Boating Myths and Superstitions

Superstition Dolphin

Old Sailors’ Superstitions


Within the sport of sailing, seasoned mariners have long circulated various myths and curious superstitions. Among the pack: don’t paint a boat green, say no to bananas onboard, and refuse a whistler before letting them infiltrate your trusty crew. Popular old-salt folklore has been passed around on the water for centuries, and most seafarers wouldn’t dare dismiss a fabled superstition to risk their luck at sea.

Pique your curiosity and discover some of the most popular sailing superstitions and their origins, as well as some good luck charms for seafarers to settle life’s most pressing questions, like why are bananas bad luck on a boat?

Bad luck on board


Whistling

“Fair winds and following seas” is the nautical blessing every seaman hopes for. According to a centuries-old myth, this blessing for a safe journey could be put at risk by the simplest of acts of blowing tunes from your mouth while onboard a vessel. Whistling stirs up the wind, thus disturbing the seas around your yacht. Never challenge the wind.

Changing a boat’s name

Unless you want to take the fast track onto Poseidon’s bad side, leave your vessel’s name alone. Bad luck will follow at the hand of one notoriously moody god of the sea when you mess with his meticulous record-keeping of every vessel on the water, or so old salts will forewarn you. If you’re vigilant and follow some sacred, ritualistic steps, there are ways to strip any record of your vessel’s name from Poseidon’s unforgiving memory with a de-naming and re-naming ceremony.

Bananas

These common, unintimidating fruits couldn’t harm a fly, yet pose a serious threat to the most superstitious of sailors. How could this be? It is believed that centuries ago, this golden produce concealed in its peels spiders that sought refuge aboard cargo ships. One doomed mouthful could leave a seafarer vulnerable to a sneaky, sometimes fatal bite from a free-loading arachnid.

Red sky at night, sailors delight! Red sky at morning, sailor take warning...

Dating back to biblical times, with this forecasting practice sailors can predict their nautical luck using the fundamental principles of meteorology. At sunset, a sky painted red comforts boaters with the omen that a high-pressure weather system and stable air is approaching from the west. However, witnessing the fiery hue at dawn reveals impending storms that could wreak havoc on your maritime fate.

Never kill a sea bird

…Or be condemned to wear the unsavory carcass around your neck, or so it’s been told. Outlined in the well-known poem, “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner,” taking the life of an albatross is completely forbidden at sea or you will suffer the physical humiliation of adorning yourself with its bad luck at the demand of your offended fellow crewmates.

Sea Bird

Good fortune on the high seas

Starting to feel a little daunted by old salts and their myths? Rest assured, it’s not all misfortune and doom on the water, although the superstitious lot certainly warn enough to believe so. With these countering pieces of wisdom and lucky trinkets to help, keep yourself on the lighter side of luck while at sea.

 

Dolphins

Dolphins have long been seen as signs of luck and protection, as they swim alongside a ship. For this reason, boaters can certainly expect adversity on their horizon if they ever cause injury to these revered aquatic guardian angels.

Cats

Cat fanatics, rejoice! Our feline friends take the top podium in the eyes of mariners for their superb track record of hunting rats. With a pesky habit of infiltrating food cargo aboard ships, carrying disease and gnawing on ships’ lines, rats have no place onboard a vessel. Thus, cats reign supreme as rats’ least favorite shipmates.

Swallows

During longer voyages at sea, you can exhale a hefty sigh of relief when spotting a swallow. These land-based feathered friends are a great omen when spirits yearn for dry land and stiff drinks, because both can’t be far from sight.

With your fresh library of nautical good luck charms on the ready, step aboard one of our incredible sailing charters, with your right foot first (*always*) to discover over 20+ stunning cruising grounds that bring nothing but great fortune and endless sailing adventure.

 

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Photo Credit:

Moritz Kindler on Unsplash

Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

 

Author Name: 
Ryan Smith
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