When most people think of tattoos, they imagine ships, anchors, and hearts with the words mom scrawled across a tiny banner on the shoulder of some leather-skinned unkept sailor. While this classic stereotype is derived mostly from cartoons we watched as kids, it’s almost as funny as the cartoons themselves. Not only have tattoos evolved since the day’s of pirates and wooden ships, but if you were to show someone from that era a modern day tattoo they might dismiss it as rubbish.
In western cultures, the first tattoos were indeed popularized by career sailors, sea merchants, and swashbucklers. Chalk it up to a lot of free time and even more booze. But for reasons not readily apparent, nautical tattoos have stayed in vogue throughout the years, developing into some pretty spectacular displays of inkmanship. Below we’ve put together a list of 50 nautical-themed ship tattoos that any pirate would envy. Let’s take a look.
This magnificent ghost ship.
Still bearing that red glow, this freshly-inked tat features a skull with it’s mouth propped wide open blowing wind into the sails of the ship. (Photo: Brian Murphy)
This magnificent blackwork design.
The era of the tall ships is sometimes referred to as the golden age of sail—which peaked during the 1800’s. Today, examples of these magnificent vessels are mainly reproductions with the exception of a lucky few who managed to stay afloat. Two of the most well known surviving examples of tall wooden ships are the HMS Victory and the USS Constellation. (Photo: Kamil)
This small ship tattoo on wrist.
At first one might look at this tattoo and think to themselves “It’s good,” but it’s not until you notice the quarter placed to illustrate the scale of the design that one begins to realize just how much detail went into this miniature work of art and just how amazing it is. (Photo: Marion M Toney)
These wonderful waves.
Those waves. (Photo: Darrell Hobbs)
This impressive side piece.
Our favorite blackwork design on the list. Everything from the waves to the billowing clouds is executed with the upmost precision and skill. (Photo: Josh Duffy)
This sketch work ship tattoo.
This sketch style work looks as if it were filled in with colored pencils. Beautiful color combination. (Photo: Ael Lim)
This purple sea creature.
Now that we’ve confirmed giant squids are real, all we need to find is a giant octopus like this one. A wonderful semi submerged angle shows what’s going on below the water as well as above. (Photo: unknown)
This spectacular sunset.
Here we have an absolutely breathtaking sunset that immediately puts the viewer in a state of relaxation. Notice the reflection of the sunset in the sails. (Photo: Dongkyu Lee)
This ship-shaped hat.
While we’re not sure who this piece is modeled after, if anyone, she definitely was inspired by the Pirates of The Caribbean Films. (Photo: Giahi Tattoo)
This magnificent moon.
This almost iconic scene has been recreated so many times it’s virtually impossible to find the artist who can claim credit for it’s creation. Trust us, we’ve tried. But you know what they say, imitation is the biggest form of flattery. However, this particular design is our favorite. (Photo: Makoto)