We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Cathead?

By Paul Scott
Updated Feb 26, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A cathead is a large wooden beam attached to the front of a sailing ship which aided in lowering, raising, and supporting the ship's anchor. In addition, it prevents damage to the ship's hull by keeping the anchor at a safe distance from it. During the heyday of this hull member, these beams were usually fitted in pairs, one on either side of the ship, and were often embellished on their outer ends with carvings of lion or cat heads. Although not documented, these decorations are thought to have been the source of the name. The beam was equipped with a pulley or sheave at either end over which the anchor rope passed and which facilitated the raising and lowering of the anchor.

Anchors of one or another description have been used since antiquity to provide a temporary mooring point for vessels of all sizes. The anchors on the wooden hulled sailing ships of old were typically kept suspended from a rail in the bow, or front, of the ship while underway and lowered to the sea bed to provide stable mooring for the ship when at rest. These anchors were fairly cumbersome items often weighing in excess of 2,000 lbs. (900 kg), thereby making their lowering and raising no simple task. On most large sailing vessels, a hull member known as a cathead was used to ease this task and to protect the ship from damage by the swinging anchor when it neared the hull on retrieval.

Consisting of a stout timber beam attached to the bow of the vessel and projecting over the side at an angle, the cathead allowed crews to lower and raise the anchor away from the hull with an element of mechanical advantage. These beams were typically fitted in pairs, one on either side of the ship's bow, and attached to lateral spars known as cat beams. The outer ends of the cathead were typically carved with ornate lion or cat head figurines. Although the exact origin of the cathead name is not known, these carvings were almost certainly the source of the cathead name.

The cathead was generally equipped with rotating pulleys or sheaves on both ends. The anchor rope and chain passed from the deck, through an opening in the ship's side known as a hawse pipe, and over these sheaves. This arrangement served to not only ease the passage of the anchor but to keep it away from the ship's side. Once the anchor reached the cathead, it was secured to the rail of the ship for the next leg of the voyage.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.