a true sailor tattoo


I just noticed that someone had arrived at one of my blogs from a web-search for “hold fast” tattoos. It’s something that seems poorly documented online, so I thought I might talk a bit about traditional sailor tattoos.
Tattooing is an incredibly ancient form of art and self-expression. From the earliest age of sail, sailors traveling farther and farther abroad had begun to encounter indigenous people who had tattooed themselves for years. Sailors often got tattooed themselves as a form of souvenir, to show where they had been. Even today, sailors tend to be somewhat superstitious, and generally very aware of symbolism. Tattoos are a most intimate way of associating a symbol (and accompanying meaning) with yourself.
Many “traditional” tattoos have their roots in the history and customs of sailors. The “hold fast” tattoo i have is extremely traditional. It has since been adopted by other tattooing subcultures, but the original intent was to prevent sailor’s hands from slipping on lines, or to secure yourself to the riggin’ when working aloft in weather. To many sailor-folk, the meaning of “hold fast” is obvious enough, but those whose ear’s aren’t trained to it, it might sound a contradiction.
On board, a line (a rope to you lubbers) is “fast” when it is firmly and positively secured. In traditional sailing vernacular, many line- and sail-handling commands have been extended to include persons as well. To “belay” a line is to secure it with a series of turns (wraps) around a cleat, pin, bit, or kevel, stopping it from further motion. Likewise, to call out “Belay that!” might just as well apply to a person doing some undesirable activity, or to stop a previous order from being carried out.
Many other traditional sailor tattoos have their origins in superstition. One great example is the pair of tattoos of a pig on one foot, and a rooster on the other. The implication is that both these animals fear water, and that they will keep a sailor’s feet from sinking into the depths, speeding them back to land all the sooner. The ubiquitous nautical star is variously representative of the polar star itself, or of the compass card; both are to help the sailor find (and keep) their way.
Other sailor tattoos are celebrations of particular milestones. A fouled anchor on the forearm signifies that the sailor has crossed the Atlantic. Small blue stars on the hands signify trips made around Cape Horn. I have read references to turtle tattoos for those who have sailed across the Equator. I also seem to recall something about those traditional swallow tattoos on the shoulders being markers to show the crossing of the Tropics Of Cancer and Capricorn.
I occasionally encounter people with these tattoos who have little idea of their cultural and historical significance. I usually take a little time to try and explain it to them, as I feel that sailing traditions are extremely important to us all. Having my hands tattooed makes me a bit of an ambassador, I guess. My own tattoo artist felt very privileged to be able to “put a real sailor tattoo on a real sailor”.
If you’ve encountered other traditions or histories relating to sailor tattoos, please comment!

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  1. adam’s avatar

    I want to know what a maritime captains, cheif engineer, and first mate symbol looks like. I know the captains is a ship wheel, and I think a cheif engineer has the anchor, what about the first mate?

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    1. james’s avatar

      engineering is a prop deck is a wheel and an anchor

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    2. Jim’s avatar

      Adam –
      IIRC from my days at New York Maritime I would say the Chief Engineer’s symbol wouldn’t be an anchor at all, it would be a screw (three bladed propeller) as that is the symbol of the engineering department. As for the deck side guys, I don’t know that there is a seperate symbol for the Master (Captain) and the Chief Mate (1st mate) all “deckies” wore a fouled anchor, and the rank (on the few occasions we weren’t wearing working uniforms) was denoted by the number of stripes on your shoulderboards (not unlike officers in the USN).

      I hope this helps some…

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    3. Schwander’s avatar

      I actually have the rooster and pig tattoos. They can also traditionally be found on the back of the knee not only the foot. I put mine on my calfs due to the fact that foot and joint tattoos do not hold up well. When I was a teen I got caught in the rigging of a sail boat when it capsized. When I was told about these tattoos I put my back piece on hold and made my next visit be the pig and rooster. I live in a rural inland area now and alot of people think that my leg tattos are farm related. They are often very interested in the true meaning of these. The updated version of the pig and rooster tattoo is to put a screw or propeller on each butt cheek.

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    4. jessica nicole davis’s avatar

      just wanted to throw in that ‘hold fast’ is danish… the danes being the kings of the sea… it originated with them and bled to the rest of the sailing community.

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    5. stephanie’s avatar

      Very informative. I love to know the meaning of designs I am asked to draw for tshirts.

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    6. Tim’s avatar

      I just got a pig and rooster tattooed on my feet. I got the rooster on the left and the pig on the right. I got these because i love to be on the water and want them to bring me good luck. i didn’t get the rooster on the right because I don’t like to fight. If I did I would still have it on the left because I’m a lefty. 🙂 That’s my spin on it. Thanks

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    7. dave’s avatar

      just added to my tattoo collection, i have now got a nautical star on each of my shoulders , so no matter what direction i look, i will always know where home is. and next month i have booked my tattooist to do a pair of swallows on my chest, one red and one green, for my 10,000nm done at sea.

      Able Seaman (Warfare Specialist) First Class Burrows
      david-burrows@hotmail.co.uk

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      1. scotty’s avatar

        well done mate. how long you planning on, lifer?

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        1. dave’s avatar

          absolutely!! i’m in for the long run.

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        2. jj’s avatar

          its ship-mate we are not in the Aussie navy.

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          1. osteoderm’s avatar

            Some of us are.

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          2. Rob’s avatar

            When I sailed to the Marquesas, French Polynesia, in 1979, the young fellows there were just begining to Tattoo themselves again. They were doing a “jailhouse” method but the family/clan patterns they were using had been preserved by the women’s Tapa Cloth Block Printing.
            After that voyage I was eligable for two swallows and a turtle! Several of my tattoo pieces are traditional sailor and bases on rites of passage. My major work is some awesome pirate work my artist in Fort Lauderdale did. Also my chest piece of the Extreme Clipper “Norther Lights”, Joshua Slocum, Master. The marlinspike border came out beyon my imagination.

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          3. Lewis’s avatar

            I need to know what sailors first used to make the tattoos – before tattoo artists and motorised needles and things.

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          4. osteoderm’s avatar

            Although indigenous peoples around the world have been marking their skin in many ways throughout pre-history, tattooing and sailors probably first met in the South Pacific and the Asian Pacific Rim. You’ll find plenty of material online regarding the traditional tattoo practices of those areas.

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          5. ryan’s avatar

            I thought the term “hold fast” meant to stand or stay still with courage?
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holdfast_(disambiguation)

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            1. osteoderm’s avatar

              I can’t find the exact reference at the moment, but I’m pretty sure “fast” in this context is an Anglicisation of an originally Scandinavian term meaning something like “secure”. The last Danish fellow who tried explaining it to me made great sense at the time, although the combination of my rum ingestion and his poor English has blurred the details.
              From this, we might also get “Stand Fast”; both can be taken as being “meant to stand or stay still with courage”, but this is an extension upon the older nautical usage.

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              1. njguy’s avatar

                I work in Fire Department communications. We use ‘Stand Fast’ when we no longer want a unit to continue responding to a scene, but to remain staged where they are. We use ‘Hold Fast’ when we want a unit to remain on or near the scene. Though I don’t think anyone is tattooing either for those reasons.

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              2. JUSTIN’s avatar

                I have a pretty nice pig and rooster set on my feet. Im traditional sailor to the fullest. text mt to see. 9518670410

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                1. chuck’s avatar

                  Hello, would love to see a picture of your tattoos, i have interest in everything related to the sailing, as I have spend the better part of the last 10 years at sea, from being a fisherman to now being a stoker in the navy thanks alot chuck

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                2. Taylor’s avatar

                  Hi all.
                  I happened to stumble across this blog while searching for new sailor tats. I’m a 19 y.o. female with four tattoos, two of which have nautical meaning. While I’m not a true sailor, Im a sailor at heart. If I had it at all in me to be in the navy, I would be. I’ve been complemented numerous times on my swallow (nontraditionally on my left hip) by people with no idea what it means. I also have crossed anchors on my foot which a friend and I both got when visiting her father, who is in the navy. Id like to get another swallow on my right shoulder blade as well as the rooster and pig and a rope around my wrist with the words “Death Before Dishonor.” I often feel bad because I don these tats without earning them, but I know that I appreciate the true meaning of them much more than other people and I also appreciate the people that do earn them. I was wondering, however, if there was any nautical meaning behind an octopus tattoo because I am hoping to get one under my swallow for some cohesion?

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                  1. Mark’s avatar

                    You can get whatever tattoo’s you like, however, death before dishonor, is reserved for people who have been in combat. Unless you would truly die before dishonoring your country and comrades, I woulden’t get it.

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                  2. Joe’s avatar

                    the octopus tattoo is generally reserved for navy divers. its their symbol as much as the diving bell (air fed helmet) is.

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                  3. Victoria’s avatar

                    great post. thanks for sharing the origins of traditional tattoos–the meaning of which are obscure to the common person such as I

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                  4. Bibi’s avatar

                    The danish meaning of ‘Hold fast’. Hold fast means hold on (directly translated).
                    ‘Hold’ means to hold or to hold on. ‘Fast’ means means to be constant and not change.
                    I’m danish my self, so I’m pretty sure about the translation.

                    Since many traditional sailor tattoos are about superstition or meant to bring luck, ‘Hold fast’ would make sence on the hands of the men working on the deck of the ship, reminding them to hold on to the ropes.

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                  5. Avery’s avatar

                    I just got back from a 5 month voyage on a beautiful barquentine. I’ve always wanted a tattoo, now I just have to wait another year until (I’m not old enough, unfortunately) I can get an anchor (not fouled… that’s not a good thing at all), a sea turtle, and my two swallows (one for the first 5000 nm travelled, and one for the second). I would also love to get HOLD FAST but I don’t really want them in such a visible place, though they do lose a little bit of meaning when they aren’t actually where you hold anything… I also want a compass rose.

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                  6. justin the ordie’s avatar

                    Ive been in the U.S. NAVY for 5 years now i have made four cruise around the world. but i only have two sparrows the banner and next will be the pirate ship. After that will probably be the pig and rooster. Though i have seen many virations of nautical tattoo’s. im a big fan of them but word to the wise if you going to get a tattoo because it looks cool know the meaning first. make it your own and and stay true to yourself. tattoos are forever. but hey i only have 8 tat’s for now but plan on getting more. and loving every minute of it.

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                  7. sarah nicole’s avatar

                    i know that the anchor if for crossing the atlantic but what do you get for crossing the pacific?

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                    1. osteoderm’s avatar

                      The usual tattoo for a Pacific crossing is a dragon, although this more properly refers to having served in the Asian Pacific naval theater. Of course, I’ll defer to the Navy commenter here to clear that one up 😉

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                      1. Old Salt’s avatar

                        You’re correct about the dragon meaning you crossed the Pacific, but more specifically, the golden dragon represents crossing the international date line by ship. This is usually accompanied by a ceremony of indoctrination into the “Order of the Golden Dragon.” Likewise, crossing the equator will earn you the title of “Shellback” (the turtle mentioned in the above blog) and crossing both coordinates at the same time will earn you the “Golden Shellback” title.

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                      2. Will’s avatar

                        I was a nuclear MM in the US navy and after 4 tours out in the deep I saw my fair share of tattoos. For crossing the equator, we had a huge ritual where you got completely covered in oil and crawled on your back from mid engine all the way back aft to the thrust bearings. You got the title shellback and most got a tattoo of a turtle on its back. For the staying afloat with pigs and roosters, I was always told that they had to be tattood to the bottom of your feet. They said that when or if a ship or boat sank back in the day the only crates that floated to the surface were the chicken and the pig crates. For most the guys on my boat, the swallow meant that they would always return home. I was stationed on the 718 outta Pearl before it was decommed. Good times and hard times.

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                      3. Lza’s avatar

                        Another important note for the anchor tattoos.

                        In the 40’s many sailors would get fouled anchors that used the rope as banners for the names of fellow sailors or loved ones who passed while the sailor was at sea. This really only started during WWII but is a cool tradition a lot of the sailors who come through my shop get (I’m a tattoo artist by the way, not a sailor).

                        Also, the pig and rooster is, as was mentioned before, representative of the animals hating water. However the tradition isn’t exclusively pig + rooster. Its the most classic example but it started as any 2 animals that couldn’t normally swim.

                        Also, to add on to what the original poster mentioned. Hold Fast actually held duel meanings. The first is the nautical slang that was explained but that second was much more literal. Many sailors way back deliberately chose to not learn how to swim. Since most boats wouldn’t turn around (until precision motors came into play) if you fell overboard, knowing how to swim was viewed as a prolonged an agonizing death sentence for a sailor. Hold fast literally meant not letting go.

                        Also someone asked about Cape Horn earlier. I can’t verify this but I’ve done a few of these and the image for Cape horn that I’ve done has always been an anchor with a rising sun

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                        1. Joe’s avatar

                          all the cape horn tattoos my shipmates have had are full rigged ships. usually on the calf or ribcage

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                        2. Wes Cook’s avatar

                          First let me say thanks for maintaining this site. i enjoyed reading every post. Although they do make me feel my age. I was in the U. S. Navy from 1973 until 1977. What an education for a young high school dropout. I got my GED and inherited the most magnificent family any young impressionable lad can have. I’m a shell back and have sailed the Seven Seas or most of them. I was an Engineman 2nd class by the time I got out and the navy helped me to become a man and taught me a work ethic that has carried me through most of my adult life. Tatoos I have none but am considering a couple. I served with many a sailor who proudly wore many and each had a significance. A Chief Boatswain Mate for example had small anchors on his earlobes, hinges inside his elbows and cobwebs on the outside of the elbows fouled anchor on his arm and I believe the gentleman is correct as to the navy’s represntation of the fouled anchor being a testement to the seamanship of the Navy Chief. After all they are the ones who ran the Navy. When the officers needed something done they just ask a Chief.

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                        3. Bowdy’s avatar

                          Everything I have looked up about Cape Horn is a flagged ship, I wanted to get a flagged ship tattoo but haven’t made that journey yet so I refuse to get the tattoo. I have been in the Navy for 6 years got the swallow tattoos for 10,000 nm and am working on getting the nautical stars to go along with them a star for every 5,000 nm after that. Getting the Pig and Rooster tat next week.

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                        4. OGROBERTS’s avatar

                          I was in the Canadian Navy 60 to 63 and was led to believe that “A PIG ON THE KNEE MEANS YOU WON”T DIE AT SEA”. I’ve got one on my right knee and I’ve known others with the same placement. ?????

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                        5. Boats’s avatar

                          Alright all you squids, I’d you have ever gone through a shellback ceremony , you never tell the tale of what you went through. If anyone asks. You tell them to join the navy and find out. Shame on you. However , being a boatswain’s mate in the USN for six years I really love the site. It makes me want to stay in for another 20+ years or so. Got many tattoos myself and plan to get more. For all of you who want these tattoos. Go ahead and get them. All I ask is that you either enlist or wear them with pride and if you see a sailor. Shake his or her hand and respect them for their sacrifice and service. Sincerely, BM2(sw) jadryev. USS Stout DDG-55

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                        6. NJansma’s avatar

                          Although I never served, I was a fisherman & now working in the marine transportation industry. I am very superstitious about about tattoos & their meanings for my work & life in general. So far for my nautical tats I have a compass rose to always point me in the right direction, pig & rooster on feet to keep from drowning/safe at sea, & last name in nuatical flags on back with plans of adding sparrows to it. Also, planning to get the nautical stars on inside biceps to help me find my way home and ships wheel for becoming captain & steering me in the right direction. Anyone know a good tattoo idea for crossing the Arctic Circle? traditionally it is a piercing, but I’m not a piercing guy.

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                          1. dave’s avatar

                            im also trying to find out what to get tattooed for when you cross the Arctic Circle (crossed it twice), having no luck though 🙁

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                          2. FT2’s avatar

                            well put BM2, what we do down there should never be spoken of up here. Our tats are our heritage and traditions. We earn them. If you wear them and have not served, we just ask that you pay your respects to those of us that have. With that being said, i just got the red dragon on my ribs, both sparrows and a star. If you have questions about what they mean to us, feel free to ask. The red dragon means we served in the asian/pacific theater. The sparrows are for 5000 miles at sea and a safe return home. The stars are for every additional 5000 miles. The chicken and the pig were explained very well by LZA. Also the shellback is for crossing either the prime meridian and the equator(golden) or the international dateline and the equator (emerald). Hold fast is for the line handlers topside. Range finders are for FTs, Helms are for the Quartermasters. I am currently on ssn 770 our of pearl and there are many tattoo enthusiasts keeping our traditions alive. There are so many more, so if you’re interested, just ask!

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                          3. Kyle’s avatar

                            I have worked on Boats my whole life, I have a United States Coast Guard Masters License, My Father was a Captain, My mothers Brother is a Captain and my best Friend is a Captain. I a Full 8 point Compass Rose on my forearm Marking my 10,000 Nautical miles Navigated. I have a Anchor Incorporated At the NorthEast Point in Signiffigance to where I am from. My Anchor is specifically not fouled because I have not Crossed the Atlantic. My Exgirlfriend was a fake ass Coastiee that worked on land and never even steps foot on a boat and has a fouled anchor tattoo. I also see all these punk kids running around with Nautic Stars Tattoos. As for sparrows I was always told One day I could only hope to be luck enough to Go to sea and let my soul rest at Sea.

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                          4. Mindy’s avatar

                            My grandpa was a REAL sailor. He had a tat on his arm of a knife with a banner that had his name. He passed away 9 years ago and I plan on getting a sailor tat in his honor.

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                          5. Josh’s avatar

                            I’ve enlisted into the Royal Australian Navy and I go to do my training in January, which I can’t wait for.
                            I’m reading all these posts and getting jealous because the RAN doesn’t allow any tattoos above your collar or below the wrists. I believe the Queen owns our head and hands, and that is one of the reasons behind it. The other reason is for uniform requirements.
                            I have been in the process of getting two small tattoos on the back of my ears removed because I can’t go to training wile they are still there, but I do plan on getting the Cock and Pig tattoos on my feet.
                            BM2, I have always been brought up to respect those who have fought for my way of life and I think more people should. I always try to shake the hand of someone in the defense force and thank them for their service.

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                          6. dave’s avatar

                            well i have just uploaded all my tattoos on to flikr, please feel free to have a browse. http://www.flickr.com/photos/fairwindscalmseas

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                          7. rebecca’s avatar

                            my boyfriend, who’s in the navy, says one swallow tattoo means you’ve spent a certain amount of time at sea (i think 15 years, my bf is in the gulf at the mo, so can’t ask right now) so two swallows is 30 years at sea. this is because of the amount of time swallows spend flying over the seas during migration.

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                          8. shawn’s avatar

                            I sailed onboard deepsea tugs for 12 years and my understanding is that a prop on each butt cheek means you are powered by twin screws.

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                            1. Jesper’s avatar

                              And if you are only powered by one are you supposed to get a propeller tattoo between the cheeks? 🙂

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                              1. Tane’s avatar

                                Been interested in all the comments so far,I work on an offshore salvage tugs and have two swallows,a turtle ,cock and pig and recently got two props on each buttock which denotes a twin screw vessel and also to push me through life easily,my skipper after seeing my props also suggested getting a gearbox tattooed above them to help me get my arse in gear when we are busy 🙂

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                              2. Matthew (MM2/SS USN)’s avatar

                                I am 29 and have been in the USN for 5 years, just signed for 5 more. I have no tattoos but have been thinking of them since i was 10. I have crossed the equator and been nearly around the world, but I still can’t figure out what to get! any good website recommendations for some galleries or something? also, are there any submarine specific tattoos other than the warfare pin insignia?

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                                1. osteoderm’s avatar

                                  Personally, I think that some of the best sailor tattoos I’ve seen are modern interpretations of traditional themes/imagery, laid down with modern skills and inks. For instance, the trad tattoo for crossing the line is often a turtle (shellback), which could look wicked in any number of non-traditional ways, depending on your taste. While it isn’t my to my personal taste, I’ve seen some incredible neo-tribal turtle tattoos that spark the imagination. Furthermore, many serious artists are excited by the prospect of “real sailor tattoos for real sailors”; a chance for them to honor the trad arts and traditions in exciting new ways is often an intriguing and rewarding challenge. A real true sailor tattoo is earned, not just bought, and a good artist will recognize and honor that.

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                                  1. Matthew (MM2/SS USN)’s avatar

                                    cool man, thanks for the input

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                                  2. STS2(SS) Boyd’s avatar

                                    Fish Bubblehead! Upper right forearm on top would be the most traditional or on the chest if you wanted to hide them.

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                                  3. Joe’s avatar

                                    Part of your explaination is wrong, or mislead while yes pigs and roosters are afraid of water that is not the meaning of the tattoo. Pigs and Chickens were kept in wooden crates on the ships back in the day, and when there was a bad ship wreck a lot of the time the only thing to survive would be the pigs and chickens or roosters. This is because the wooden crates they were in would catch currents and wash ashore. So people would get pig and rooster tattoos to prevent themselves from drowning. People would also get them in specific places the pig on the left knee and the rooster on the right foot. The saying that i read is “A pig on the knee safety at sea, a cock on the right never loose a fight”

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                                  4. jacob’s avatar

                                    which direction do crosses face for foot tattoos to keep sharks away. i”m a deckhand and have a disliking for sharks

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                                  5. Chess’s avatar

                                    I had always heard that the swallows on the chest (Or upper shoulders) were for mileage. One for 5,000 nautical miles, and the other when 10,000 were completed. Also, I had heard sailors followed these home because swallows are one of the few animals that mate for life, and no matter how far out to sea they are, they always return to their mate. I have the sparrows on me for that reason; love. I also have a nautical star for the reason you mentioned, which is finding my way. In about an hour actually I’m going to get a ship (And later an anchor) because my grandfather passed recently and was a sailor, and he was the strongest person I have ever met, so the ship and anchor are for him

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                                  6. Armchair Sailor’s avatar

                                    Although I never served (lifelong asthma) I do enjoy doing research. Western sailors started getting tats after Cook made his trip into the Pacific for mother England. Another type of tattoo some sailors got was the crucifix across their back. The logic behind this was that no bosun would dare strike the son of God with the cat-o-nine tails if the deck hand got into trouble. Of course this tradition died out when the practice of wiping sailors stopped. (or did it? never been south of the equator)

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                                  7. EMHalvorson’s avatar

                                    I served in the Navy for five years and I never once got a “Navy” tattoo. That’s not to say I didn’t get a tattoo while I was in the Navy. I was stationed in Twentynine Palms CA so there are no Tattoo’s for that base. I always wanted to get my Rooster and Pig on my feet (don’t need them on the knees I was a medic I saw everyone after the fights 🙂 ) I have however been wanting to combine the Anchor and the Caduceus. I know the Anchor symbolizes a trip across the Atlantic so I am hesitate in doing so. So any advice would be helpful. Oh and if anyone also knows if there is a Tattoo for the Stumps as well that would be great too thanks 😀

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                                  8. JChase’s avatar

                                    i want to know more about the “rise & shine ” tattoo

                                    w/ the pinup girl laying under a banner

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                                  9. Carmon’s avatar

                                    I’m going to be getting an anchor on one foot, and a sailboat on the other. They’re for my great grandfather- Everytime I visited him he’d ask me what I wanted drawn on me and if I couldn’t decide he’d give me a sailboat or an anchor, and he did this not only with me but my mother as a child.
                                    They will have meaning to me but not necesarily the same meaning for everyone else.

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                                  10. Lynda’s avatar

                                    Having been on active duty for several years now, and having been deployed, I ned to clear this up; it’s bos’n not bosun. Also, swallows are to represent every 5000 miles traveled ath sea. The title is to represent a crossing if the equator, depicting a term of endearment for those of use salty enough to have already witnessed and partaken in the event “trusty shellback”. Until you become a shellback, you are referred to as a polywog our “slimey wog”. The cross anchors are indeed the bos’n’s rate insignia. The pig in rooster were put on a sailor’s feet because they were in widen cars and would not drown; on the same note, they also made it to land quicker than the sailors… Also, the animals were brought as food, so they also ensure that a sailor never go hungry. The pin up girls started because sailors would sirens long period at sea and away from their women so they would get pictures (pin ups) so they always had company (of whatever sort). The nautical stars were a representation of the north start so the sailors would never lose their way on long voyages. I researched these heavily because when I get out (in just under a year) I am considering getting some swallows for my vast naval travels.

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                                    1. riki’s avatar

                                      Ive just had my rooster tattooed on my right foot, Ive wanted it for a long long time, I love traditional Navel tattoos and have grow up with them as im from Portsmouth England, although I have never been in the Navy as such, I have been in the Army for the past 17 years, That being said I am a keen sailor and have logged over 20,000 miles in ocean crossings and off shore races and rounded Cape horn under sail last year. I am also a member of the International Association of Cape horners, so will be getting a fully rigged ship on my right calf soon too. but before that ill have the other half of my “pig and rooster” tale on my left foot.
                                      hope ive not offended anyone by having my rooster!!

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                                    2. mike’s avatar

                                      what is the meaning of the spider webs on the elbows?

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                                    3. Ty Ferguson’s avatar

                                      So what do crabs mean cuz my grandfather had a bunch of them. And he also had a rooster on his lower left calf does that have anything to do with the navy?

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                                    4. Sea2Air’s avatar

                                      Great information, thank you to everyone. I hope someone will be able to help me with my inquiry. I have been in the USN since 99′. I’ve gone from E to O and from ship to helo. I’ve got 2 gulf cruises under my belt and i’m currently in korea. I’ve figured out the sea side tattoos that would apply to me and I’m wondering if anyone knows anything about some symbolic Naval Aviation tattoos. Pilots are a superstitious lot just as the sea side sailors are, so i’m hoping that there are some traditions out there. If you have any knowledge or even ideas i’d like to hear them.

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                                    5. Kent’s avatar

                                      Hold Fast is also the traditional motto for the Scottish MacLeod Clan. I’m RCN and a MacLeod… So it will appear in my first tattoo me thinks.

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                                    6. isabel addie’s avatar

                                      I have a fouled anchor on my left hip /back i have crossed the Atlantic ,,, i have a ships wheel on my left shoulder,, i love pirates and the sea and am planning to get a ship on my middle back ,,,and on my right hip /back a mermaid ,,,

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                                    7. barnacle bill’s avatar

                                      isabel lets elope to the sea and make babies

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                                    8. Rousseau’s avatar

                                      I’m crew of a Tall Ship and this is all fine, for men. I’m one of 4 women in a crew of 16. It’s nice to know what the guys are talking about now when they talk about tattoos. thanks! 🙂
                                      ”Cookie”

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                                    9. Rousseau’s avatar

                                      oh and im the cook, so thats where the ”Cookie” comes from

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                                    10. John’s avatar

                                      Im Norwegian, and in bouth Norwegian and danish “hold fast”
                                      means hold on.
                                      With waves as big as skyskrapers you would hear hold on or hold fast a lot, and might as well remind yourself by tattoing it on yopur hands…

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