Nautical Tattoos: Gina from the Spirit of Massachusetts
Posted by Tall Ships America on September 3, 2009
The cliche of the sailor – weathered skin, salt encrusted hair, and gravely voiced with a faded tattoo. The cliche may hold true (sometimes) but there is a deeper meaning behind that ink. It could be a souvenir of a journey or a deeply held belief, but the tattoo represents something that warrants permanence and display. This summer, Nelly and Amelia interviewed sailors at the tall ships events to find out the meaning behind their body art and came upon some fascinating glimpses into the sailor mind.
Gina, of the Spirit of Massachusetts, got her tattoo design from the book Once is Enough, written by couple Miles and Beryl Smeeton, who were daring adventurers in the 1930’s. They lived in India during World War II, walked across Burma during monsoon season, and tried to circumnavigate the globe. Gina has been inspired by their adventurous spirit, picking the design of the seagull in the compass because it is congruent with her life as a sailor.
Also, if you are interested in seeing a more in-depth display of tattoos, the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphis has the exhibit Skin and Bones until February 7th.
Skin & Bones traces the origins, functions, and significance of tattoos in American sailors’ lives from the late 18th century onward and how merchant and naval seamen have kept this tradition unbroken and alive. It also connects current trends with historic tradition to enlighten tattooed and un-tattooed visitors alike about this often still misunderstood art form.