Baggywrinkle is one of many obscure maritime words which is used to describe the shaggy collection of rope yarns applied to the standing rigging of sailing vessels to prevent chafing between the rigging and the sails. A very simple knot is used to make it, but to make enough of it for rigging is time consuming work, which many sailors would do to pass the time on board. Scrubbing the decks was another monotonous job like making baggywrinkle but it was also important to prevent the degradation of a ship’s deck. At the Ipswich Maritime Festival 2018 the IMT will be demonstrating making baggywrinkle as part of our #KnotsandRopework exhibition, and anyone can come along and have a go, as we try to make as much as we can over the weekend. Why not bring out your inner sailor or pirate!
There is no record of where the term originates, even its variations cannot be found (bag-a-wrinkle, Boogy Winkles and Bagy Wrinkle) they only start to be recorded in the early 20th century. Chafing gear has been around in various sorts for centuries, but perhaps the term came about later than previously thought with the advent of wire standing rigging as it is possible that earlier chaffing gear was attached to masts and spars rather than attaching the baggywrinkle to hemp standing rigging which would rot quicker as the rope yarns would hold on to the moisture in the air and from the seawater. Whatever its origins it works to protect the sails. Learning the skill of scrubbing a deck properly and making baggywrinkle and other maritime trades were just as important to sailors in the Age of Sail as mastering gunnery practice within the Royal Navy, or how to use a cutlass if you were a pirate. As the sea, weather and the elements were just as deadly to sailors and pirates as an enemy vessel.
We will also have an exhibition of amazing photos from our Image Archive at the Old Custom House during the festival where you can learn more about Ipswich’s rich maritime history. #IpswichMaritime