Forget the “Anchor” — Use a Ship-In-Bottle to “Refuse to Sink”

Forget the “Anchor” —  Use a Ship-In-Bottle to  “Refuse to Sink”
Forget the Anchor” — 
Use a Ship-In-Bottle to  Refuse to Sink


We first saw the phrase “Refuse to Sink” paired with an anchor many years ago tattooed on some surfer dude’s arm. Being nautical minded we thought it was pretty cool, but that evening while recapping our day on the ocean with some cold beers, one of us pointed out that the tattoo didn’t make any sense.

“Refuse to Sink?” Hello!!! An anchor does nothing but sink.

So we debated the apparent contradiction and determined that, well, it was in fact a contradiction. Sure, an anchor is used in part for safety purposes, such as holding a boat in place during a major storm. But if it fails to hold or the line snaps, a boat doesn’t “sink,” it either gets pushed out to sea (where it perhaps may sink due to other causes) or gets driven up against the rocks or otherwise grounded (neither of which represent “sinking”).

That was pretty much the crux of our debate, and since then we’ve seen the phrase and contradictory anchor tattooed on lots of other random people, and on T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, inspirational posters, and jewelry. In fact, given the now obvious contradiction we are quite surprised by how popular it is.

So, we at Getting Nauti have upped our game by offering an image that truly represents the ideal of “refusing to sink.” That is a ship in a bottle. Not only does a sealed bottle remain afloat unless broken—the oldest known message in a bottle stayed afloat at sea for 108 years—once broken that ship is theoretically going to stay afloat and not sink with the now broken bottle.

Smart thinking, eh?

So, if you want to sport the “real” ideal of “refusing to sink,” consider one of Getting Nauti’s “Refuse to Sink” ship-in-a-bottle line of shirts and hoodies. Oh, and if you are going to be sporting a ship in a bottle, we suppose that you’d best know a bit about the art, such as its history and how it is done. So, here you go:


No one knows who first “put a ship in a bottle,” but the first mention of anyone putting artwork into bottles refers to a German artist, Matthias Buchinger,” who put other works of art in bottles in the 1720s, though with no known record of “ships.” Buchinger’s artistry was remarkable because he happened to be born with no arms or legs. Not only was he a noted appendage-less artist, but he was quite the ladies man to boot, siring 14 children with eight different women.

Anyhow, other than Buchinger’s work, religious images and icons became popular art-in-bottle work during the first half of the 1700s, but it was only in 1784 that the first known ship in a bottle was created—a highly accurate model of a first-rate ship of the Venetian Navy by Giovanni Biondo. He went on to create several other highly realistic ship-in-bottle works of art, most of which can be found in various European museums.

Biondo started a slow-growing trend, and by the early 1800s building ships in bottles became all the rage, and a popular pastime for sailors for the next 120 years or so. While not as popular in the 20th century, the art is still practiced to this day.

Now, most of those ships in bottles you see in gift shops in coastal areas around the world are what we would call fakes. They are not art, they are sucker-the-tourist kitsch. Most of these various pieces were created by cutting and then resealing the glass, which kind of defeats the artistic magic of getting the ship into the bottle.

So how does a real ship-in-the-bottle artist do it? Some go all out and actually build the ship in the bottle using special tools, but these days this is especially rare. The more common way to do it is to build a hull that will slip through the bottle’s opening. Prior to launching it into the bottle the artist attaches the mast, spars, sails and rigging to lie flat on the deck and attached with hinges and string, and then once in the bottle is in pull the hinged rigging up until the sails are set. A really good artist ensures that the hinges are hidden by the mast raising and cuts away the hoisting string work.


There you have it. Now you can sport a Getting Nauti “Refuse to Sink” shirt or hoodie that makes sense, and wow your friends with your nautical ship-in-a-bottle know how.   


Click here to see the the Refuse to Sink Collection


Oldest Message in Bottle: 

Matthias Buchinger:

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