Home / Nautical Sayings / FOULED ANCHOR ORIGIN


Wednesday April 14th, 2010

The subject of a million and more tattoos, the fouled anchor is possibly the most iconic nautical image in the world. The insignia of a anchor entwined in rope or chain has been used for over 500years and has its origins in British naval Service traditions.

In the late 16th Century the fouled anchor was adopted as the official seal of Lord Admiral Charles Lord Howards of Effingham. It had already been used by the Lord High Admiral of Scotland a hundred years earlier. The anchor itself was used as a heraldic device in ancient British coats of arms and more recently made famous by 20century cartoon icon Popeye who’s forearms adorned ink impressions of anchors.
Comments (6)
27/03/2024 @ 12:30 pm
Rip Bulkeley
As far as I can see online, the anchors on Popeye's bulging forearms are NOT fouled.
13/11/2023 @ 12:46 pm
Mr Paul Gooding
In the Royal Navy Leading Hands wear the fouled Anchor giving the moniker a Killick (leading rate).
01/08/2022 @ 1:16 pm
Fouled anchor
Actually, a fouled anchor is very easy to retrieve, because the flukes can't dig in. The problem with it is that it won't hold the ship in place because the flukes CAN'T dig in with the hawser pulling in the wrong direction. The big issue is if you find out the anchor is fouled when you're being blown toward a lee shore.
29/05/2021 @ 12:44 pm
Fouled Anchor
The US Navy uses the fouled anchor as a rank insignia for the Chief. Worse thing that could happen to a ship is to foul the anchor, the crusty 'ol salt with the most experience is the Chief, he could retrieve the anchor.

R.Y, Master Chief, USN, Retired
01/03/2021 @ 10:31 am
Harbourguides Crew
Hi Rob
Sounds very feasible. There are sometimes different opinions with some of these old nautical sayings and the version you have suggested sounds good to us.
Harbourguides Crew
01/03/2021 @ 7:38 am
Actually, I think the symbol was originally used to represent St Clement in the 2nd century BC who was martyred by the Romans when the tossed him overboard into the black sea with an anchor tied around his neck. The fouled anchor then became the symbol of this saint and he also then was adopted as the patron saint of mariners from this time onwards. There are various versions of this anchor but in its upright position and with the rope fouled is the original version for Saint Clement, other modified versions are later incarnations. The British Navy versions are generally displayed with the anchor in the horizontal position to show Lord High Admiral and the rope has a coil rather than lying ¨foul¨ about the anchor as in St Clements version. Later the Admiralty victualing office used two anchors as their emblem during 17th and 18th century.
Add Your Comment