A man does not get his hands out of the tar by becoming second mate. A second mate is expected to put his hands into the tar bucket for tarring the rigging, like the men below him. The first mate is exempt from this dirty work. The rigging is tarred by the hands, and not by brushes.
(2 syl.). Paraguay tea is so called from maté, the vessel in which the herb is in Paraguay infused. These vessels are generally hollow gourds, and the herb is called yerba de maté.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
More on Mate from Fact Monster: