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A marlinspike or marline-spike (British usage) is a short, metal rod, generally tapered to rounded point or flat edge similar to a flat head screwdriver. A spike may look like a large nail, somewhere between six and as many as thirty-six inches long, but generally under one foot in overall length. The spike is used in making and unmaking knots, serving as a lever or purchase point for mechanical advantage in the former case and as a stiff probing and prying device in the latter.

The term "marlinspike seamanship" is an all encompassing reference to the knots, line-handling, and other small arts that supplement any sailor's skill-set.

The name is thought to derive from the Middle English word "marling", meaning "to wind" as when one serves a line. The marline used in such service derives from the same root.

A popular saying describes the so-called "Super Sailor" thus: Every hair a rope yarn and every finger a marlinspike.

In the Canon

In The Surgeon's Mate, Lieutenant Hyde describing the means of making a proper escape from the fortress of Verdun, says that, among other necessaries, "A really good knife and marline-spike, or at least a fid, come in very handy...."

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