Anchor Hoy

Following is some general information and background on the "anchor hoy".

For information on the first model, built from the Grimwood plan, click here.

For information on the second model, built from plans found in the National Archives and combining reconstruction done by Grimwood, click here.

In general, a "hoy" is a name for a working boat, often a vessel used in a harbor or port for the various chores involved in shipping goods and supplying ships. Large sailing ships often anchored some distance off shore, especially when their draft was greater than the depth of the harbor near inshore or when the depth of water varied greatly with the tides. These larger ships were serviced by small boats which carried cargo and crew to and from the vessels and also carried to the ships all the cargo, supplies, provisions, freshwater, and such needed for the next voyage. The "anchor hoy" was one example of this type of coastal/harbor craft. This specialty vessel was designed and adapted to carry large anchors or similar heavy objects from ship to ship or ship to shore and to transport or relocate heavy mooring anchors, often reused ship anchors, when they needed to be re-positioned. Also, they were able to recover anchors "lost" in shallow waters, as will be discussed later.

I first saw mention of an anchor hoy in the book by V.R.Grimwood "American Ship Models and How to Build Them".

Photo of the Grimwood book cover

To the left is a picture of the Grimwood book and below is a photo of the plans for an anchor hoy in the book. I drafted a plan in 1:48 scale based on this plan and scratch-built a model of the vessel in the latter 1990s. My plan included drawing up the individual frames including the tapered shaping of the forward frames as I had seen in other plans. Something I would not bother doing again, as it is easier to cut the frames to the untapered size, frame the hull using the Hahn technique (see notes on the Raleigh) and taper the frames in situ. That said, if you want to more accurately model the frames and/or finish the inside of the hull, you will need to taper the inside of many frames, particularly any cant frames, and that is best done before setting up the frames on the keel. I now still generally cut the frames slightly oversize and taper the inside at the time I set the frame up, using a power sander, then once the frames are on the keel, taper the outside of the frames as needed to get a smooth run for the planking.

Plan for Anchor Hoy from Grimwood

The First Anchor Hoy Model (Grimwood plans)

Following are some photos of the first anchor hoy model built over the Grimwood plans.

The model was scratch built in 1:48 scale using afromasia wood for the frames, planking and deck and maple for deck details. Sails are made from light weight cotton fabric. The rigging was purchased line in various diameters. The anchor was made from ebony. It ended up being a fairly interesting model, although the planking was not done accurately, but I was satisfied with the result. But before too long, I found that an Anchor Hoy is a fairly common subject for ship modelers as I discovered there are multiple other models made over the Grimwood plan pictured on the internet.

The second Anchor Hoy Model (National Archives Plan)

Below are some photos of the plans I found in the National Archives for an "anchor hoy". Most of the plans in the Archives are in 1/4" or 1/2" to the foot, so for this model, I photo-reduced the plan to 3/16" (1:62) scale, as for the last decade or so I have been building all sailing ship models in the same scale. I do this for two reasons: first, it makes an easy way to compare the size and construction details of different vessels - a "light" frigate (Raleigh) versus a "heavy" frigate (Constitution); and, second, it lets me use fitting on several models. When I make blocks, for example, or deadeyes, I make a great many of them, to have extra on hand for the next model.

At first, I intended to model this vessel with planking left off part of the deck and hull to expose the gearing mechanism of the double capstan. But I was unable to find satisfactory information about how such a geared device would have been constructed in the early 1800s. I first thought to make up large wooden gears similar to those used in windmills, but that seemed an older technology, and I found some illustrations suggesting that by the early 1800s such gears might have been a wooden wheel with a metal rim, the rim being of cast iron and having the teeth in the casting. In the end, I could not be certain what the mechanism might have looked like, so I decided to make the model as a diorama, with figures on it that would illustrate how the vessel might have operated. By this time, I had become more interested in how various tasks were done on a ship and wanted my models to show how things worked as much as what they might have looked like. So the model developed into a story. In the story, the vessel is operating in relatively shallow water retrieving an anchor lost by a larger ship when the anchor flukes became lodged in rocks and the anchor chain broke. Telling the story required that I understand a bit about how ships anchored and how an anchor might be retrieved if lost.

When a ship dropped anchor, the anchor had attached to it an "anchor buoy", which was a length of stout rope, secured at one end to the lower end of the shaft of the anchor, not at the top ring where the anchor cable itself attached. The other end of the buoy rope which was somewhat longer than the depth at which the anchor lay, held a wooden float. This float served two purposes. First, it marked the position of the ship's anchor for other vessels so they would not drop anchor nearby and foul the two cables or sail over the anchor cable of the buoyed anchor cutting the cable. And second, the buoy rope served as a way to retrieve the anchor if it was not possible to bring the anchor up by pulling on the anchor cable alone. Anchors of the time were designed to bury one of the flukes into the bottom, and sometimes they lodged so securely, they could not be brought to the surface by hauling in the anchor cable, as pulling on the top ring of the anchor might only bury the fluke deeper into the bottom, or lodge it more tightly in a rocky bottom. The buoy cable, however, was secured to the lower end of the anchor shaft, so pulling on it would retract the anchor in the opposite direction and presumably free the fluke lodged in the bottom. If a ship was in a hurry and needed to leave anchorage quickly, the crew might cut the anchor cable of a stuck anchor, leaving the buoy to mark the location for retrieval at a later time.

In the "story" of this model, an anchor became lodged in some rocks, and the anchor chain, broke at a weak link when the crew of the ship began to haul in the cable when weighing anchor. The anchor hoy crew has arrived on site and hauled the buoy on deck, run the buoy rope over the heavy davit on the bow, and secured it with a quick release wooden peg to the end of a large tackle block. The hauling end of this tackle passes up through a block on the mast, then down to a second large block then back to the secondary driven geared capstan and around it. The large tackle used to haul the anchor is secured at its upper end to the mast, which is in turn supported by multiple shrouds, more and heavier than would be needed for a simple sailing mast. In this case, the mast does not carry the main sail, which is instead mounted to a try-mast just aft of the main mast. This arrangement permits the mast itself to function largely as a crane for the davit tackle, although it does also carry a small topmast. In this story, once the buoy rope was secured and tensioned slightly with the capstan, the hoy first sailed a bit in direction opposite to the original position of the ship that lost the anchor, using that motion to pull on the buoy rope and free the stuck fluke. Now, the crew has hauled the anchor free of the bottom and is carefully beginning to haul it up to where it can be secured so the vessel can sail back into the harbor to carry the anchor to the ship that lost it or to another ship or to use it as a mooring point.

The anchor hoy has several specialized features. Most notable are the extremely heavy davit at the bow and the double geared capstans. But the vessel also had a retractable bowsprit and forward rigging and sails that could be moved out of the way when working on retrieving an anchor. In this particular plan, there was also a large water tank below the deck. There is no indication the purpose of this tank, which seems too far forward to act as ballast to counter the weight of an anchor carried on the davit, and may simply reflect that this particular vessel also was a water hoy, carrying fresh water out to ships at anchor. If this speculation were correct, however, I should think the plan would have indicated position of pumps for the water transfer, and there are none depicted. So it remains a mystery.

The plan from the Archives also does not indicate any information about rigging or sails, other than location of the mast. Most, perhaps all, plans from this time, even those of large warships, do not have rigging or sail plans. This was because everybody at a shipyard "knew" how a ship was rigged. All the designer had to do was indicate the position of the masts, and the riggers could take it from there. Dimensions of masts and spars were pretty standardized, and American practices followed by a few years those of the British shipyards. But the sailing master of a ship could revise the rig, even the placement or angle of masts, as he wished, based on the actual performance of the vessel. So, for this model, I based the rigging plan on the Grimwood plans, and modified them as I thought appropriate and as needed to adapt to the somewhat different hull.

Following are photos of the plans from the National Archives.

Anchor Hoy Plan from National Archives Detail of plan showing watertank
Detail showing cabin Detail of anchor davit
In the above pictures of the plans the first picture is the entire plan, next a detail of it showing the watertank. Then a detail of the small cabin and of the anchor davit, which is very different from the one shown on the Grimwood plan.

Hull plan stations Hull specifications
Above on the left is a photo of the plan showing the stations. On the right is a closer view of the specifications/dimensions of the hull as shown on the plan.

Once I had decided I wanted to make a diorama of the hoy retrieving an anchor, I needed to decide on the design of the case. First, I planned a case to hold the hull and model the sea floor. I roughed out the dimensions for this case and then after I had built the hull I used it as a pattern to make a cut out in a piece of acrylic sheet to accommodate the hull at about the waterline. I then completed the model of the vessel and set it aside. Then I made the large anchor the hoy would be retrieving.

Next I decided on the final dimensions of the two part case. The lower part modeled the sea and had to be tall enough to allow the anchor to be suspended above the sea floor, its top would be the acrylic sheet holding the hull, and the upper part of the case would protect the model itself. I then milled the lumber to size for the case, cut acrylic glazing for all the sides and ends and trimmed the sheet I had cut out for the hull to final size.

Once everything had been cut and trial fitted, I made a bottom for the lower case of plywood, primed it, and used plaster to model a gently sloping sea floor with rocks here and there, including some rocks where the anchor had been lodged. I used the anchor and the model itself placed on the top of the lower case to judge final position for all components and to model the sea bed. Also, I drilled a hole in the acrylic holding the hull through which would pass the buoy rope holding the anchor. The sea floor is painted with water colors and then sealed with a matte varnish.

The plastic glazing of the sides and ends of the lower case are textured on the inside with tinted epoxy to create the rippled effect when viewed. I used a very fine emery paper to rough the acrylic slightly then used a tongue blade to apply quick setting clear epoxy adhesive to the glazing. I tinted the epoxy slightly with water borne pigments in shades of light blue and tan and applied several layers to get the effect I wanted. I have done this a few times and find that it probably works better if the glazing is installed in the wood frame before doing this, but is also works fine to do it before assembly as long as you keep the epoxy back from the edges about a quarter inch. I used a similar technique to texture the top of the lower case to resemble the surface of the sea. Again, I used multiple layers of epoxy, some lightly tinted, some clear. As the epoxy started to set, I modeled the slight waves, and when it was further hardened, I used toothpicks to make the peaks and create the slight wake of the boat. Once the sea surface was nearly done, I installed the model and epoxied it into place, doing further multiple applications of epoxy and shaping it as above. I then rigged the line to the anchor and secured it so the anchor hung above the sea floor when the case is lowered onto and fastened to the base.

Once all that was done, I assembled the upper case and installed it onto the lower case.

The model installed on the 
lower case Model on lower case, starboard

The pictures above show the model installed on the lower case with the upper case removed.

Bow of model on the case view of the anchor durinng retrieval

On the left is a picture of the finished model on the base from bow on. You can see the modeling of the sea surface and also get a sense of how the sea bottom appears through this surface. As well, you can see the large davit and the buoy rope to the anchor. The retractible bowsprit, to port of the davit, is withdrawn using the tacke visible on other views, and forwardmost staysails have been furled to permit working the davit.
On the left is a picture taken through the side of the lower case to show how things appear as if under water.

Crew working the capstan Close up of anchor davit

The left hand picture shows the crew at the capstan with the captain at the tiller. There is an additional crewmember standing on the rail at the bow beside the davit to signal the capstan crew when to haul the line to further raise the anchor. An anchor of this size could seriously damage the hull of this small work boat and great care must have been required to safely handle an anchor in these circumstances.
On the right is a photo of the starboard side of the anchor davit

View of the hoy with anchor aweigh

A final picture of the model on the sea. She is bow-down having taken the full weight of the anchor. In this model, I made an anchor about the size of what a ship of the line might have carried, perhaps weighing half a ton. Such anchors weighed from hundreds to thousands of pounds, depending on use. The largest anchors were carried at the bow of ships and often rigged for emergency release if needed. A merchant ship might carry three or four anchors, a warship six to eight. The anchor I made was in the "old admiralty pattern" which was used well into the early 19th century, although, since anchors were made by many suppliers, patterns and weights varied.