Marlinespike seamanship ( generally spelled Marlinspike ) is the art of handling and working all kinds of natural fiber and wire rope. It generally covers all types of knot tying, splicing of natural fiber and wire rope, sail repair, and fancy ropework. In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries the skill of a sailor was often judged by how well he knew knots and marlinespike seamanship. Good examples of work and particularly ships showing such work would be described as being 'Bristol fashion' after Bristol U.K. based ships that were noted for their ropework.
Skilled seamen bartered and traded fancy knotwork knowledge among themselves as intellectual property.