Throughout history sailors have been a highly superstitious bunch and whether it’s something you stick to or laugh into the face I have delved into the interesting world of Nautical superstitions both good and bad.
Long, floppy eared animals with Fluffy tails should be the only way that you refer about these animals onboard a boat. One theory behind this superstition is that the Devil was meant to have been able to disguise himself as this.
No Women On board.
Inevitably, in a time when only the men went to sea, womenfolk were considered too tempting to have onboard. Something to do with the concentration and productivity onboard being affected. Obviously then women also were believed to make the seas angry, resulting in dangerous voyages.
Nowadays many of us womenfolk who spend time on boats laugh in the face of this superstition and challenge any man who feels brave enough to challenge its validity.
Bananas are Banned.
Bananas have been know to be favored hiding grounds for spiders, some of which have nasty (and occasionally deadly) bites. Centuries ago, ships transported bananas from tropical islands, with these stowaways unbeknownst to the sailors until they discovered them the hard way. Nowadays it’s hard to resist the enticement of a good banana loaf at tea time!! And also the transportation of bananas is much more controlled.
Always Step onto a Boat with Your Right Foot.
Why the right? Your left foot brings bad luck for the journey ahead. This remains popular among plenty of old salts today however personally I struggle to be so coordinated as to remember which foot I am stepping onto the boat with and focus more on not falling over the side of the boat and onto my face.
Putting your lips together and blowing while you’re standing on a boat will stir up the wind, and therefore the seas. However the bosun’s whistle on a naval ship is used to give commands. What I have found is that there is some flexibility in these superstitions.
Never Start a Voyage on a Friday.
It is believed that this orginates from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and strict adherence to the sabbath day, day of rest. There was also the belief that you should never start a voyage on the first Monday in April as it was the day that Cain killed Able..
Never Change a Boat’s Name.
Never, ever, ever do this unless you want bad luck to follow you. However, if you carefully follow each step of the revered renaming rituals there is hope that you should be successful. However my advice is best not to try and choose a boat with a name you like.
Don’t Say “Goodbye” When Departing.
Through-out history mariners have believed uttering certain words, including this, automatically doomed the voyage, keeping the ship from returning to shore. Consider it the same to saying “break a leg” to an actor rather than “good luck.”
People with Red Hair
Throughout history many civilizations have seen having red hair to be a really bad thing. Therefore the superstition arose that if you met one on the way to join your ship it would bring you a lot of bad luck. However you could avert disaster by striking up the conversation first before they spoke to you. Nowadays to have red hair is a characteristic of envy rather than something to be superstitious of for bad luck.
You Shouldn’t Cut your nail’s or Hair at Sea
It was seen that you were making an offering to Prosperine, the Roman Goddess of the infernal regions, and it would make Neptune angry to have offerings to somebody else made in his domain. Doing so would bring bad luck. That is obviously why sailors are so hairy and unkempt when they step off a boat.
While cat’s reigned supreme onboard a ship in the old days as they chased Rats they also created a lot of Superstition
If a cat licked its fur against the grain it meant a hailstorm was coming; if it sneezed, rain was on the way; and if it was frisky, the wind would soon blow.
Sailors believed cats could start storms with the magic stored in their tails so they always kept them well fed and contented
And finally because I found this one and marvelled at how strange it was… Supposedly if a fisherman found a rabbit or salmon on board the boat it would have prevent them from sailing that day. Not sure how true it is!!!
Obviously you can’t forget that superstition goes both way’s and here are some one’s them supposedly bring you good luck.
A figurehead in the form of a naked woman
Perched on the bow with her eyes wide open they were meant to calm the sea and guide the boat to safety. Considering that having any woman on board was seen to be bad luck it was also seen to be very good luck to have a naked woman on board for the same reason. Boat full of men….not sure how that one started.
Swallows seen at sea are a good sign, as are dolphins swimming with the ship.
Swallows would be seen to herald that land was relatively close and sea life like Dolphins would be a sign that they were sailing in rich verdant waters.
Tattoos and piercing are said to ward off evil spirits
Many Sailors used tattoos to mark off major achievements, like crossing oceans but they also saw certain images that they could tattoo on their bodies that would ward off bad luck. They also would wear gold hoop earrings was good luck
Coins thrown into the sea as a boat leaves port
This was seen as a small toll to Neptune (God of the Sea) for a safe voyage,
Horseshoes on a ship’s mast will turn away a storm.
A child to be born on a ship was good luck
This went against the superstition that woman were bad luck to have on boats. However the children were refered to as “Son of a gun” potentially because their mothers would give birth between the broadside gun to keep the gangways and crew decks free. Which I never knew…thanks wikipedia.
Pouring wine on the deck will bring good luck on a long voyage.
We fullly sign up to this one and everyboat that Luke has built has had wine poured on the deck.
“Red Sky at Night, Sailor’s Delight; Red Sky in Morning, Sailors Take Warning.”
Whether it’s sailors or shepherds it is a saying that comes down to meteorological predictions dating back to biblical times, too. When the sky is red at sunset, high pressure and stable air are approaching from the west. By contrast, at dawn, red indicates approaching rain, and possibly stormy seas.