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Shipcraft: Marlinspike

In the 17th century, sailors spent much of their free time crafting and repairing gear for the ship. Every element of a sailing ship required constant maintenance — which is still true today.

Little on a ship wore out more quickly than its rope; our word "junk" was originally a nautical term for rope that was too worn to be usable. Sailors thus had ample opportunity to practice their craftwork and plenty of scrap rope to work with. The art of rope use, or marlinspike, grew out of this utilitarian reality.

Here on the replica ship Half Moon, we continue this fine tradition today. Our crew members, both students and adults, have hand-crafted many of the tools we use on board, such as "monkey's fist" heaving lines.

Students on this voyage also enjoyed learning how to make bracelets, which they can wear home as souveniers. These bracelets are made using an advanced knot called a Turk's head, shown below.

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