Capstan (nautical)

A capstan is a vertical-axled rotating machine developed for use on sailing ships to multiply the pulling force of seamen when hauling ropes, cables, and hawsers. The principle is similar to that of the windlass, which has a horizontal axle.

Modern tourists turn a capstan. Sailors would coordinate the rhythm of their movements by singing a particular type of sea shanty as they walked around the capstan. The tensioned portion of the rope would hoist a foresail and could also be used to lift a heavy spar into position on the mast or to transfer cargo to or from a dock or lighter.