Sailors from the early days of modern tattooing, and as early as the civil war in the United States, would probably not have thought of themselves as participating in “body art.” Instead, tattoos were simply part of being a sailor. Today, however, tattoos with a sailing, boating, ocean, or naval theme fall into a category of tattoo designs whose appeal has spread far wider than sailors, or even people interested in the ocean.
Even so, anchors, ropes, ships, and lifesavers are all designs drawn from the everyday experience of these early travelers. Later images of the “Sailor’s Grave” and “Homeward Bound” expressed part of what occupied the sailor’s thoughts. In addition, their own customs and myths created new uses for tattoos to mark certain achievements and also to provide protection. Under the Maritime Tattoos menu are a selection of some of the well known and also the lesser known maritime tattoo designs, some of which are still finding their way into the skins of the newest tattoo devotees.