorne” (winding tackle), and “palan de bout de vergue” (yard tackle that runs from the yardarm.) This is a heavy operation needing about twenty deckhands and 45 minutes to achieve.
Note to the quartermaster: Do not have too much sail up before the anchor is well home and stored!
Yann Cariou, Captain