From the depths of Davy Jones Locker to a home or a boat near you, nautical decor brings the sights and feeling of the bounding main. From the salty dogs of the sea to the landlubbers of the living room couch, nautical decor has something for everyone.
Go to any seaside town or village and you are sure to find many homes and shops festooned with nautical decor. Seafaring has a rich and storied history and the practice of collecting nautical memorabilia dates back thousands of years. Since the days of the ancient mariners, people have been fascinated with the sea. The worlds oceans have the power to rearrange tidal landscapes, drive great weather systems, and provide a habitat to millions of sea creatures. Whether picking up seashells while walking on a beach or watching the waves break against some nearby rocks, we are reminded of the power of the sea.
The Ends of the Earth
Sailors returning from the sea have always had stories to tell. Legends abound about sea monsters, mermaids, and strange creatures of all kinds. In the days before modern science, many people believed the earth to be flat. Ancient lore would tell the tale of seafarers sailing off the face of the earth. The ends of the earth were said to be home for terrible sea going monsters that would devour entire ships and their crews. Drawings and illustrations would depict the horrible end that met those who sailed too close to the edge of the world.
Some have speculated that the monsters seen by sailors were actually animals that had not yet been observed by humans. Sailors have always been a superstitious lot. Seafarers in ancient times were most likely at a loss to explain what they had seen. Spending After weeks or months at sea, boredom surely sets in and the imagination has time to wonder. Imagine seeing a giant squid for the first time without the benefit of what is now known about this enigmatic sea creature. In the absence of such knowledge and given the frightening appearance the giant squid presents, fear and ignorance would naturally spawn stories and rumors about giant monsters of the sea.
From Sail to Steam
Like oceanic exploration, the use of sails to capture and harness the power of ocean winds dates back possibly five thousand years. It is only in recent human history that mechanical methods of powering ships replaced the sail. Even though steam and combustions engines drive virtually all of the worlds ships, the romance and history of sailing ships is etched in nautical lore.
Sailing ships reflect a grace and beauty unrivaled by their mechanically driven cousins. The skill required to harness the power of natures wind is indeed an art. From small sail boats to the great ocean going square riggers, a common language and skill has developed that are reflected in nautical memorabilia, writing, and lore. The craft of basic seamanship relies on a keen eye, steady hands, and an ability to understand the unique language of sailing ships.
The Art of Seamanship
One of the true art forms practiced by sailors is that of marlinspike seamanship. Line handling, knot tying, and sewing were required skills for those who manned great sailing ships. Often miles from land and without access to other resources, sailors had to know how to mend sails, plane wood, and tie knots. Knot tying and line splicing were essential skills given that rope was a scarce commodity far out to sea. The term marlinspike refers to a tool used to pry the rope strands apart. The marlinspike resembles a long tapered awl and is a vital piece of gear for any deckhand.
Ropes, lines, and shrouds needed constant maintenance and care. For example, to prevent the end of a rope from fraying, sailors would weave the strands of rope. This technique is known as back splicing where strands of rope would be woven back into the rope. It was common for line to break over time and a technique known as long splicing was used to rejoin the sections of line. Like welding is to metal, splicing creates a bond that is stronger than the rope itself. There are other variations of splicing that serve a particular need such as an eye splice that would create a strong loop at the end of the line.
Knot tying is another essential skill of seamanship. The names used for various knots are thought to originate from several sources. Most often, the name is synonymous with the shape of the knot. The most basic type of knot is the square knot. Also known as a reef knot, the knot takes on a square shape. Square knots are quite strong and are used to join rope of equal size. A wrongly tied square knot is called a granny knot. When faced with two lengths of rope of different diameters, a sailor would use a sheepshank or sheep bend.
These are just two of many types of knots. Learning the art of knot tying is accomplished in several ways. The most common method of learning is to practice tying the knot. Another is the use of knot board that displays samples of properly tied knots and splices. Knot boards are a popular piece of nautical decor. In addition to displaying various knots, many knot boards feature decorative rope work such as macrame. Sailors are well known for practicing this ancient art and examples of this unique craft can be seen on modern ships.
Ship Models Ahoy in Nautical Decor
The building of ship models is almost as old as sailing itself. As with other types of nautical decor, model ship building can reflect great artistic skill. Ship models can range from small ships in a bottle to scale size models. Ship models, including model sailboats, can be built from scratch, from kits or models that require only a modest bit of assembly.
Replicas of famous sailing vessels like the USS Constitution, the Cutty Sark and well known Americas Cup racing boats are among the most popular ship models. Though many of these kits require a little time to assemble, the effort will be well worth it. You will come away from the experience with a basic knowledge of just how complex the actual rigging of these great ships really is.
There are hundreds of nautical artifacts that can be used to create a decorative nautical theme. Nautical decor can be used to accent a room or an entire house. In addition to knot boards and ship models, ships brass, photographs, and other pieces of nautical lore celebrate an ancient art and curiosity.