The sea, ships and sailing provide inspiration for homemade nautical-themed centerpieces. Elements such as natural or bleached jute rope, anchor and sailboat designs or even shells and starfish bring an ocean-inspired atmosphere to the table -- no boat necessary.
Incorporate elements found near the shore for dock-worthy centerpiece decor. Bleached wood cylinders reminiscent of logs or posts on a dock team up to create a centerpiece grouping. If possible, cut actual bleached wood or driftwood branches into freestanding pieces ranging in height from several inches to 12 or 18 inches tall, depending upon table size or the desired visual effect. Arrange the grouping so the tallest piece is in the center or back of the group, with shorter pieces in front, as viewed from the main entrance to the room. Wrap jute twine around the creation to hold the pieces together, adding dabs of hot glue to ensure the rope and driftwood stay together. Display your efforts in the center of the table, placing a few shells or dried starfish around it. Add tiny craft-store seagulls mounted on wire to embellish the decoration. Stick the wire between pieces of wood so the seagulls look as though they're flying near a dock.
Premade lighthouse home decorations or craft accessories offer simple centerpieces for one table or many. For a single table centerpiece, use a painted lighthouse home decoration 12 to 16 inches tall. Set the lighthouse in a small wooden tray, surrounding the tray with gravel or rocks, as if the lighthouse sits at the end of a breakwall or rock structure. If the table is long, add one lighthouse every 4 to 5 feet of table length. For multiple tables, such as at a party, use lighthouses of different colors or patterns on each table. Use actual lighthouse replicas, if desired, and place a card in front of each lighthouse indicating its name or location. Guests find their seats based on the lighthouse names.
Create a miniature ocean out of colored sand for a playful centerpiece. A shallow, clear glass bowl serves as the base of the centerpiece. Place an index card vertically in the middle of the bowl as you pour regular white or tan sand on one side of the card. Pour dark blue sand on the other side, then lift the card away to reveal an ocean and a beach. Add a few tiny wooden sailboats from a craft store to the blue sand. For another look, cut the bottom out of a plastic water bottle or to-go cup, pressing it down in the center of the bowl, Pour tan sand in the cup or bottle, then blue sand around it. Lift the cup away to reveal an island oasis in the middle of an ocean. Add a few little boats to the water and a small plastic or wood palm tree to the island, or place an aqua candle atop the island -- replicating a lighthouse -- keeping the boats far away for safety.
Tall, cylindrical glass vases offer a view into an underwater environment, complete with lost anchors, treasures or even a shipwreck. Fill the bottom inch or so of one or more glass vases with blue, tan or white aquarium gravel. Add in decorative ceramic elements designed for an aquarium, such as an anchor, shipwreck or tiny ship's wheel. Choose a few flowers in a color scheme suited to the room or event, or choose white for a neutral look, cutting the stems so the flower is at least a few inches shorter than the face. Tie fishing weights to the bottoms of the flower stems to keep the flowers submerged, then place them in the vases, adding water until the flowers are covered. Float tiny toy sailboats atop the water if you like. Set the vases in wooden trays of sand to add to its nautical look.