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: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm