The tradition of [European] sailors tattooing each other dates back to the 1700s when Captain Cook’s crew picked up the practice from the Polynesians. Since then, countless sailors have followed in their intrepid wake. I have chronicled some of my own experiences here, and here, but haven’t spoken much about how we adopted this tradition or how it has evolved in our cruising community.
It started simply enough, with a proper anchor tattoo (Rocna), exchanged with a good friend on a buddy boat. In Johor Bahru, another sailor opted in, and since then, many more of our sailing buddies have asked (in spite of my strong disclaimer that I am not a professional) to exchange or receive tattoos. It’s become a bit of a thing.
Which is all just a rambling backstory introduction to how it came to pass that, on New Year’s Day, at approximately 3am, I found myself, machine in hand, poised to sink some ink into my man Brady. Vick and I had been sound asleep, when we heard “I’m gonna wake those F&#*@ers up!” I had just barely enough time to get into my underwear before Brady came through the hatch.
There were exactly zero moments of contemplation between that event and my inviting all seven of them in to do the obvious first act of the new year. Lucky for us, Wayne Willis was there to capture the whole thing as it unfolded. May I now present to you, the first day of 2017, from our perspective.