This is most definitely an interesting mix of history, symbolism and best of all tattoos. Tattoos picturing symbolic ship anchors have been a huge part of tattooing in the western world for over two centuries. You have probably seen these tattoos on a lot of elderly men. For example my grandfather has an anchor tattoo on his forearm. Originally sailors, navy servicemen, and other maritime workers would get anchor tattoos. These anchor tattoos have become known the world over and associated very closely with maritime activities.
There are regional variations as to the meanings of certain colors, and other adorning symbols that go with anchor tattoos but most often an anchor tattoo is meant to be a symbol of holding one steadfast and strong. Also many sailors would get an anchor tattoo after their first crossing of the Atlantic. Much like a real anchor these tattoos symbolize keeping a person in place or grounded despite what might be happening around them. The amazing thing is the connection with anchors as a symbol goes all the way back to the early Christians. The early Christians of course were persecuted for their religious beliefs and often had to meet in secret. They developed symbols that would mark a house as a meeting place for Christians. Much like the fish that many Christians put on their car today the anchor was a symbol the early Christians used for these purposes.
More recently however there has been a revival in anchor tattoos and there are many new designs that are full of brilliant colors and new design motifs for anchor tattoos. There has been a revival in more traditional tattoos.
As always history, symbolism and meaning provide an interesting overlap of cultures and times.
If you are thinking about getting an anchor tattoo it helps to know the background on them and do some research to find out the different meaning and symbolism of anchor tattoos.