There is no "underground" community, no dark den of drunken sailors initiating themselves into manhood via cheap, ill-conceived exercises in bodily perforation…
- Joanne McCubrey
“The woman quoted above obviously doesn’t know any sailors.” – TW Brant
The noise level surprises me, I expected to hear the buzz of a few hundred tattoo machines, not the competing sounds of rock-n-roll, death metal, urban hip hop and gangster rap. Welcome to the 2009 Miami Tattoo Expo. Where you can buy a chopper, get permanently inked, pay someone to poke a new hole in your head, and generally have a ball to whatever soundtrack suits your mood.
The marking of the body with permanent colors goes back possibly to prehistory, though certainly at least back to the early Egyptians. “Tattooed sailor” is often a fairly accurate description and what squid worth his salt wasn’t “Screwed, Stewed and Tattooed” during at least one shore leave?
Flash forward to the new millennium. Tattooing is no longer restricted to tribal custom, unregulated back alley shops, or a dark outline and three colors. Modern tattoo art ranges from Realism to Cartoonism. It has become fairly mainstream, safe, and very artistic. If you can imagine it, someone can make it a permanent part of your skin.
It used to be that if you had a permanent visible tattoo then there was no way to get a yacht job. I can almost hear the recruiters say “Take your butt back to the commercial fleet where it belongs, heathen!” This is the modern era. So, do tattoos clash with the modern yacht crew lifestyle? Most people would say, “Not if they can be covered with regular work clothing.” However, more and more crew are getting jobs despite having ink visible with the traditional short sleeve shirt/khaki shorts uniform. This is especially true on traditional rigged ships, and on yachts in the engineering department. Of course, if you work for a rock and roll boss, or a tattooed captain, then the chances are pretty good your artwork is cool.
I am not suggesting that you get a tattoo if you do not already have one. I am suggesting that you spend a lot of time considering before you buy. Then pony up and pay for some damn good quality work if you do go for it. The slightly drunk person that’s a friend of a friend and can tattoo you at her/his place is probably NOT the way to go. While at the Expo, I talked to many different artists. I chose to present the six listed below to Crew Life if you wanting quality work in a sterile environment.
Artist: Steve Skelly
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Years Tattooing: 4
Style: Custom black and gray or color realism, cover-ups
Availability: Private custom work by appointment only. Suggests contacting early to begin design process. Also does “on-yacht” tattoo parties.
Notes: Steve often teams with mentor Ray Young of Razor Tattoos in Central PA www.rayzortattoos.com. Not a yacht destination, but Ray does make guest artist appearances in Philadelphia. Both are willing to travel to your yacht for custom service.
Artist: Ish Schuurbiers
Shop: Sfumato Studios
Location: Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles (currently on US tour)
Years Tattooing: 6
Style: Realism, underwater, old school
Availability: Ish will be traveling extensively this next year to Vegas, Philadelphia, PA and other east coast cities.
US Phone: 203.243.1028
Notes: Ish is an award winning tattoo artist with a great eye for realism and detail. Check out the Capt. Jack Sparrow piece! It’s important to contact the artist ASAP to begin ideas and make an appointment.
Shop: Pirates Cove
Location: 11398 W Flagler St, West Miami, FL
Years Tattooing: 3
Style: Prefers custom, realism. Influences: Salvador Dalí, surrealism, portraits, loves pirates and all things nautical.
Availability: Walk-ins or by appointment. Willing to work ahead of time via internet with customers.
Notes: For Piercings available by appointment or walk-in email Liseth:
Shop: Hellcat Tattoo
Location: 4007 S Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach, FL (near the Rybovich Boat Yard)
Years Tattooing: 6.5
Style: realism, portraits, paintings
Availability: Does walk-ins and custom work by appointment. Will work with ideas ahead of time via internet.
Notes: A former US ARMY drill instructor, Chris is one of the nicest artists in a very friendly shop. Say “hello” to his newborn son “JD.”
Artist: Marcus Dove
Shop: Smiling Buddha Tattoos
Location: 6608 White Bluff Rd # 38 Savannah, GA 31405
Years Tattooing: 13 total, 7 in Savannah.
Style: American Traditional tattoos, and “neo-traditional”
Notes: Marcus, a former Marine, does most work on the spot from walk-ins. He prefers meeting people face to face. I asked for some recommendations for anyone considering a new tattoo, “No names of people that aren’t blood relatives or already dead. This way you don’t have to get ‘em covered up. And stay away from tribal unless you are in a tribe.” Marcus’s work is published in Skin Art and Int’l tattoo Art magazines (and now Crew Life) Yes, he’s tattooed his mom and will tattoo yours too!
Artist: Nick Sharratt
Location: Chicago, IL and Boca Raton, FL
Years Tattooing: 5
Style: American traditional. Prefers appointments and “Well thought out, bigger pieces”
Notes: Nick recommends you look at portfolios and talk to people. Flash is for ideas, but it’s better to connect with an artist and get some custom work. He says “flipping through a few magazines will give you a taste of the styles available. Think before you ink”
“it’s good to be excited about your tattoo, even if it’s a little trinket”
As a regular part of Crew Life, we want to see your tattoos! Show off a little. Send us shots of you or the whole tattooed crew! We don’t need to see your face, and won’t publish your name unless you request it. If you want, tell us a little about the ink. Where did you get it done, by whom, and why? In addition to featuring your art, we will continue to review tattoo artists the world over and publish them here for your benefit. Hey, this is your life on the pages of Crew Life, not some snobby yachting magazine!