Historical information

A dead eye is a part of a vessel’s rig On board sailing ships, dead eyes were used in three different areas. Traditionally dead eyes are made of wood but they have different forms according to where they were used in the vessel rigging. The most common type of dead-eye is flat, with three holes and was used to tension the shrouds, the heavy lines which steadied the masts on each side. Each shroud had a dead eye at the lower end, which corresponded to a similar dead eye attached to the side of the ship. The two were connected with a rope called a lanyard, which was used to tighten the assembly.
The stays, heavy lines running forward from the masts, were also tensioned with dead eyes. These are much larger and rectangular, with four or six holes. The third type of dead-eye was a two-holed version attached to an eye at the end of the parallel, which tied a yard to the mast. The loose ends of the parallel rope passed through the dead eye and then down to the deck, making it possible to tighten or slacken the parallel from the deck so that the yard could be more easily manoeuvred. It was especially important for the mizzen yard, which had to be shifted from one side of the mast to the other when tacking the ship.


An item used on sailing ships rigging this item of ships equipment and its use has been used from the beginning of the invention of sailing ships going back to ancient times. Its use on sailing vessels had not changed in design or use until they went out of fashion and steamships took their place.

Physical description

Circular wooden ships rigging dead eye with three holes

Inscriptions & markings