Superstitions in boating and sailing! Here is a fun list in honor of Friday the 13th…
These are the superstitions that were most common among mariners and sailors around the world. Some of these still believed as of today.
Bananas: They were believed to be so unlucky they would cause the ship to be lost. I’ve even heard some of our staff and members say the same thing about bananas.
After hearing this one, I have no idea how bananas make it to the grocery store
For Fishing Luck: In order to encourage fish to be caught, Scottish fishermen would begin their fishing session by throwing one of the crew members overboard and then hauling him back on. I’m not sure how big this tradition/superstition would go over today.
Salt: It was bad luck for one crewman to pass the salt pot to another directly. Presumably one could put it down and the other could pick it up. I even had a friend on land who stick to this one!
Redheads: Redheads were believed to bring bad luck to a ship. If you met one before boarding, the only way to mitigate the bad luck was to speak to them before they could speak to you.
No Goodbyes: Seafaring men’s wives were not allowed to call out to them or wave goodbye once they stepped out the door to leave for a voyage or it would bring bad luck. Gee…I can see how this one might have come about…
Whistling: Whistling or singing into the wind was forbidden as it would “whistle up a storm”. I can’t whistle anyway so I am fine with this one.
Watch your mouth: Some words and sayings brought about bad luck on board, including “drowned”, “goodbye” and “good luck”. Things to do with the land were believed to be bad luck if mentioned, such as the church, pigs, foxes, cats, and rabbits.
Bad Days to Boat: It was bad luck to sail on Thursdays (God of Storms, Thor’s day) or Fridays (the day Jesus was executed), the first Monday in April (the day Cain killed Abel), the second Monday in August (the day Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed), and 31 December (the day on which Judas Iscariot hanged himself).
This seems a smart rumor to start to shorten your workweek.
Women: Women were bad luck on board because they distracted the crew, which would anger the sea, causing treacherous conditions as revenge.
Feet: Flat-footed people were unlucky on board a ship, and were also avoided by sailors before they boarded.
Personal Grooming: Anyone aboard who trimmed their nails, cut their hair, or shaved their beard brought bad luck to the ship.
Egg Shells: Eggshells had to be broken into tiny pieces once an egg was cracked open. This was meant to stop witches coming to the ship to sail in the pieces of shell.
Hat: Losing a hat overboard was an omen that the trip would be a long one
Blood: It is unlucky to set off at the start of the fishing season without having first shed some blood in a fight or in an accident
Fishing nets: When setting fishing nets it is good luck to use odd numbers
Tattoos: When tattooing became popular at sea a rooster and a pig were often tattooed onto sailors’ feet. It was believed these animals would prevent the sailors from drowning by showing them the way to shore. This one seems contradictory to a prior superstition about words like “pig” being utter was considered bad luck?
Re-naming: It is bad luck to change the name of the boat. If you do, you must have a de-naming ceremony and officially christen the boat again.