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Anchor Windlass
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Seaman - Military manual for the Seaman rate
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Weighing  Anchor
is carried on bearings and is free to rotate, except when the locking head keys are engaged or when the wildcat’s brake is set. Each wildcat has an externally contracting flat hand brake operated by a handwheel. This brake may be used to hold the anchor and chain and to control the speed of descent when the anchor and chain are payed out. Capstan and gypsy heads fitted on windlasses are keyed to the drive shaft and rotate when the windlass power source is turning. When using the heads, apply the wildcat hand brake, then disengage the wildcat lock- ing head. The heads will now operate independently of the wildcats. When the wildcats are used, however, the capstan heads will always rotate. Letting  Go When anchoring and weighing anchor, the ship's first lieutenant is in charge on the forecastle. Aboard most ships, the first lieutenant's assistant is the ship's Boatswain or Chief Boatswain's Mate. The Boatswain’s Mate in charge of the anchor detail musters the detail and makes sure all necessary gear is ready and available for use. The exact procedure may vary for making the anchor ready for letting go, but the following tasks must be performed. The windlass is tested, the anchor in the hawse is freed, the anchor is walked out if anchoring is in deep water or if the bottom is rocky; the brake is set; and the wildcat is disengaged. All but one stopper is taken off and the anchor buoy line is shackled to the chafing  chain  or  pendant. The chain locker is checked for loose gear that may become wedged in the chain pipes or come flying out, endangering personnel on deck. An order then is given to stand clear of the chain. For obvious reasons, it is urgent that all hands obey this order! At  the  command  “STAND  BY”  the  brake  is released and two Seamen-one with a sledgehammer or maul-take stations at the stopper outboard side of the chain. When the command “LET GO” is given, one Seaman  pulls  the  pin  from  the  stopper  tongue. The Seaman with the maul knocks the bail off the tongue of the pelican hook and steps clear. As soon as the Seaman is clear, the brake is fully released. If for some reason the stopper does not fall clear, the chain can still be controlled by the brake. The  Seaman  tending  the  anchor  buoy  tosses  it  over the side and the jack is two-blocked (hoisted all the way up). On the signal bridge, the anchor ball is hoisted. The anchor buoy indicates the actual position of the anchor to which it is attached by floating above it. The buoys are painted a distinctive color; green for the starboard anchor, red for the port anchor, and white for the stern anchor. If an anchor buoy floats on the surface, it is said to be “watching.” An anchor buoy may fail to watch be- cause its line is too short or the line is fouled in the chain. Before anchoring, the line attaching the buoy to the anchor should be adjusted to a length that is a couple of fathoms greater than the depth of the water at anchor- age. This extra length allows for slight fouling, tide variations, or the sinking of the anchor in mud, which might cause the actual depth to be greater than that shown on the navigational chart being used. The anchor buoy and line must be laid up along, and outboard of, the lifelines. It should be put overboard, well clear of the ship the instant the anchor is let go. On ships with power assist hand brakes, the power assist mechanism must be adjusted so when the brake is applied, the chain will not jump off the wildcat when it comes to a stop. An anchor buoy is a valuable time-saver in locating an anchor lost in weighing or one that is slipped in an emergency. Slipping an anchor happens when un- expected circumstances do not permit time to weigh anchor. As soon as the anchor hits bottom the brake is set so the chain will not pile on it. As the ship gains sternway, the brake is released to lay the chain out evenly on the bottom and to control any running movement of the chain. As each chain marking passes the wildcat, the report “(Number) FATHOM ON DECK’ is made to the conning officer on the bridge. The direction the chain is tending  is  indicated  by  pointing  the  arm  and/or reporting “CHAIN TENDING (number) O'CLOCK.” If the chain tends around the stem, the situation is reported to the bridge. The chain must be allowed to run freely or the sharp bend around the stem may damage a link. Detachable links are particularly susceptible to damage  in  this  regard. If the anchor chain starts to get near the sonar dome, this situation is reported to the bridge, because anchor chain rubbing against the sonar dome can cause serious damage to it. 4-10

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