Belaying Pins: A Sailing Tradition

November 2018 Multimedia Mike Gilly Web Exclusive

I am constantly trying to upgrade my trailerable houseboat, “Ki Ki Too.”  One day as I was surveying the USS Fitzgerald (DDG62) I happened to be around her flag-box.  There I noticed this Navy Destroyer has “Belaying Pins.” So, I went to and purchased one ($11.95 + Shipping).

An old Salt once told me this story.  In the days of sailing ships, the sails and all other ship’s rigging were attached to the ship’s railing using “Belaying Pins.”  The highest, after deck was known as the “Poop” deck.  Whenever someone had business to do they would go to the mast or railing and get two unused “Belaying Pins.”

On the poop deck, aft end, there was a short railing with holes. One would secure themselves by placing a “Belaying Pin” in a hole to the right and left as you sat to conduct your business.  Upon completion, there would be a bucket nearby with a rope attached. You would dip the bucket in water to rinse off the area where business was conducted and return the “Belaying Pins” to their original location for someone else to use.  In the modern Navy today, “Belaying Pins” are used only for securing the ship’s flags and signal halyards from the Mast arms and gaffs somewhat continuing the tradition of old. 

I have now installed one “Belaying Pin” on the rail on the forward end of my “Lil Hobo” houseboat.  Besides railing, the good folks at Catamaran Cruisers also gave me a potty so I can have a little more privacy when conducting my business.    

I love traditions! 

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