Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Capstan, a cylindrical drum, borne on an axial spindle, and capable of being revolved either by manual power, which is applied by means of capstan bars temporarily applied to holes in the upper part of the drum, or by steam power. The drum, when being revolved, is prevented from slipping back by catches or "pawls," which are generally fixed on the deck or platform upon which the capstan rests. The object of a capstan is to facilitate the performance of any work which requires extraordinary effort; and capstans are, therefore, always fitted on board ship, where they are especially used for heaving in cable, and for winding up any heavy bodies. The capstan seems to have been introduced into English ships in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Wooden line-of-battle ships carried two capstans - the fore and the main. Modern ships often carry several, which are now generally moved by steam power, and which are of very various designs.