What is a Windlass?

   The windlass is a wheel and axle which man uses to raise or pull things. It is used to draw water up from wells. The wheel and axle is one of the six simple machines which make work easier. It can raise heavy loads with only a small force.
   One spoke of a wheel is attached to a rotating rod (the axle). A chain or a rope from a heavy weight is wrapped around the rod, and the weight can be lifted by turning the handle and winding the rope up on the rod. The lifting force depends on how long the spoke is in relation to the radius of the rod. The longer the spoke, the greater the lifting force.
   The Chinese windlass creates much force by the use of axles of two diameters. A ship windlass is a more complicated apparatus. It is hand, steam, or electrically-driven, with chain wheels to move the anchor chain.
   The electrically-driven windlass is generally used to operate a tackle-rigged wire rope. It consists of a drum large enough to contain the hoisting cable when the load is in its upper position, together with a suitable gearset interposed between the winding drum and the driving motor.