Fancywork, a lost art connecting mariners across the ages

The art of tying cordage around Boatswain’s pipes, handrails, ship’s wheels, bell pulls, boat paddles and just about any other gripping surface goes back hundreds of years to the days of sail and canvas where such reinforcement was needed to give those at sea a grip on wood that could become slippery with spray in times of peace and blood in times of war.

fancy work

Fancy work board crafted by NEDU chiefs over the years in Panama City. (Photo: Chris Eger

When steam came along, ventilator openings were added to the list to keep wayward objects and animals from popping down on the snipes. Over the years, such knotting techniques as coxcombs and turksheads evolved and were past down by experienced bluejackets and tars to the incoming swabs as tribal knowledge.

And it remains very much alive to this day:

BM3 Schroeder instructs SN Pelchar, and SN Ramos in fancywork aboard CGC TACKLE (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Northeast)

BM3 Schroeder instructs SN Pelchar, and SN Ramos in fancywork aboard CGC TACKLE (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Northeast)

160623-N-JQ675-013 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (June 22, 2016)- Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Michael Lease ties a line on a pole in a passageway of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike). Ike, the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Neo Greene III/Released)

160623-N-JQ675-013 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (June 22, 2016)- Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Michael Lease ties a line on a pole in a passageway of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike). Ike, the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Neo Greene III/Released)

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