Share stunning photos of tattoo designs and body art.

16 Beautiful Ship Tattoo Designs and Their Myriad Meanings

16 Beautiful Ship Tattoo Designs and Meanings
A ship tattoo can be a symbolic representation of many things. From being spiritual to aesthetic, realistic to paranormal, old school to highly contemporary, this theme can be presented in ways unlimited. ThoughtfulTattoos lists 16 beautiful ship tattoo designs and their meanings that will help you decide if this is the theme you want to add to your collection of tattoos.
Shalu Bhatti
Last Updated: Jun 7, 2017
Did You Know?
Earlier, ship tattoos were popular among sailors or fishermen. In fact, a famous tattoo artist, who was also a sailor, known as Sailor Jerry, was known for his amazing clipper ship tattoos. The most common phrase written with this tattoo is "Homeward Bound" which means, Journey Towards Home.
Different thoughts cross our minds when we think of a ship. While I may think of 'Pirates', you may think of 'Titanic'―not to forget that these two are some of the most famous themes when it comes to this tattoo design! We tend to associate with this sailing vessel in many ways. Some admire it for its architectural beauty, while the others associate with it in a more deeply manner.

The meaning of your ship tattoo is likely to change with your individual design, and there are a lot many creative variations you can add to this theme to personalize it as per your needs. Unlike some tattoo designs where the scope for experimentation is pretty minimal, here, the possibilities are as wide as the ocean. The following section will take you through some exceptional ship tattoos along with the thought behind their conceptualization to help you look beyond the design, to help you understand its real symbolism; a tattoo after all, is never "just a design"!
16 Amazing Ship Tattoos With Their Meanings
A ship is perhaps one of the most mysterious objects on the planet, with its fate tied to the moods of the water where it sails. Pretty much like our lives, don't you think? We set sail with a hope of thrill and adventure, in the hope that after the distance is covered, we'll soon be home. For many, a ship is a synonym of home itself. The life of sailors, fishermen, water travelers, and adventure-seekers are tied to this vessel. Sailing on this mighty vessel is more than a journey, it is an experience in itself. The following tattoo designs will help you understand how.
A New Beginning ...
Ship tattoos depicting a new beginning
At times we have to let go of all that is past, and give life a second chance. A ship tattoo can help symbolize one's need for a new direction in life. We all know the story of Noah's Ark, how a boat helped him start life once again when a flood ruined everything on Earth. Most of the time, additional elements are used in this tattoo to accentuate its meaning. For example, the bright orange Sun in the background may symbolize a guiding light to one's journey. Also, a compass may remind the tattoo-bearer that no matter when the journey ends, he will always be directed towards the right path. Most designs also come with elements such as a mermaid, anchor, roses, and the like, to take the meaning of the tattoo to the next level.
Life's Ups and Downs
Ship tattoos depicting life
Here, the water represents this world, and the ship is symbolic of an individual's life. A tattoo of a ship sailing through a storm depicts one's struggle in life. This is ideal for those who haven't received anything easily and had to reach rock bottom before conquering the heights. This tattoo is for fighters, for those who are not afraid of the storm, but enjoy the challenges that life has to offer them. This design is for those who understand that life is not always happy and bright, and that darkness and gloominess will eventually come; it is courage, hope, belief, and one's survival instinct that makes the journey of life, a successful one.
Good Luck, Hope, and Discovery
Ship tattoos depicting discovery and hope
This tattoo is also inked by many who travel through waters as a symbol of good luck. Discovery and hope come automatically with the essence of this theme. You see, we discover things and places, perhaps a bit of ourselves, when we're constantly on the move. We move forward towards a certain destination when we sail, in the hope that our eyes will meet a shore, eventually passing the unpredictable waves of the ocean. If life to you is a journey marked by dreams and hopes to discover something new, and you set out on your venture wanting good luck to be on your side, this tattoo is something you must have on you.
Remembrance of those Buried in the Waters
Memorial ship tattoos
Many people ink this tattoo in fond memory of a dear one who lost his/her life among the waters. It would be interesting for you to know that the Germanic people, especially the Viking Age Norsemen used the method of Ship Burial to bury their dead. They believed that it is the sea that takes you to the afterlife. Hence, ironically, this tattoo also depicts an end of life along with a new beginning. However, if you think of it, for those who believe in the afterlife, death is not an end, it is, in fact, the beginning of a new journey.
Mystery, Adventure, and Supernaturalism
Ship tattoos depicting mystery and adventure
We cannot neglect the fact that ships are often associated with mystery. Most of them tend to disappear mysteriously in the waves of the mighty ocean, and we never find out what actually happened to them! The whole ocean lore consists of tales involving ghost ships―The Flying Dutchman, the infamous ship that is believed to appear in the midst of the ocean accompanied by bad weather, and is considered to be as an omen of doom. The existence of pirates on the other hand, is intriguing to many of us, therefore, making the pirate ship designs quite popular among ship lovers. These tattoos bring in a sense of adventure that rushes within those for whom life in the water equals mystery and adventure. A sort of rush that one feels when entering the ocean in search of things that only seem folkloric now.
Memories, Relaxation, and Fun!
Ship tattoos reminding the good times
Sailing is fun! Most of us have had some of the best moments of life while on a ship! Perhaps a proposal on a cruise? Honeymoon on a tropical island? Well, for many of us, a sailor is a hero; remember Popeye the Sailor Man? Yes, your tattoo needn't have a serious or intense meaning. You can also get this tattoo designed in a more fun-kinda way so that whenever you see it, you refresh the good-old memories with a smile.
Inspirations, Beliefs, and Mottos
Ship tattoos with relevant quotes
Till now you must have gauged how this multifaceted sailing vessel inspires us in different ways. You can take this design's significance to an all new level altogether by adding a beautifully inspiring quote that complements this them. There are various quotes written by many authors that fit perfectly with this theme. We loved a quote by Richelle E. Goodrich, "The only ship you can truly steer in this ocean is the one you're sailing. Quit trying to alter the winds; harness them." You can also make a quote of your own, keep it short and sweet if you like it that way. Just make sure that it is something that goes with your motto in life, and never fails to inspire you no matter where the tide takes you.
Just Because You Want It!
Eccentric ship tattoos
You love it? Then get it! It's as simple as that. You needn't be a sailor, a traveler, an adventurer, or someone who has spent a lot of time on the ship. If you're a perceiver, a dreamer, or perhaps, you somehow share a fascination towards this theme, and you're sure that you want this tattoo for not just the design, then just get it. The tattoos shared above are a little out-of-the-box. The smoke emerging from a hot cup of coffee and forming a ship may be interpreted as the "Ship of your dreams"! A tattoo design forming a ship out of a smoking pipe is a great example of an imaginative mind. If you have a ship of dreams run by the sail of imagination, don't hesitate to reflect it through a tattoo.
A ship can be many things; it can be an inspiration to sail through difficult times and a reminder of the good times at the same time! Man, that sentence has a lot of "time" in it, doesn't it? Well, what we are trying to say is that you don't need one good reason to get this design inked, chances are that there will be many. No matter what your reason is, make sure it turns out into a good design. Au revoir!