The symbolism behind bod art featuring ship or other sea going vessels is particularly rich because of the long association between tattoos and sailors. Sailors were among the first Europeans and Americans to have images permanently inscribed on their skin so it's natural that ships form such a central place in the history of tattooing. Along with anchors and sea monsters, sea vessels form a lasting tradition of nautical tattoos.
The meaning of ship tattoos varies from person to person. For some it can be a reminder of time spent on a particular vessel or class of vessel. For others a reminder of military service. For others it's a more abstract symbol. It could represent the difficulties a person has surmounted or the distance they feel they've travel from their place of birth. Or it could simply be an image of a life unburdened by cares, adrift on a peaceful sea. Read more on Ship Tattoo meanings.