TATTOO DESIGNS & SYMBOLS - FULL RIGGED SAILING SHIP TATTOOS
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Full Rigged Ship Tattoo Meanings - A tattoo of a full-rigged sailing ship, with the words, "Homeward Bound" is one of the most recognizable of all maritime and nautical tattoos.
When a full-rigged sailing ship was done as a chest or back piece it was frequently framed in rope and underneath the ship was a scroll with the words, "Homeward Bound", although occasionally the words were tattooed at the top of the design. This tattoo was done in part out of pride for a way of life, but also as an amulet to ensure that a sailor would return home safely.
Within the tattoo lore of sailors, a simple tattoo of a full-rigged sailing ship meant that a sailor had rounded Cape Horn, one of the most inhospitable, dangerous and feared stretches of water in the world, but a necessity for circumnavigating the globe along the trade routes. Cape Horn is located at the southern-most tip of South America and for many years it was a major milestone on the routes of sailing ships, including the famous Clipper Ships (think of a bottle of Cutty Sark!). The waters around Cape Horn are particularly hazardous, due to strong winds, large waves, strong currents - the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans collide there - and icebergs from Antarctica. These dangers have made Cape Horn notorious as a sailors' graveyard and it was a legendary place in sailor's lore, featured in song and story.
Sometimes the storms around Cape Horn were so strong and so violent that safe passage was impossible, and ships would have to "Heave-to" and wait until the winds and currents made rounding the Cape possible.
"Rounding the Cape", or "Rounding the Horn", were synonymous with seamanship and meant that a sailor and his ship had survived and were often then "Homeward Bound". For sailors, rounding Cape Horn was seen as the equivalent of running a marathon for long-distance runners, or climbing Mount Everest for mountaineers. It was no easy feat.
A rather macabre variation of the "Homeward Bound" and "Full-Rigged Ship" tattoos, were the "Sailor's Grave" tattoos. These tattoos often showed a sailing ship sinking beneath the waves, its bow thrust up on a reef or rocks, with a terrible hole ripped in the belly of the ship. Like tattoos of skulls or demons, these tattoos were often done as talismans of protection. And a reminder of just what a harsh mistress the sea could be...
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