The Bridge  

Crew Accommodation


Upper Deck 

Hull construction

Machinery & Engines

Steering gear

Ropes and Anchors


                 ROPES & ANCHORS








The ropes on Balmoral are very heavy  ..... the end of the rope is easy to lift, but try pulling or lifting a long length, especially when it is wet ..... and even if the men  in charge of the ropes can move them, it would be impossible for a small number of crew to exert sufficient force to pull the ship into the quay or Pier and hold it in place.  In a sailing ship, the winches or capstans were powered by a large team of men, but Balmoral uses electrically powered equipment (earlier ships had small steam engines).  Electric motors are much easier to use and far simpler to operate !  As you will know, all the ancillary equipment on our ship is electrically powered and the winches take a huge amount of power when under load, this is one of the reasons for the large generators,  and you can see the very thick cable that feeds the electric motor of the forward winch.

As the ship arrives at a pier or landing stage, a lightweight 'heaving line'  is thrown by one of the crew up to the hobbler on the shore.  The hobbler is the person responsible on the pier or dock for mooring the ship.  He catches the lightweight 'heaving line' and then pulls in the heavy mooring rope.  This has a large loop spliced into the end and is dropped over a bollard.  The ship is now attached to the pier but is not positioned.

There is a capstan or winch at each end of the ship and the two teams of operators work together although neither knows what the other is doing.  This is controlled by the Captain!   When the ship is coming alongside the pier or harbour wall, the ropes are made ready with plenty of slack ready to be pulled ashore, but no so much that it might get in the propellers ! That does happen occasionally and causes havoc if it becomes tangled round the propeller shaft.  A skilled Captain will try and stop the ship in exactly the right place so that the gangways can be run out onto the pier or dock wall, but quite often the last few meters will have to be done by pulling on the ropes due to the wind and tide that will always try and move the ship out of line. Several turns of rope are wound loosely round the winch drum and the operator starts the winch turning, but as the rope is loose there is no friction and the rope can actually pay out as well ( the operator has to be very careful he is not dragged into the mechanism if this happens !). However as he pulls the loose end tight, it grips the drum and the end attached to the quay tightens and pulls the ship in. 


Ships use ropes to hold themselves against a pier and dock walls. The ropes are secured to bollards ,  steel posts with a wide top bolted or concreted into the structure of the mooring.   These have to be extremely strong as they not only have to hold the ship steady but have to keep it in place when the wind is blowing or if there is a strong current. The ropes also have to stop the ship moving when it arrives and there can be a huge force exerted as the inertia of the ship - this is its weight multiplied by the speed it is travelling - this force must be taken up by the rope and the mooring bollard.     


When the 'haul in' signal is given on the docking telegraph ( see the section  below for details about this signalling system ) the operator pulls on the slack end of the rope that is wound loosely round the drum of the winch.  This tightens the rope slightly on the drum and it grips the surface.  The amount of tension on the free end of the rope is multiplied several hundred times and the resulting force is enough to move the entire ship, pulling it into the correct position. The Captain signals with the docking telegraph or a hand held radio to tell the winch operator what to do and by heaving in and paying out the ropes at each end of the ship, she can be positioned in exactly the right place regardless of the wind and waves. If the ship is to be moored for any length of time or in bad weather, additional ropes are run ashore to provide additional security.

A skilled crewman can use just a light tension on the free end of the rope to exert a huge force - so much so that it can even break the rope!



You will see that below the hawsehole where the rope enters the ship which is the rounded hole in the side through which the ropes leave the ship, is an anchor.  Unlike a car or bus, a ship has no parking brake and will only stop if it runs aground or is moored to a solid object !  To stop at sea, it is necessary to lower an anchor. This is sometimes called 'Dropping the pick' or 'Throwing out the Hook'. The anchor is heavy steel weight with prongs ( called flutes )  on a very long chain.  It falls to the sea bed and is weighted down by the chain so that it falls onto its side and the flutes dig into the sea bed and prevent it moving.  The ship then pays out a long length of chain so that the weight keeps the anchor almost flat on the bottom, and this holds the ship in one place.  She will actually swing round the anchor as the tide and wind affect her and must be well clear of any obstructions or other ships, but in very simple terms, the anchor is lowered and the ship can then stop.  The anchor holds the chain in position but the heavy chain holds the ship.

It is easy to lower the anchor, but very difficult to get it up as you have to pull all the chain up first and even Balmoral's anchors which are quite small, weigh around 400 kgs each and the chain much more than that. This is also a job for the winch.  The rope drums can be disconnected and the chain lifters driven by the winch motor.  These have 'snugs' into which the links of the chain fit so that it grips and the free end of the chain is fed into a chain locker below the deck.

There is an anchor on each side of the bow.  When the anchor is dropped it is 'let go' and falls under its own weight.  This makes a tremendous noise as it falls, a huge splash and then it slows up as it lands on the sea bed.  Once the chain speed has slowed down, the anchor is allowed some more chain to 'set' in position and then the ship may be reversed very gently to make sure the anchor is holding. The two 'T' handles beside the motor operate a brake band to lock the winch mechanism and when at sea the chain is locked in place using 'bits' and in this photograph, also a steel cable .

A major problem for ships is if the anchor is 'fouled' and catches on an obstruction or cable. As you can't see the bottom there is no way of knowing what is down there.  The chart will show the type of bottom, rock, mud, sand etc but not the exact conditions at a particular point.   In some cases the winch can't pull the anchor up if it is trapped by wreckage or a rock and this might endanger the ship, so the chain has to have a line tied to it and is then cut.  Anchors are expensive, so it is usually necessary to hire a diver to go down and free the anchor and then retrieve it later.  All this takes a lot of time and money and also a reason why the ship has two anchors - in case one is lost !  Balmoral has lost several anchors at Lundy Island over the years but they have all been recovered by diving enthusiasts who attach a rope and float to the chain so that it can be picked up and pulled aboard the ship.  However cutting the cable is the last resort and only done after a major fuss trying to free the anchor by moving the ship about and pulling very hard with the winch ! Even worse is if the anchor happens to land on a telecoms cable or power line.  These should be protected and are all well marked on marine charts but it does happen and occasionally causes havoc by cutting power or communication to islands and remote areas - and a very big bill for the ships owners !



At the stern of the ship is a smaller capstan type winch with a vertical drum.  This is only used for rope handling and does not have a facility for handling chain, although there is a small anchor stored on the rear ( poop ) deck for use in an emergency. The photograph below was taken in 1975 before Balmoral had her car deck enclosed - at this time she was still registered in Southampton. You can see the capstan drum and winch motor and two members of the P & A Campbell crew together with the hawseholes and fairleads used for running out cables.





Before the days of hand held radios, it was necessary for the crew working the mooring ropes to be told what to do, and when to do it.   The ropes have to be tightened and released as necessary to manoeuvre the ship alongside a wall or jetty or to help turn her round in a confined harbour.  This can be  a tricky operation and it is vital to get the ship in exactly the right place - otherwise the gangways won't fit the space made for them on the pier head and passengers can't get on or off!  In the Bristol Channel with fast tides and strong currents this can be a skilled operation. Moving a 600 ton ship in a fast tide with a wind blowing takes a lot of power- and that has to be controlled accurately. The engines can do some of the work, but the final job of securing the ship in the right place and holding her there against wind, waves and current is the job of the ropes.


As you can see from the photographs, the Captain can't see the stern of the ship where the mooring lines are handled and certainly can't shout that far, but he has to be able to tell the crew there what to do.  The ship is equipped with a set of 'docking telegraphs' similar to the engine room telegraph but without the reply facility so that the men on the deck at each end of the ship can moor the ship in the right place. Thiss is the purpose of the second telegraph binnacle on the bridge.  There is no way for the crew to tell the bridge of something is wrong and the directions only go one way.  Thus if a rope breaks or gets jammed, the Captain won't know unless someone runs the length of the ship to tell him.  This was how commands were passed before cheap and lightweight hand held radios.  The system was all mechanical relying on chains, wires and linkages.  It was reliable and as soon as the captain gave a command it was seen by the men on the ropes, but there was no way they could respond.  Using a hand held radio allows a two way flow of information and a much faster and more accurate result.

These days the docking telegraphs are not installed but are fully restored and will eventually be put back in their rightful place.  However handheld radios  make the job easier and faster.