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Using compound pulley systems

Jul 13, 2023

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A block and tackle setup on a historic sailing ship. Although this simple tool has very old roots, it’s still useful today.

While teaching OUPV classes to future captains up in Alabama, I had the opportunity to wander down a pier and observe a few fishing boats offloading their catch. To my surprise, many of these boats still employed the use of compound pulley systems (also known as block and tackle) to either offload their catch or assist with the lift of other equipment onboard. Watching the deck crew employ this ancient system inspired me to write a column on the dying art of rigging, using compound pulley systems.

A block and tackle consists of a few basic components. First is the block itself, which is made up of a pulley (also known as a sheave), an axle and a bearing for the pulley to ride on. All of these parts are enclosed in the shell that make up the block-and-tackle.

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Capt. Jack R. Sanzalone is a 30-year submarine veteran and licensed USCG Master Captain and assessor with 41 years of experience. He is the owner of Boat Tutors and The Captain School of Orange Beach, Ala., and teaches both basic and advanced boating education. Contact Capt. Jack at [email protected] or visit his website,

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