Sunday, 22 August 2010

The "Stockless" Anchor

We had dinner the other night with the great-grand-daughter of William Wasteneys Smith, who took out a patent in 1871 for an improved version of the stockless anchor, invented fifty years earlier. As my own great-grandfather Robert Sewell was also an inventor (he patented the Sewell Cushion Wheel in 1900, a pre-pneumatic design which flourished for a few short years until it was superseded by an actual pneumatic tyre dreamt up by a young whipper-snapper called Dunlop), we were able to swap stories about these contemporaries who dabbled and experimented in workshops on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Before stockless versions came on the scene, virtually all anchors were, well.. stocked. The stock is the moveable arm at the chain end of the classic fisherman's anchor, by means of which an anchor could be forced, under load, to topple over so that the working parts, the flukes, could engage the seabed. It was a simple and effective idea, but with the great disadvantage that it was bulky in three dimensions and therefore hard to haul in and stow, without damaging the hull of the boat.

By contrast, the stockless anchor hung flat when lowered and raised, and had swivelling flukes which engaged when the heavy shoulders with which they were cast, forced them to rotate away from the main arm, or shank, and bite with enormous holding power. The Wasteneys Smith anchor had several major modifications, including flukes which swivelled independently of one another - and it was efficient enough to be taken up by shipping companies and navies around the world, finding its way onto numerous illustrious ships including Ark Royal and Hood, and, in basically the same design and long after the lapse of the patent, onto the very ferry on which we crossed the Irish Sea last week.

I have an advertisement for the Sewell Cushion Wheel, extolling its many virtues ("The first set of Sewell Cushion Wheels, made in 1908, are still in operation on a Grabowsky truck owned by Marx Market, Detroit, and have run over seventy-five thousand miles") from 1914 - the same year, as it happens, in which William Wasteneys Smith died.
blog comments powered by Disqus