a device for raising or hauling objects, usually consisting of a horizontal cylinder or barrel turned by a crank, lever, motor, or the like, upon which a cable, rope, or chain winds, the outer end of the cable being attached directly or indirectly to the weight to be raised or the thing to be hauled or pulled; winch.
device for raising weights by winding arope round a cylinder, c.1400, alterationof wyndase (1293), from Anglo-Fr. windas,and directly from a Scand. source such asO.N. vindass, from vinda "to wind" (seewind (v.)) + ass "pole, beam." (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/windlass)
"They walked, slowly, all the way from one end of the docks to the other, stepping over taut guy ropes and squashed and dried fish carcasses and weaving their way around massive stanchions and windlasses and through labyrinths of stacked crates."
- Lev Grossman, The Magician King