Thursday, January 19, 2017


A sailing ship's deadeye is a circular wooden block with a groove around the circumference to take a lanyard. They are used singly or in pairs to tighten a shroud (part of the ship's rigging that supports the mast).

The deadeyes in the photo below were once used on Capt. Rob Temple's schooner, Windfall.  Capt. Rob explained that modern sailboats often employ turnbuckles to take the place of deadeyes, but that some sailors still prefer deadeyes (traditionally made of  Lignum Vitae wood). 

Lignum Vitae trees are indigenous to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America. The wood is used because of its extraordinary combination of strength, toughness, density, and naturally occurring oils. Consequently, deadeyes rarely need to be replaced.

It is believed that the name, deadeye, derives from the placement of the holes, which give the appearance of a skull (see photo above).

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear:


  1. While photographing from a boat in the Florida Keys years ago, my guide pointed out an island called Lignum Vitae and that the rare tropical hardwood found there was used for shaft bearings on ships. The island is a state park and protected. The bearings do not take grease and are water lubricated.

    1. As it turns out, I was having a discussion about Lignum Vitae island and ship's bearings as you were posting your comment! Apparently Lignum Vitae bearings are self-lubricating, and reabsorb their oils when not in use...or so I was told.